Pasta in Translation
Do your children keep asking you to feed them “butterflies”? Or maybe you’ve got a penchant for “cute small worms”? I am sure, that, regardless of your pasta preferences, you still enjoy some “lovely food”! Pasta names can be truly bewildering. Keep reading to learn the meaning and literal translations of 25 pasta shapes.
We all love pasta. To such a point that we use daily Italian words to ask for our favourite pasta, be this spaghetti alla carbonara, lasagne, or tortellini.
But have you ever wondered what this all means? How the pasta has been named? Why is it called that way?
You will find that most of the pasta is named after nature and with a lot of sense of humour!
Scroll down to learn the meanings of 25 pasta shapes, from the most common and well know pasta to the unusual and rare ones with the most hilarious translations!
Everybody loves a big plate of cute strings with tomato sauce!
Spaghetti: spaghetti is formed by adding the endearing suffix “etto“ (lovely, cute) to the noun “spago” (string), which literally translates as cute strings.
Fusilli: this name has been formed by adding to the noun “fuso” (spindle), the endearing suffix “ello” (small and cute). Therefore, you’re eating small and cute spindles!
Farfalle: no compound names, this time. Farfalle is Italian for butterflies.
Rigatoni: rigatoni is another compound name (the hell on earth to all of you who are trying to learn Italian!), formed by the verb “rigato” (striped) with the augmentative suffix “one”, which translates as big striped ones!
Orecchiette: the lovely pasta from Puglie is translated as cute ears (“orecchie“+ endearing suffix “ette“)
Maccheroni: here we get a little more pedantic. The word maccheroni comes from the Greek, which was once spoken throughout Southern Italy. There are several hypotheses on the etymology of the word. It might have come from the greek μακρών – makron (long), or from the word μακαρεια – makaria (dough), or again, the word μασσηιν – massein (to knead), which is linked to the Arabic word mash, which means to press softly (same etymology for the word massage, by the way). Another hypothesis links the word maccheroni to the greek-byzantine word μακαρώνεια – makaronia, which meant “funerary song”, and that went on meaning “funerary meal”, after the meal that was served during the funeral service. That’s a lot for your Mac ‘n Cheese!
Tortellini: it’s composed by the name torta (cake), the endearing suffix “ello” (cute and small), and the diminutive suffix “ino” (little) (yep, you add on and on those pesky suffixes): tiny cute cakes.
Ravioli: the origin of the name ravioli is uncertain, as it comes from the dialects from the Piedmont region. A likely origin is linked to the Piedmontese word Raviolé, which means “to turn over”.
Penne: it simply means “quills”.
Conchiglie: another shape and name inspired by nature, “cockle shells”
Tagliatelle: tagliatelle is formed by the verb “tagliare” (too cut) and the endearing suffix “elle“: pretty cut ones.
Pappardelle: the name pappardelle comes either from the Provencal word “papard” (food), which in turn derives from the Latin verb “pappare” (to eat with delight), plus the endearing suffix “elle“: which translate it as lovely food.
Gnocchi: derived from the Venetian word “gnòco” (lump), which in turn comes from the ancient Lombard word “knohhil“ (knot), which also named the Austrian delicacy Knödel.
Lasagne: there are several hypotheses on the origin of the word lasagna. The most popular theory is that it comes from the Latin “laganum“(which means flatbread), which in turn derives from the ancient Greek λάγανον “laganon“ (floppy). Other etymologists link the word lasagna from the Latin word “lasanum“, the name of a container, which in turn comes from the Greek λάσανον “lasanon,“ with the same meaning.
Linguine: composed by the word “lingua” (tongue), plus the diminutive suffix “ina”: little tongues.
Vermicelli: thinner than spaghetti, the name is composed by the word “verme” (worm) and the endearing suffix “ello” (cute): cute worms.
Mafalde: shape born in Naples, it’s a ribbon-shaped pasta with wavy edges. It’s also called mafaldine (little mafalde) or reginette (little queens), and it has been named after the princess Mafalda di Savoia (1902–1944).
Fettuccine: wider cousins of the tagliatelle, fettuccine is composed by the word fettuccia (small cute ribbon… noticed the “uccia” at the end? Yes, you guessed it, is another suffix: fetta (stripe)+ uccia) and the diminutive suffix “ina:”pretty tiny ribbons.
Ziti: this pasta is originally from Naples, and it’s a sort of narrower and long rigatone (as long as spaghetti and as wide as penne, but with straight ends), without the stripes. The name comes from the southern dialect word “ziti,” which means “engaged to be married.” This pasta once upon a time was served exclusively during the celebration of marriages.
Tubetti: the shape of this pasta recalls a small tube, and that’s what it means (tubo + etto).
Paccheri: it’s another Neapolitan pasta shape, similar to cannelloni, but smaller and egg-free. The Neapolitan word pacchero means “slap,” and come from the Greek πας, “all (whole)” e χειρ, “hand.”
Strozzapreti: this pasta, native from Emiglia Romagna means — literally- “priests chokers.” Apparently, the clergy of the past where very fond of this pasta, so much so, they would eat with such greedy gluttony, that they would choke on it.
Ingannapreti: another pasta coming from Emilia Romagna, another joke at the expenses of the clergy! The name means “priests deceivers”, because the shape reminds of the tortellini’s, but without the filling.
Garganelli: and one more pasta from the Emilia Romagna (which definitely wins the prize for the weirdest pasta names), which has been named after the oesophagus of the chicken, called -in the dialect of the area- “garganel.”
Fregula: a Sardinian pasta similar to giant couscous. The meaning is quite kinky. It comes from the word fregola, that means “state of intense sexual excitement,” from the verb “fregare” (to rub). Don’t ask!
And with this, we have come to the end of our pasta parade. If you would like to know the meaning of pasta I have not included in my list (there are over 400 shapes, so definitely I have missed a few), drop me a line and I will answer you as soon as possible!