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buying pasta in Italy


I am traveling to Italy next week and would like to bring home some dry pasta for friends. I'd love to bring something not readily available in the States. Any ideas??


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  1. A friend once brought me back pici, which I enjoyed cooking up. Maybe you can see if there's a regional specialty where you're going.

    3 Replies
    1. re: lowereastrittenhouse

      I was going to say the same thing. Each region and almost it seems, every town, seems to have their own traditional pasta shape that is usually easily found. So pack an extra suitcase!

      1. re: lowereastrittenhouse

        i'll be in genova. a quick search brought up pesto speciality pastas trenette and trofie. i'll keep my eyes open for those.

        thanks all!!

        1. re: hgar78

          Much depends on where you live and what you can get in your area. The most interesting dried pasta in the Genoa area would be corzetti, shaped like a US silver dollar, but thinner. Although in my area (NYC) I can get most shapes, that is one I do not remember seeing in shops. You might even find the corzetti stamps.

          The Barilla made in Italy is better than the Barilla made in the US, but still far from the artisanal dried products.

      2. It sort of depends on where you live. I'm in Chicago and there are countless pastas from Italy available locally (and no, I'm not counting Barilla), ranging from the everyday to the exotic.

        1. Would you believe that in Florence we ran across a vending machine in a little alcove that opened onto the street selling boxes of Barilla? We laughed so hard! I'd post the pic, but I can't seem to find the file right now. One of the funniest moments of the trip.

          That's what NOT to bring back.

          1. The other thing you might want to do is to see what you can find in the specialized pasta shops/wine shops/deli instead of the usual touristic places. Often the pasta offered at the touristic places is generic as you can find it everywheres throughout the country at all touristic shops, and kind of, well, meh...especially the pretty tricolored stuff. No Italian I know is caught dead serving that stuff LOL.
            And WORD to the regionality...I'm on the hunt for a Sicilian pasta which is ring shaped, small and ring shaped. Not a wheel, not a tube, but a ring shape (aka "anellini di pasta"). Couldn't find it in Florence (used it there once during a cooking class). I'd have to go to Sicily to find it. STILL looking., although amazon.comseems promising...

            12 Replies
              1. re: freia

                freia: you might be able to get it from www.salumeriaitaliana.com. They have a lot of pastas that aren't usually imported into US.

                1. re: freia

                  Anellini is sold by the shop I use in Brooklyn (Coluccio) I will theck the brand next time I am over there.
                  Ps they are cute but nothing special, I guess the idea is that they are thin like the thinner spaghettis, but are not as messy to handle in particular dishes. I will give some thought to what a good sub would be when I look at them again.

                  1. re: jen kalb

                    I've been looking for annelletti (similar shape) all over the place too and really wish I'd brought some home from Sicily with me. I haven't found the right sub for annelletti al forno yet!

                    1. re: jen kalb

                      Jen, I think it's Martino, but I may be wrong. I've had annellini only in the classic Sicilian baked dish, with the cooked pasta baked with meat sauce, peas, chopped mozzarella, pecorino, maybe some eggplant in a baking dish. Very satisfying as a composite dish.

                      1. re: bob96

                        thats the clasic dish - ive never made it though - dont you think there is a reasonable sub - ditali or something?

                        1. re: jen kalb

                          see, that was the recipe I needed the annelli for! LOL. No real substitutes if you want the real thing. The closest would be pasta wheels I think, but the texture and the way the dish comes out is completely different. Sigh. And I'm Canadian, in a small town, meaning that my selection of dried pasta that is more special than lasagne noodles or fettucine has to come from an online order. Double sigh...

                          1. re: jen kalb

                            Ditali (not ditalini, as you suggest) or pennette (small penne) might also work, but I have to believe Coluccio or Frank+Sal have the annellini.

                            1. re: bob96

                              Sorry, I meant ditali. Coluccio definitely has them, but she is in Canada. Im just trying to think of something with similar texture. thickness and size of pasta rather than shape would be the most relevant criteria in a sub, it seems to me. The rings are quite thin. Ive never made the dish but it seems like it would be great in this weather.

                              1. re: jen kalb

                                Might be easiest to order from amazon--4 17.5 oz bags of Rustichella for $17.50; not bad!

                                1. re: bob96

                                  That's a great price. This is my favorite brand, which I buy at my local Dean & Deluca, but for more money!

                    2. Yes, TJ Maxx, lol!!

                      I went to Italy about 10 - 15 years ago, bought and brought back what I thought were "specilaty" foods that l was sure could not be found in the U.S. Chocolates, coffee, shrink-wrapped cheese and a few bags of pasta, tri-color, black cuttlefish ink, etc. I was really excited. Before I left, I spent my last lire at the airport buying more chocolate, only to discover a couple of years later that the exact same bags of pastas I flew half way around the world for could be found at TJ Maxx, lol!!! The chocolates? I found the same chocolates sold at CVS pharmacy, lol!!!!

