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Fusilli vs rotini?

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I think of fusilli as long, hollow, corkscrew shaped pasta. Just like what is shown on the fusilli wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusilli

However, at a very upscale restaurant I ordered a fusilli dish and was served what looked to me like rotini. An entirely different pasta. At first I thought they were just wrong, but with some Googling and even consulting a cookbook I'm now just confused. In one cookbook - they had a picture of a rotini, and it was labeled "fusilli (rotini)".

However the wikipedia page specifically says that rotini and fusilli should not be confused.

Anybody want to clear this up for me?

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  1. Maybe you mis-read? This is what I see on the Wiki rotini page:

    "Rotini is a type of helix- or corkscrew-shaped pasta. The name derives from the Italian for twists. It is related to fusilli, but has a tighter helix, i.e. with a smaller pitch. It should not be confused with rotelle ("wagon wheel" pasta)."

    6 Replies
    1. re: Quine

      Well on the rotini Wikipedia page they show a rotini as I know a rotini - essentially screw threads. Not hollow. On the fusilli wikipedia page they show a hollow corkscrew. Which is how I know a fusilli to be. So yes they're both helical, but one is a hollow round pasta in a corkscrew shape, and the other is, well, a rotini.

      But maybe a rotini can also be a hollow corkscrew, as long as it has a high number of twists/unit length?

      1. re: michael j n

        OK. Now I am confused as to why you are confused. The Wiki pages are correct, I am more suspect of the "upscale" restaurant that either did not care which pasta was what or the menu writer who was clueless about the pasta used.

        I still know you mis read the wiki page where it says they should not be confused, maybe the Upscale place made a mistake as well.

        1. re: Quine

          What did I misread? Quote from Wikipedia: "Fusilli is not to be confused with the short, flattened, twisted pasta known as rotini."

          I'm pretty sure that Wikipedia is right, the restaurant was wrong, and the cookbook I looked at is wrong.

          The quote from the rotini page that you mentioned makes it sound like if you stretch out a rotini you have a fusilli. That confuses me.

          1. re: michael j n

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotini :

            "Rotini is a type of helix- or corkscrew-shaped pasta. The name derives from the Italian for twists. It is related to fusilli, but has a tighter helix, i.e. with a smaller pitch. It should not be confused with rotelle ("wagon wheel" pasta)."

            Clearly we are not on the same page...and wow that is probably the first time I can say that literally! :-


            Or also as they say one seeing is worth a thousand tellings, I'd say the pictures on both wiki pages are accurate.

            1. re: Quine

              I'm quoting the page I mentioned in my first post: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusilli

              The fusilli page makes a pretty clear distinction, while the rotini page is more ambiguous. But I think I can say that if the pasta is round and is shaped like a corkscrew, it is fusilli, and if it is shaped something like a "plus sign" twisted a bunch, it's a rotini.

      2. re: Quine

        Ironically (given that this CH discussion happened today) I was just in a local market that sells pasta in bulk. All the bins of rotini - plain, spinach, multicolor, multigrain - were marked "rotelle." The other shapes, from farfalle to radiatore, were correctly named. They didn't have rotelle (wagon wheels), though I hoped they would so I could see what they called them!

      3. What I'm about to ask is not to be taken as facetious. Are you really able to taste the differences among different shaped pastas extruded by the same manufacturer? I'm not asking about mouth feel, but what the taste buds actually sense. I cannot tell the difference in taste.

        My wife claims that she can taste the difference, and I think she is talking about mouth feel? We've argued about this for 50 years. Also, she does not like pasta with 'rigati.' The pasta must be smooth, no grooves. Go figure!

        She's the one with the Italian genes, but I think her preferences due to taste and mouth feel are imaginary.

        No matter what the shape of the pasta, it all tastes the same to me. It's the 'condimenti' that taste different.

        3 Replies
        1. re: ChiliDude

          The major difference for me is how the pasta holds the sauce. Some pastas hold much more sauce than others. Some are good for being tossed in a sauce whereas others are not.

          But as for taste (ignoring all texture) - I don't think the difference is significant. Thicker pastas would be less cooked in their centers so might taste slightly different. But it's really all about the texture and sauce holding abilities, IMHO.

