The word “pasta” in Italian can refer to different kinds of food made with a paste of flour and water, so it includes not only what we know as pasta but also pastry. Una pasta at breakfast time in a bar is the general term for one of the fresh baked sweet pastries usually eaten with a cappucino. To avoid confusion, ask for a pezzo dolce, a cornetto (croissant) or a brioche when ordering a pastry.
At other meals pasta means pastasciutta, which is made with pasta secca, the familiar dried pasta or pasta fresca, the fresh version usually made with eggs and served the same day. A dish of pasta is referred to as a primo piatto or “first course” along with rice dishes and soups.
Types of Pasta
Each region of Italy has its own collection of local favourite pasta shapes. Here are a few you will probably come across in the region of Tuscany:
Tortelli mugellani are little parcels of pasta filled with potato. The potato can be flavoured with cheese or with a little meat. The Mugello area, which gives its name to this pasta, is in the hills to the north of Florence where traditionally the pasta could be made with either wheat or chestnut flour.
Maltagliati, although originally from Emilia-Romagna, are a long flat noodle, similar to tagliatelle but are misshapen and rustic looking, rather than neatly and evenly cut.
Pici, often known also as Pici Senesi, are thick spaghetti originally from southern Tuscany around Siena (hence the name), rolled out between the fingers instead of in a machine. The traditional sauce to accompany pici is called aglione and is made with tomatoes and garlic, but you can often find it with a hearty and gamey ragu sauce.
Pappardelle are wide ribbons of pasta from Tuscany and usually eaten with rich game sauces such as wild boar (cinghiale) in the Maremma region or hare (lepre) from the hills around Florence