Pasta 101 – orecchiette

orec·chi·et·te
Pronunciation: \ō-ˌrā-kē-ˈe-tā\

Orecchiette is a type of pasta native to Apulia, whose shape resembles a small ear – in Italian, “ear” is orecchio. A different, non-domed version is called strascinate.

The typical regional recipe combines orecchiette with turnip heads. The classic Italian cookbook Il cucchiaio d’argento (now available in an English translation as The Silver Spoon) suggests that orecchiette are ideal for vegetable sauces.

Orecchiette probably come from the Provence
region in France where a similar type of pasta has been made since Medieval times. This kind of pasta is disc-shaped with a hollowed center, usually obtained by pressing the thumb on the disc of dough; this particular shape facilitates the drying process so that the pasta could be saved for a famine. Boats leaving for long trips used to carry large quantities of this pasta. It is then claimed that the Anjous, the French dynasty that dominated Apulia in 1200, brought orecchiette into Italy with its current name.
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