          1. re: ChiliDude

            Yes I agree with her! Preferences for the non grooved or larger pasta shapes. I don't really understand the ridges therory, when the little orecciette are perfect for anything saucy. mmmmm! If I want the little twisting action in the pasta, give me the gemelli, its really nice for a different pasta that grabs sauce.

            1. re: ChiliDude

              I would say that there is a definite taste "experience", especially when combined with sauce, that is more than just 'mouthfeel'... I would describe it more as "how the taste is conveyed to the tastebuds".

              If you make your own fresh pasta, the same dough will taste different if it is thick or thin, rolled out on wood vs. a smooth surface...

              I tend to prefer ridges on penne and such...

            2. I don't believe fussilli is hollow. It's just really long. They may have run out of one and subbed the other as there's a similarity in the curliness, however if they are upscale it would have behooved them to mention it.

              All this mention of mouthfeel, you should try capanelle pasta, it's easily available made by Barilla, and my new favorite. It's hollow like ziti, but fluted like a flower on one end, and picks up sauce like no ones business.

              5 Replies
              1. re: coll

                The Wikipedia photo shows them being hollow: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Fus...

                Maybe hollowness isn't a requirement?

                I will have to watch for some campanelle - I've never had them!

                1. re: michael j n

                  I just went in the garage to look at the fussilli I have on hand, definitely not hollow (and it's imported if that makes a difference). My SIL always said it was like (somebody famous in the 70s or 80s) who had corkscrew hair, that's what I always base it on (and Fussilli Jerry of course).

                  Definitely look for campanelle, I've never flipped out over a pasta shape like this one.

                  1. re: coll

                    Coll, good call on the campanelle. I've been using that shape since I first saw it in Barilla several yeas ago. Tho it could add fuel to this already confusing debate as the Wiki page for that says:
                    "Campanelle is a type of pasta which is shaped like a small bell or flower. (Campanelle is Italian for little bell.) It is also sometimes referred to as gigli or riccioli. It is intended to be served with a thick sauce, or in a casserole."

                    Rotini and now riccioli.

                    1. re: Quine

                      Call it what you want, just don't call me late for dinner ;-)

                2. re: coll

                  Maybe they made the substitution because the sauce turned out to be chunkier (or smoother?) than usual.

                  What kind of sauce did they use. Maybe the pasta experts can tell us whether there was correct match between sauce and shape.

                3. I've bought both. The wiki description seems pretty close enough to what I believe the differences are. The rotini being a looser cork screw and rotini much tighter. If if have to have one or the other, I prefer the fussili.

                  And also I think that one is better, I prefer the mouth feel of the fusilli to the rotini.

                  De Cecco, has nice dry pastas and offers quite a variety of shapes.However, rotini is not one of them...

                  1. This isn't facetious either, unfortunately: Wikipedia is nice to browse, or check chemical structures or names of popes -- subjects resistant to sincere armchair misinformation. Sadly for food topics (even if not this one!) it's often amateurish and outright wrong (even on subjects easy to look up in common food reference books). A famous quip (itself attributed dubiously to Mark Twain) notes that things you don't know can cause less trouble than things you DO know that are wrong.

                    Italy perfected and named modern pasta shapes (even maintains government primary reference standards, along with weights and measures) so for such questions I consult books by Italian cooks, or cooks who grew up there (even if it takes more work than Wikipedia). I have a few good examples from Italy and elsewhere; one, pictorially excellent, in English, is Giuliano Hazan's large-format "Classic Pasta Cookbook" (DK, 1993, ISBN 0751300527, should be easily and cheaply available used). This book is unusually strong on photographic ingredient illustrations.

                    FWIW, G. Hazan's has a picturial glossary of many dozen pasta shapes by major category (Pasta lunga, Fettuce, Tubi, and the numerous Forme speciali). It labels long spiral shapes fusilli lunghi (long springs); short hollow spirals (slightly fatter and ridged) cavatappi (corkscrews), and the short solid-core spiral (very common in US) fusilli corti, "short springs," or simply fusilli. They in turn have variations like eliche (propellers -- similar shape but "slower" twist) and fusilli bucati ("bored"), short hollow tube spirals like pieces of fusilli lunghi. I believe I've bought "fusilli corti" labeled rotini by some US makers but always labeled fusili if made in Italy. (Hazan's book contains no references at all to "rotini.")

