It’s true, my favorite keeps changing. It used to be linguine, then penne, then rotini, then ruote (wagon wheels), then radiatori (yes, radiators), then risone (which means “big rice” and is what we call orzo in the US), then napellini, and then other exotic and strange names I have forgotten. Who knows what it will be tomorrow.
You can imagine my delight when I came to Italy and discovered that there is a whole aisle dedicated to pasta in the supermarket, and after all these years in Italy, I am still discovering new kinds of pasta.
Back when I lived with my family in the US of A, for some reason we usually referred to all pasta as spaghetti. A sacrilege here in Italy, I’m sure!
-What’s for dinner?
… but it was rigatoni.
We did make a distinction between the two major pasta types using the classy names “shorts” and “longs”.
I know my great-aunt referred to all pasta as macaroni just like my family used the word spaghetti. My grandparents called pasta pasta, and I thought that sounded funny.
As Shakespeare wrote, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. Spaghetti, macaroni (the Italian word is maccheroni) or pasta…. it all tastes great.
I suppose I should make one confession: I don’t like bucatini. If you don’t know what they are, just picture spaghetti on steroids. They are very, very thick strands of dry pasta with a hole in the center that hollows them out.
They are too big to easily wind around your fork, and they are quite robust, especially when cooked al dente. Therefore when eaten with any kind of sauce, they never fail to splatter you and your surroundings before you get any in your mouth.
Thankfully my doghouse list of pasta is short- just bucatini (also known as perciatelli).
You’d think that since different shapes of pasta are made out of the same ingredients, they would all taste exactly the same. Maybe the physical taste is the same, but in my opinion, the whole experience influences the taste, and different shapes create different experiences.
I’m usually in the mood for different kinds of pasta at different times, irregardless of the sauce, which is probably another sacrilege here in Italy, since Italians will not tire of telling you that certain kinds of pasta must be eaten with certain kinds of sauce.
I agree with their reasoning, which has to do with the sauce sticking to the pasta and not pooling at the bottom of the dish, for example, but it’s not important enough of a rule for me personally to always follow. Besides (cover your eyes, Italians), I eat my pasta with a spoon (even the “shorts”), which solves the pooling problem.
All of the above was supposed to be a short introduction to telling you that I discovered a new shape of pasta. It is called schiaffoni.
Schiaffoni means “big slaps” (yes, like slaps to the face). How could I not try it?
Schiaffoni originate in the Campania and Calabria regions of Italy and are associated with Neopolitan cuisine. The name comes from the word schiaffo (slap), and they are also called paccheri because pacchero is the Neopolitan dialect word for “slap”.
I looked online for the meaning of this name. I found two theories:
-When these large pieces of pasta are mixed with abundant liquid-y sauce, they make a noise that sounds like a slap when they are poured onto someone’s dish (I hope that someone is wearing a bib).
-The special characteristics of this pasta make it especially delicious when paired with a good sauce, and as a result the taster is stunned when they taste it, as if they were slapped.
Most importantly, how do they taste? I ate them the first time with a garlic, broccoli, and fresh cherry tomato sauce and the second time with red sauce. I wasn’t sure whether to dig right in or cut them in half. I did a little of both. I like them- they really are a mouthful and take longer to eat, so you experience the pasta and sauce coming together for longer. It was a different experience from eating regular smaller pasta. They remain firm and substantial even when properly cooked, and they have a nice feel to them- smooth but textured at the same time.
This pasta is full of opportunity. If people don’t behave themselves I’ll tell them they can expect a slap or two at dinner time.