5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Pasta

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-1- Pasta is a fantastic finger food

In Italy today pasta is served in all sorts of new and exciting ways, not only as the traditional first course to a seated meal. Pasta is served as creative finger-foods like these adorable little pasta nests, which bake up in minutes and can be filled with anything you like.   Recipe below.

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-2- In Italy pasta is even served for dessert

Italy has a long tradition of serving sweetened pasta for dessert. Back in the Renaissance, pasta was a luxury food, reserved for special occassions, and paired with other luxury foods like sugar and cinnamon. Today, throughout Italy, you’ll find centries old pasta desserts like fried twirls of pasta topped with pistachios  which are popular in Sicily or modern creations including Chocolate-Stuffed Shells.  Recipe below. 


-3- “Al dente” isn’t the only pasta sayings

Al dente or to the tooth is just one way Italians describe properly cooked pasta. They also say, “al chiodo,” which means to the nail.

 Other fun pasta sayings: 

*“Like cheese on pasta” Come il cacio sui maccheroni sort of like our “with a cherry on top.”

* “Do the little shoe” Fare la scarpetta, is what Italians say of the little track marks bread makes when you sop up the last bits of sauce on your plate.

4- The world’s largest producer of 100% organic pasta is Mr. Riccardo Felicetti 

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This family owned company  is located in Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy’s most northern-most region. The mountain air of the Dolomites, fresh spring water, pure whole grains have been the hallmark of this renowned company since it’s founding in 1908. The Felicetti company recently received international recognition for its new Monograno Felicetti line made from some of the world’s rarest wheat varieties including farro and kamut. 

5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Pasta , pasta,francine segan, the three tomatoes

-5- There are hundreds and hundreds of pasta shapes in Italy.  

Many of these shapes have adorable, evocative names: elbows, butterflies, bow ties, worms, snails, ribbons, nests, ears, and wagon wheels. There are occhi di pernice–“partridge eyes” and tempestina–“little snowstorm.”


Many of these shapes have very whimsical stories. There’s a legend in Naples that claims that ziti got its name from the word zite, which means “spinsters.” Supposedly these women were single because of pasta! They’d stay home making pasta for the family’s Sunday meal instead of attending church services and keeping on the look out for a husband.


Pasta Nests 

Serves 6, makes 24 pieces

Little nests of Parmesan-flecked angel hair strands, baked to form perfect one-bite nibbles. Though excellent plain, there are endless ways to fill these chewy, crunchy morsels: with prosciutto, pesto, tomatoes, shaved Parmesan cheese, mozzarella, salami, caponata, or garlicky broccoli rabe—whatever your heart desires.

  •  Olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons grated pecorino or other aged cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 pound thin spaghetti, preferably Felicetti brand
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup minced pesto, prosciutto, cheese, etc.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly oil 24 mini muffin cups (or use disposable mini cups and set them on a baking pan; do not use regular-size muffin cups).

Combine the eggs, grated cheese and butter in a bowl.

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente and drain. Toss with the egg mixture until well combined and almost all absorbed. Using a fork, twirl a few strands into a nest shape and press firmly into a prepared muffin cup. Repeat to fill all the muffin cups. Drizzle any remaining egg mixture on top of the nests.

Bake until set, about 12 minutes. Serve them plain or top them with something yummy.

Chocolate Stuffed Shells

Serves 4 to 6

Jumbo pasta shells coated in cocoa powder and filled with chocolate pudding. Use cocoa powder alone for unsweetened shells that become a gorgeous red-brown color, or sweetened the cocoa powder with confectioners’ sugar for lovely dark-color.

Pair the sweetened shells with dark chocolate pudding and the unsweetened ones with milk chocolate pudding.

  •  24 jumbo shells, preferably Felicetti brand
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 cups chocolate pudding

-1- Cook the shells in lightly salted boiling water until al dente and drain.

-2- For sweeter shells, put the cocoa powder and confectioners’ sugar, to taste, into a sturdy plastic food storage bag. Toss the shells, a few at a time, into the bag until fully coated with cocoa powder. For less sweet shells toss them in just cocoa powder.

-3- Using a teaspoon, fill the shells with the pudding.


  • Francine Segan

    Francine Segan, James Beard finalist and author of 6 cookbooks, can be found throughout NYC giving fun talks and cooking demos. She’s a regular at the 92nd St Y, Eataly’s cooking school, Chocolate Show, and New York Times Travel Show. Her specialty is Italy and her latest books are Pasta Modern: New & Inspired Recipes from Italy and Dolci: Italy’s Sweets . She has appeared on numerous TV programs including Today Show, Early Show and Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood. Peek at www.francinesegan.com for more info on her books & upcoming talks Visit Francine at: www.francinesegan.com

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