                    I also agree with michael j n (and so do most Italian writers I've seen) that the different shapes hold sauces differently, affecting the eating experience. (G. Hazan also goes into the different sauce interactions of egg pasta, which he says is typically homemade in Italy, vs. wheat-only pasta, usually commercial.)

                    My most important point here is don't approach Wikipedia as if it were a reliable reference source on food.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: eatzalot

                      I have seen both the long spirals and rotini labelled as fusilli. When I ordered the homemade fresh fusilli at a local Italian restaurant, what I was served was more like gemelli. Then there's cavatappi from Barilla, which are ridged spiral tubes the thickness of ziti and about 2" long. I like it for mac&cheese because it holds sauce well. It takes up so much room that your eye is fooled into thinking you have a larger portion than you actually do.

                      1. re: greygarious

                        Yeah gg those are great as well. I actually like to use these best when I make my, you don't see me eating this, pasta, butter and soy sauce.

                        1. re: greygarious

                          The tight spirals or the hollow corkscrews probably require a metal die and press, while the gemelli shape could be cut and rolled by hand from fresh dough.

                      2. Culinaria Italia
                        "Fusilli, a helical shaped pasta, usually about four centimetres long. Fusilli are almost identical to another shaped pasta called Rotini. They both have a spiral shape, but rotini are slightly bigger and thicker."

                        Though there seem to be two types of fusilli. One is the tight spiral like the rotini (2 or 3 edge). The other is a long hollow corkscrew (Fusilli Lunghi). Some sources indicate that the name derives from the spiral grooves inside a rifle barrel.


                        1. It depends on the brand what they call them.

                          DeCecco calls rotini 'fusilli', and that's the brand we usually buy, so we call them 'fusilli'.. even though I know that it's the hollow pasta that is more often named that.


                          [Remember too, that what has one name in one place may have another elsewhere (grinder, hoagie)


                          They do have "fusilli corti bucati" (short hollow fusilli):

                          and long hollow fusilli...

                          Barilla has a niced ridged fusillo they call "cellentani".. I like that for cheesy sauces, but it is good with ragu as well:
                          This particular form seems to be something that they came up with...

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: lidia

                            That's interesting - in America, Barilla uses cellentani for that shape, but Ronzonie sells the same shape as cavatappi. I incorrectly said above that cavatappi was a Barilla product. I just checked an empty carton still in my recycling container. Both boxes are the same shade of blue, just so as to "corkscrew around" with the customer! :-) Seriously, looking at the wikipedia list of pasta shapes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_...) is vertigo-inducing. There CANNOT POSSIBLY be enough texture and suitability reasons for THAT many shapes, so I conclude it's done for the sake of one-upsmanship or just plain fun. It would be nice if there were more consistency in terminology.

                            1. re: greygarious

                              "There CANNOT POSSIBLY be enough texture and suitability reasons for THAT many shapes..."

                              mmm.. I tend to disagree. When I look at the array of possibilities, I can pretty much conjure up the "best" types of sauce for each and every shape. I usually have a dozen or more different formats on hand at any one time. The only shape I have never found a single, solitary use for is "rotelle".. I find them extremely 'antipatico' (opposite of 'simpatico').

                              When I make a certain eggplant sauce, THE pasta I want for it is DelVerde's mixed short pasta (variety of shapes); everything else falls short. I also have a bias towards the one-continuous-spiral rotini/fusilli as opposed to the type with three flanges. You may be incredulous, but I think most people can conceive of the difference in 'taste experience' between linguine and spaghetti, which are identical all respects but one. So you can extrapolate from there...!

                              The reason for the different names are just the many different regions and dialects. Linguine = trenette or bavette; spaghetti alla chitarra = tonnarelli, etc. Moving around the country -even less than an hour's drive away- you will find different names for vegetables, baked goods and cuts of meat, as well.

                              Then there are some names that get attached to a variety of shapes: the worst case I have come across is stringozzi / strangozzi / strengozzi / strengozze / strozzapreti / strangolapreti.. I've seen the name 'strangozzi' applied to long thick handmade pastas, as well as to short twisted handmade pastas, like trofie, as well as to tagliatelle, and 'strozzapreti' applied to all of the above, as well as to long cavatelli, to rustic orecchiette, and to various spinach and potato gnocchi!!. No one can decide whether the "priest strangler" name came from its length (in the case of the long, stout pastas that could go around someone's neck), from its content of unrefined flour (which a priest -used to more delicate fare- would choke on), or, in the case of gnocchi and other recipes, the fact that they were so big/rich/yummy greedy priests would stuff themselves silly on them and choke.

