What’s the point of making hundreds of shapes of pasta? To match with hundreds of kinds of sauce, of course. There is enough detailed information on all this pasta to fill a handsome tome. Come lunchtime, that means the variety kick we’ve been on, reaching the far corners of the cheese kingdom and exotic realm of sushi, officially extends to pasta.
Where do you find these rare pastas? Your local Italian market should have at least a few little-known shapes. How do you pair these mysterious shapes with any number of sauces, having little to no knowledge of classical Italian cuisine? As someone who fits that bill, I can confidently say, “with an empty stomach and common sense mixed with a little humor.”
Take cresti di gallo, for instance. Named for the comb on a rooster’s head, this shape just begs for a nice, eggy carbonara. Or cavatappi, a pasta which resembles a corkscrew. Does it make sense to cook it in wine? Why yes. Yes it does. There’s croxetti, flat, coin-shaped pasta stamped with heads or coats of arms. Things that cost plenty of coin: truffle oil and Stravecchione, a fine (and super-costly) aged Parmeggiano.
Now let’s go even more obscure. Rachette is a tennis racket-shaped pasta. Oh wait, Djokovic went gluten-free and dominated everyone. Scrap that. Gigli, aside from being a really bad J-Lo movie, is shaped like a lily. Pretty, right? Let’s throw some puttanesca on it. Gemelli is Italian for “twins,” but is shaped like the double-helix structure of DNA. I’m going to assume DNA has something to do with bone marrow, and suggest you melt the incredibly good stuff over some gemelli with a little pecorino or asiago — Parmesan’s younger fraternal twin siblings. The most famous moustache I can think of (besides Hitler’s) for mostaccioli belongs to Salvador Dali, the classic angry young man. Melting stuff…melting stuff…let’s go with arrabiata, or “angry” sauce. And torchio is shaped like a torch. What else is flammable? Grain alcohol, and therefore for this purpose, vodka sauce.
I could do this all day, but in the spirit of productivity, I’ll leave you to ponder your own “logical” pairings. When someone asks what you brought for lunch, take great pleasure in being able to say, “Oh, just an ironic pasta dish I threw together.”