What is pasta? Let’s find out!

what is pasta - spaghetti

How many kinds do you think you really know?

All the meanings of one of the most known Italian words

what is pasta - pasta all'uovo

Have you ever wondered what is pasta and how many meanings it can have? If you think that it is only the thing you boil and eat with a sauce, you are missing the big picture, then!

The word dates back to the analogue late Latin term PASTA, which in turn derives from the Greek πάστη (pasté), that was a mixture of flour and broth. So apparently the meaning hasn’t changed much, because also in the present day it is nothing more than a kneaded compound of water and flour (in some cases egg and flour) that is then usually dried and stored. But over the time the term has acquired many other meanings that may also not have anything to do with food, let’s see the most important ones:

Una pasta e un cappuccino, per favore!

what is pasta - pasta e cappuccino

If you are in an Italian cafe in the morning it is very likely to hear this request, but of course you must not imagine the bartender handing the customer a big dish of spaghetti at 8:30 a.m.! Not only because Italians would never ever in a lifetime drink a cappuccino with anything salty, but especially because pasta (or pastarella in the South) is the word that is used to refer to all the various sweet pastries that are commonly eaten for breakfast: cornetti, bomboloni, girelle, budini di riso, fagottini, bigné, ciambelle, and many, many others!

Pasta…but before it’s cooked

pasta della pizza - learning italy

The variety of meanings of the word may appear confusing at first, but if you think about how it looks like when it’s raw and still moist, it will all make sense. Pasta can in fact mean any kind of dough before being cooked. For example people in Italy refer to pasta della pizza as to the mixture you flatten and put in the oven with tomato and mozzarella!

Pasta d’acciughe, pasta di mandorle, stucco in pasta

When you were wondering about what is pasta, you weren’t probably thinking of putty paste! But if you think about the consistency, it will start to make sense…

One word for many uses, very different one from the other. But speaking of the most common: the one you eat, do you know all the existing kinds?

Pastasciutta, pasta al forno, pasta in brodo

Learning Italy - pastasciutta

This very common and internationally known food can be consumed in many ways: the most known is the strained one dressed with a sauce: that’s pastasciutta. But of course that’s not the only way of preparing it! The smaller formats are commonly eaten with broth; pasta in brodo is a light meal usually consumed in the cold winter evenings to warm up a bit. Pasta al forno is instead the method generally used to make leftovers more delicious. Take some leftovers of pastasciutta, add bechamel, some more sauce, and bake it!

Spaghetti, tagliatelle, pici, penne, farfalle, rigatoni, fusilli…


Now that you know what is pasta, it’s time to learn all the possible existing formats and the almost infinite ways to prepare it!