If you’re even remotely my friend, you know that I LOVE pasta. By love, I mean I could literally have it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day for the rest of my life (as long as I could have dessert at the end of the day too.) Pasta is so amazing and versatile because there are so many different shapes, sizes, and sauces to add. Different kinds of pasta come from very distinct regions of Italy, so I have created a regional Italian pasta guide so you can become a total pasta guru. 

Campania: Penne

Ah penne, the classic pasta shape. Campania is a southern region of Italy and is home to Naples, Mount Vesuvius, and the beautiful Amalfi Coast. Campania is known as one of the best regions for food with some of the best fresh fish, pizza, and espresso. Its most famous pasta, penne, means ‘pen’ or ‘quill’, accurately reflecting the slanted shape of the cylindrical pasta. Penne is perfect for cheesy, saucy pasta bakes. Try out this simple penne with balsamic sauce recipe.

Sicily: Ziti

Sicily is the tip attached to the boot of Italy and is home to beautiful architecture. The island is home to the largest opera house in Italy and has Greek ruins that may be even more beautiful than the ones remaining in Greece. Ziti is Sicily’s version of penne. Ziti often has ridges, making it great for thick, meaty sauces to latch onto. If you want to make a truly Sicilian dish, make a creamy lemon alfredo sauce with Siracusa lemon, a breed of lemon only grown in Sicily. Ziti also lends itself well to pasta bakes because of its sturdy structure and hollow center— you have to love those bites of baked ziti that ooze with melted cheese and sauce.

Abruzzo: Spaghetti alla Chitarra

Abruzzo is a mountainous region located in central Italy. The area is most known for saffron and red garlic. The pasta from the region, spaghetti alla chitarra, is essentially spaghetti but square shaped instead of cylindrical. Chitarra means ‘guitar’ in Italian and is used as the name of this pasta because it is made by pushing the dough through fine strings, similar to those of a guitar. This pasta is best served with smooth cream- or oil-based sauces.

Lazio: Bucatini

Bucatini is another cousin of spaghetti with its long rod-like structure. However, unlike spaghetti, bucatini has a hollow center. The name comes from the Italian word ‘buco’ which means hole. Bucatini can be paired with almost any sauce because of its structure and durability. Lazio is in central Italy and is home to Italy's most famous city, Rome. There are so many attractions to see including The Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, and the Villa Borghese. The region is known for their dairy products, especially their sheep's milk pecorino and buffalo mozzarella. 

Puglia: Orecchiette

An up and coming pasta shape, orecchiette or ‘little ears’, comes from Puglia in southeastern Italy. Puglia is sometimes called the 'breadbasket of Italy,' and produces over half of the country's olive oil. More recently, it has become known for its fruity red wines. Throughout history and up until today, the region produces much of Italy's pasta. One of them is orecchiette, an ear-shaped pasta, which also looks like little hats. It is often served with broccoli rabe, chili, and garlic because broccoli rabe is grown in Puglia.

Piedmont: Agnolotti

Agnolotti is the lesser known cousin of ravioli. The crimped, square-shaped pasta is usually stuffed with roasted meat or vegetables. Agnolotti roughly translates to ‘priest hat’, but based on the shape I am not quite sure why. The northwest region of Italy is woodsy, so their cuisine often features earthy flavors like sage and truffle. The area borders France and Switzerland and sits at the foot of the Alps. The region produces some of the finest red wines in Italy. Pair the agnolotti with a butter sage sauce or poach and serve in a light, yet flavorful broth. Don't forget the glass of wine to go with it!

Tuscany: Gigli

Gigli is one of the cutest pasta names in my opinion and the pasta itself is in the cute shape of the lily flower, hence the name gigli or ‘lily.' Gigli is becoming a more popular shape, but the pasta is not quite yet a household name. Tuscany is in central Italy and is home to Florence and Pisa. There are many gorgeous historical sites to see including the Duomo, Ponte Veccio, and of course, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The region is known for their red wines, peppery olive oil, and pecorino cheese. The pasta pays homage to Florence’s local emblem, the lily. The ruffled edges make the pasta best for thick, creamy sauces.

Lombardy: Farfalle

Farfalle, otherwise known as ‘bowtie’ in the United States, is a staple of the northwest region of Italy, Lombardy. The region contains Milan, one of the main fashion capitals of the world, but it is also known for its delicious saffron risotto and breaded veal cutlet. The name of Lombardy's pasta comes from the word 'farfalla,' which means butterfly. The simple, yet fun-shaped pasta is a favorite of American kids and is often dyed different colors with vegetables such as beets, carrots, and spinach, adding even more fun. Bowties should be paired with smooth sauces because there are no crevices to hold any meats or vegetables like in a ragù.

Emilia Romagna: Strozzapreti

Emilia Romagna is a northern region in Italy known for its medieval cities and seaside resorts. The area is known for its ragù, truffles, and chestnuts. It is also home of strozzapreti, the most morbid pasta name. The word roughly translates to ‘priest-choker’ or ‘priest-strangler’, but the story behind the pasta’s name is not as dark as it sounds. Legend has it that villagers would give priests strozzapreti as an offering and the priests would eat the pasta so quickly that they could have choked on it. The short twists are like a more rugged version of cavatappi and most resemble cavatelli. Serve with light and silky sauces, like a pesto, that will cling to the pasta well. 

There are so many amazing pasta varieties in the world, it's hard to really try them all. Although I am a pasta lover, I have only had the honor of eating six out of the nine pasta shapes listed above. My New Year’s resolution is to have eaten all eight, and more. Let this regional Italian pasta guide also push you to try new kinds of pasta in the new year. If you need suggestions as to which sauces to pair with which pasta, check out this article. Don't be a pasta lover impasta.