                      1. Post on the Italy board!

                        I agree that it's generally easy to obtain a large variety of dried pastas from Italy here, so I would look for more unusual regional products, and I bet Genova is chock-a-block full of stuff you cannot find here.

                        I would also strongly encourage you to buy some salsa di tartufo, truffle sauce. Nearby Piedmont is known for truffles, so I imagine there will be some good places to buy it. It's usually made with some smallish percentage of black or white truffles (white is more expensive), porcini mushrooms, and olive oil, and it's delicious. Very hard to find the good stuff in the U.S.

                        Have fun!!!

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: visciole

                          Just be careful with the truffle anything, because often these products are "doctored" with esters to give the flavor of truffle without there being any significant amount of truffle in them.
                          If you are able to pack liquids well -- remember, no carryon of liquids or they're confiscated -- you might want to bring back some local cold pressed olive oil or some balsamico that you can't find in North America. You could also bring back some biscotti -- while available here I've never had such nice biscotti here. I usually bring back a kilo of them fresh for friends and family. (OH and thanks, chowhounds for the links, just checking to see if they'll ship from Amazon. com to the Great White North, which usually is no problem as long as you have 12 weeks to spare LOL)

                          1. re: freia

                            The products I have purchased in Italy are clearly labeled with the percentage of truffle.

                            1. re: visciole

                              Even then, you still need to be careful:
                              In particular, note this paragraph, quoted from the article and in the words of two of the most prominent truffle product purveyors in Italy:

                              "Truffle companies are secretive, and speaking to their representatives does little to illuminate their production techniques. I was told by Federico Balestra at Sabatino Tartufi that its oil is now “100 percent organic,” made from dried truffles and other ingredients with flavors “similar to truffle.” Vittorio Giordano of Urbani Tartufi called its manufacturing method, though conducted in a laboratory, a “natural process.” He described the essence that his company uses as “something from the truffle that is not the truffle.” "

                              Labels are fine, but I would be more confident in the product if there was an equivalent DOP label for truffle oil or truffle products just as there is for balsamico and chianti. I know, having lived there, that there are many many labelled products for sale especially to tourists that may not live up to their claims (just as there are on this side of the pond).
                              Just saying...

                              1. re: freia

                                I am sure you are correct. We were lucky in that we purchased in an area that is not very touristy, and we only bought salsa di tartufi, not truffle oil, and each jar said the percentage of truffles. They were priced accordingly. If that stuff was fake, they did a good job. MMMM!

                        2. if you are going to be around Genova next week, look for chestnut pastas. Chestnut "trofie" should be around. Another "pasta" you can find vacuum packed is testaroli, and that is great stuff.

                          Local artiginale pastas are often found in bakeries and enoteche in the tourist towns. If by being 'around' Genova you mean you will be in Camogli or Sori (the area's biggest pasta maker) or any points south between Genova and Sestri Levante, you should look in the tourist shops. If you are headed for the Serravalle mall, there are many pastas out of the valle di Scrivia, north of Genova.

                          If you walk around the periphery of the Mercato Orientale in Genova, and in the neighboring streets (like the via Galata), you can find a lot of dried pasta from everywhere, including 3-foot long spaghetti from Napoli (which I love). In the piazza Colombo there is an olive oil shop which sells lots of other delicious food too.

                          But it is also true that if you walk into any supermarket, you find whole aisles of pastas that are standard items in Liguria but not seen in the states: trenette, bavette, mezze maniche, sedano, lumache, maccheroni di Natale -- the list is endless. They are not all particular to the region, and you might not want to give them as gifts if they don't appear to be extra special shapes, but they are great pastas to have around the house if you've got room in your suitcase.

                          1. Be aware that the Ligurian region of Italy has suffered from very heavy rains and some terrible flooding over the past week. Good luck with your trip and all the best to the people of Liguria.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: DavidT


                              Thanks for expressing good wishes but, so everyone knows, only an extremely small portion of Liguria's geography suffered flash floods, and at the points most distant from Genova. That is not to minimize the impact on those directly affected, but a shopper in and around Genova will not be affected at all.

                              Part of the area very adversely affected was the narrow val di Vara, which is homebase for organic farming in Liguria. In the coming months, those of us who are devoted to that area's delicious dairy products, honeys, chestnuts and handmade delicacies, and the friendly people who produce this bounty and bring it to our markets, will feel an acute loss, I fear, but that is a bit beyond the OP's time frame and shopping list.

                              1. re: barberinibee

                                Thank you for the update. Very sorry to hear about the damage, but glad to hear the damage was not too widespread.

                            2. thank you all so much for the ideas, suggestions and tips! i have so many options now and think i may need an extra suitcase to bring it all back. :)