                              In certain areas that actually lay claim to the origins of 'strangozzi', though.. they're more often just called maccheroni!!! (because it's the default pasta that they make all the time, I suppose). Go figure! There is no "one correct name" (and who would be in charge of enforcing it if there were!?)

                              Just accept it as a charmingly unpredictable part of life. :-))

                            2. re: lidia

                              Lidia, as I mentioned earlier above, "fusilli" in Italian writing and pasta packaging can mean either long helices (fusilli lunghi) or short screws (fusilli corti -- corti like English "curt," short), also called just fusilli. But the short ones are extremely common in the US, much more than the long; and the many Italian brands I've bought in the US always call them "fusilli" which seems to be the international standard term. Hazan's book (for international readers) never mentions the word rotini at all in its extensive but very practical pasta glossary

                              Pasta labeled "rotini" by some US manufacturers is, to me, indistinguishable from standard Italian fusilli [fusilli corti]. Thus if someone writes that a major Italian brand "calls rotini 'fusilli,' " it implies that the writer learned this shape first under the name 'rotini,' which really is a secondary term. After seeing books by Italians (and many brands of pasta) I'd say that in the larger picture, it's Ronzoni [or Golden Grain or whoever] that labels fusilli 'rotini,' rather than the other way around.

                              1. re: eatzalot

                                Eatzalot, you're right.. I was brought up in the US so I didn't even question the existence of 'rotini', it was part of my own cultural baggage! How funny. I wonder where it actually originated... American marketers not liking the looks of the word 'fusilli'?

                                I now see that Barilla sells the same product as fusilli in Italy, but as rotini in the U.S.

                                1. re: eatzalot

                                  I have British picture cookbook of Italian recipes (HH). It has a number of fusilli recipes, some showing the long, some the short. It has nothing for rotini. That fits with rotini being more of an American-Italian term.

                                  1. re: eatzalot

                                    As others said upthread, name differences evolve easily with geographical separation. Actually, US overlap of "fusilli" and "rotini" is a minor difference compared to US food usages that I've learned are internationally atypical, i.e., different from the usual _English_ words in other countries. Common examples, offhand:

                                    Aubergines are "eggplants" in US. Corn, in English, meant any grain, but in US it evolved to what the rest of the English-speaking world calls maize. Corn syrup (US) = glucose syrup elsewhere. Worldwide including in US, everyone who knows either French or French cooking understands"beignet" as a fritter or tempura, "macaron" as a generic light cookie, the basic "macaroon" of English (coconut macaroons are a spin-off); but recently both "beignet" and "macaron" became US-fashionable in offshoot localized meanings (confusing readers who are food-literate rather than food-fashionable). Then there's "pudding," a word with complicated history and different, but overlapping, international meanings: in US, either custardy desserts or the older UK sense of cooked composite starchy dishes, sweet or savory -- "bread pudding" -- in early recipes, routinely wrapped like sausages and steamed or boiled; the word, related to French _boudin_ and others, can denote actual sausages in UK ("blood pudding") but has evolved there to also mean any sweet course to end a meal, i.e. dessert. The popular green squash most English-speaking peoples call courgettes or vegetable marrows are "zucchini" in US, but also in Italy, which originally popularized them, so the US version might be historically truer.

                                    Occasionally people write glossaries or dictionaries of such differences. And not to belabor this, but for clarifying food language, Wikipedia may do more harm than good. Even closely related articles, cross-referenced, contradict each other and make inconsistent and unstated assumptions. Or omit vital context, or skip a subject's prominent points for minor or even eccentric details. I could go on ...

                                2. Thank you to those of you who explained the discrepency in terminology. I had the same question as the OP. In the past I had purchased what was called fusilli as the long, hollow corkscrew - which I now know is called "Cellentani" by Barilla - and I prefer this shape. What is *currently* labeled as "fusilli" in my local supermarket *used* to be labeled "rotini", or simply 'twists', and I don't care for that shape. I no longer see the name "rotini" in the brands available here, so perhaps the American manufacturers realized it was a source of confusion!
                                  Anyway, thanks to your answers, now I know what to look for. :)