Happy Spaghetti Day!

Instead of nattering on about how much I love spaghetti and pasta in general (which as I go on and on about it, I’ve made abundantly clear), I thought I’d demonstrate how much more there is to spaghetti than you might think. So many kinds, so many ways to serve it.


Variations on a Theme: But though the basic spaghetti shape is common and familiar to almost anyone, it isn’t actually just a single pasta shape. It’s a shape category which includes:

  • Spaghetti: your basic long, strands of pasta made of semolina or flour and water.
  • Spaghettoni: extra thick or extra long spaghetti
  • Spaghettini: sometimes called angel hair pasta or capellini; a very thin spaghetti
  • Bucatini: a thick, hollow spaghetti.
  • Bigoli: Sometimes people include this pasta in the spaghetti category – it’s very similar in size to bucatini but without being hollow but it’s not anywhere near as common. Also called pici
  • Vermicelli – now, i never really thought of this as a spaghetti. I thought of it as its own thing – despite being very like spaghetti in shape. As it turns out, the National Pasta Association (US) classifies it as a thin spaghetti so on this, I will agree to disagree with them. There’s something about the texture of vermicelli that doesn’t FEEL like spaghetti to me.

Some Serving Suggestions: You can sauce and top spaghetti with just about anything but some of the more popular dishes around the world are:

  • Spaghetti with Meatballs: most definitely Italian-American more than Italian. Which is not to say you can’t find it in Italy but it’s not a given as it is in the US and I often get the feeling it is only on menus in the first place so Americans stop asking where it is. There are so many recipes and versions – as is always the case with “classics – so start here and see if it inspires you to tweak it into your own.


  • Spaghetti Alle Vongole: that’s “spaghetti with clams;” a Neapolitan dish that is HUGELY popular throughout Italy. I have to say – we tend to keep a few cans of clams around just to ensure we can rustle this up at short notice. It is a very quick and satisfying meals. Use tinned clams of fresh for this recipe from Nigella – either way is delicious.
  • Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca: hilariously and literally translates as “spaghetti whore-style” (as marvelously explained by Nigella, who clearly relishes the story and calls her version “Slut’s Spaghetti.”). This is a pantry staple dish – spaghetti topped with a quite  tangy, salty sauce of tomatoes, olive oil, olives, capers and garlic. Boil water, open a few jars and presto! Dinner is done.


  • Spaghetti Aglio e Olio: spaghetti with garlic and oil. Simple, clean and light. This is the quickest comfort food pasta dish in my repertoire. Most probably evolved as a spin-off of spaghetti alle vongole. Ina Garten’s version – found here – has Parmesan cheese in it as well but that’s totally up to you.
  • Cold Sesame Noodles – did I shock you? Just because spaghetti – as a word – is Italian and just because the Italians dominate the pasta scene does not mean they are the only game in town. The Chinese have been doing their own noddle thing for millennia and one of my favourite things to order when I’m having Chinese is cold sesame noodles. Yes, you could use  Chinese egg noodles for this dish but isn’t it much more likely that you’ll have spaghetti on hand? Why make more work for yourself? Go on, give it a shot.


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