Fresca and secca: a guide to Italian pasta

Italian cuisine has become synonymous with great pasta dishes. Italian immigrants spread the tasty food throughout the world by bringing the knowledge of its making with them when they left their homes. Surprisingly, however, pasta did not originate in Italy. There are several theories as to how pasta first made its way into Italian homes, including a popular theory that it was brought from China by the famous explorer Marco Polo. However, the most commonly excepted theory is that the earliest versions of pasta arrived in Italy from Arabia as early as the 5th century AD.

La pasta di Eataly

The types of pasta: not worse, not better, just different

Regardless of who first brought pasta to Italy, there is no doubt that the version of pasta we all know and love today is an Italian creation. Pasta can be divided into two main categories, pasta secca and pasta fresca, or dry pasta and fresh pasta. Most people from outside of Italy who enjoy pasta will probably be most familiar with dry pasta. While dry pasta is often referred to by the not-so complimentary mantle of ‘factory pasta’, it is not the case that dry pasta is inferior to fresh pasta. Instead, they are simply different in nature and suited to different kinds of dishes. Fresh pasta is usually made from eggs and dough and works well as a tortellini or ravioli dish. Dry pasta is crafted from finely ground semolina flour and water and works well with ragu sauces or as part of casseroles. The difference in popularity between the two kinds of pasta can be attributed mostly to the fact that dry pasta is easier to store and lasts for longer.

La pasta fresca di Eataly

The artistry of shaping

Half the fun and skill of making fresh pasta is the moulding of the finished product into a variety of different shapes. While the number of possible shapes for fresh pasta doesn’t match the wide spectrum available with dry pasta, there are a variety of different styles on offer. Fettuccine is a popular kind of fresh pasta shape thanks to its ability to hold sauces well. Shaping lasagna strips or sheets from fresh pasta is a fairly straightforward affair that results in a delightful final dish. Other ways in which fresh pasta can be shaped include cutting it into wide flatter strips (tagliatelle or pappardelle) that are ideal for combination with dishes that use a creamy sauce. Dry pasta makes up the majority of unusual shapes that we know and love, including fusilli, penne, spaghetti and rigatoni, and they work best with oil based or tomato based sauces.

Enjoy the real thing with Eataly

At Eataly we love the entire range of pasta experiences that comes from Italy and it is our passion to offer the finest Italian cuisine experience to as many people as possible. Eataly works with artisans of the highest caliber, such as Afeltra and Il Pastaio, and produces its own fresh pasta in the Pasta Lab. The end result is always a pasta far beyond the quality of any supermarket brand and even most restaurants. If you are looking for a truly authentic Italian dining experience, come to Eataly and buy the best Italian pasta!