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DR. JERRY WILSON


QUESTION:Would you please tell me the differences among the various types of pasta? I get confused with all the names on the menu. (Asked by an Italian food lover.)

REPLY: It’s no wonder that you are confused. We are living in a high-tech pasta world these days. In previous times, life was simpler. We had spaghetti, macaroni and noodles, not pasta. Now, pasta comes in various sizes, shapes and colors. They are – for the most part – made from a flour paste or dough made from semolina wheat. Here are a few of the major varieties:

-- Fettuccine (”little ribbons” in Italian): a flat, narrow noodle, sometimes made green by adding spinach to the dough

-- Linguine (”little tongues”): thin, narrow strips or rods, sometimes used in place of spaghetti

-- Lasagna (or lasagne): flat, wide strips used to make a layered dish of the same name

-- Manicotti (”little muffs” or “little sleeves”): large, long tubes, which may be smooth or ridged, that are stuffed with cheese and baked

-- Orzo: rice-shaped pasta, often used in soups

-- Ravioli (”little turnips”): square casings that are filled with meat or cheese and commonly served in a tomato sauce

-- Tortellini (”little twisted loaves of bread”): small, ring-shaped casings filled like ravioli and served in a sauce or soup

-- Rigatoni (”to mark with lines”): short, thick-ridged tubes served with sauces

-- Rotelle (”little wheels”): more like corkscrews or spirals than wheels

-- Capellini (”fine hair”): very thin rods, often used in place of spaghetti. Capellini d’angeli (”angel hair”) is even thinner.

-- Gnocchi (”dumplings”): shells used in casseroles and salads

So, do you have all that? There are others, such as bowties and wagon wheels, but those are pretty descriptive. Just to round things out for us older folk, spaghetti means “small cords” in Italian, macaroni (elbow, if bent) comes down from the Greek “blessed cake,” and noodle comes from the German “nudel.” We’ll have a quiz on this next week.

C.P.S. (Curious Postscript):“Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired.” – Jules Renard

Curious about something? Send your questions to Dr. Jerry D. Wilson, College of Science and Mathematics, Lander University, Greenwood, SC 29649, or e-mail jerry@curiosity-corner.net. Selected questions will appear in the Curiosity Corner. For Curiosity Corner background, visit curiosity-corner.net.