Home Italy Revisited Bookshelf Plays About Mary Melfi Contact Us
X Italian Pasta Dishes
Pasta dei Tutti i Giorne ("Everyday" fresh home-made egg-free pasta dough, with traditional Molisani names and shapes)
Originated from: Casacalenda, Molise, Italy
Occasion: Any time of the year
Contributed by: Mary Melfi

Printer Friendly Version


For pasta dough recipe see "Everyday Pasta Dough"

For recipes with the home-made pastas see individual dishes

Names of Pastas seen in picture:

Top row, from left to right:



o Potato gnocchi*

Bottom row, from left to right:


o SAGNATELLE and/or SAGNETELLE (spellings vary)


* It's possible that potato gnocchi only became popular in Molise after World War II. Prior to 1945 few households may have done them in this region. Fusilli (Not in the photo) were also made in Molise with an egg-free dough but few cooks had the time or expertise to do them, so they were not very popular. Spaghetti were also popular in Molise, but prior to World War II the dough that was used to make them generally contained eggs. At that time spaghetti were perceived as a special treat. They were often made for Easter Sunday and Christmas Eve. Spaghetti were also served on the Feast Day of Saint Joseph. However, for this feast day few cooks made them at home. The spaghetti served on The Feast Day of Saint Joseph were often bought at a local shop; the store-bought dried spaghetti did not contain eggs.



While many areas of Italy share similar styles of home-made pastas, the names of the pastas may differ from region to region. Prior to World War II the names of the pastas may have also differed from town to town in the same region. In the town my mother grew up in (Casacalenda, Molise) the most popular pastas included those shown in the picture to the left. They are: [Top row, from left to right] cavatelli, taccuzzelle [also spelled as "taccozzelle"] and potato gnocchi; [bottom row, from left to right] taccozze, sagnatelle/sagnetelle (spellings vary) and tagliatelle. In between the sagnatelle/sagnetelle and tagliatelle is a folded pasta sheet. Prior to World War II, before pasta makers were in use, cooks would roll out the dough with a rolling pin, cut pasta sheets, and then folded over the pasta sheets. By folding up the pasta sheets, tagliatelle and/or sagnatelle/sagnetelle could be made at a faster pace. Of the longer strips of pastas, tagliatelle were the most popular. Well, popular in the sense that's what most people did when they had to cook something up in a hurry (which was more often than not). Apparently, prior to World War II sagnatelle/sagnetelle was generally not an egg noddle style pasta -- nowadays, it is. Back then sagnatelle/sagnetelle was a thin style tagliatelle and not much more than that in the average household. Though, of course, in the well-to-do households eggs were often used to make pasta. In fact, any pasta that included eggs was considered a delicacy. Most households in the countryside only made pastas that included eggs on special occasions (e.g. weddings and baptisms). Generally speaking, lasagna (or "sagna") and cannelloni pasta sheets used eggs. Prior to World War II ravioli style of meat-filled pastas were not made in Molise (at least they weren't done in Casacalenda). Back then few cooks made spaghetti on a regular basis as it required a great deal of time and effort. Possibly, that's why when those from Molise immigrated to Canada in the 1950s they took to store-bought spaghetti with a vengeance. Not only was store-bought spaghetti easy to cook, but was cheap as well. Prior to World War II dried pastas were rather expensive in Southern Italy. So, of course, they had more status there. For weddings households often preferred to serve dried pastas (e.g. penne) as that had "more class." Nowadays fresh pasta sold in local Montreal shops is a hundred times more expensive than pre-packaged dried pastas. Generally, what costs more is better appreciated. However, in this case, fresh pasta is worth the extra dough (though personally I prefer home-made fresh pasta -- my mother's -- to anything that money can buy).... One more thing -- it seems of all the short pastas, cavatelli, were the most popular in Molise, and potato gnocchi, the least popular. In fact, my mother claims no one made gnocchi in Molise (prior to World War II), but I doubt this was so, as gnocchi recipes can be found in a number of cookbooks from this region (These cookbooks undoubtedly were published after World War II so, who knows, my mother might be right?). One sometimes has to take what one's mother says with a grain of salt. My own kids should take note of this as well.... The expression "with a grain of salt" made me think of the salt or lack of salt in most home-made Italian pastas. I asked my aunt, Zia Rosina, why Italians don't use salt in their home-made dough but add salt when they boil the pasta dough. If salt was expensive prior to World War II (It sure was!) why then did cooks put so much of it in the boiling pot of water when they could have used much less salt in the pasta dough and have had the same results? My aunt told me that in Italy people put salt in their boiling pot of water not necessarily to improve the flavor of the food, but because the salt apparently helps the fresh pasta noodles from sticking to each other. My aunt also mentioned that the salt that was sold in the 1930s in Casacalenda was "coarse." So home cooks put in "coarse" salt in the boiling water. However, those cooks who added a "pinch" of salt to the flour when they made home-made pasta ground it in a mortar prior to its use....... N.B. Fusilli (not in the photo shown in this entry) are also associated with Molisan cookery. However, in the 1930s, many cooks living in the countryside, including my mother, avoided doing fusilli as they were (and still are) difficult to shape. Besides, a special iron tool was needed to shape them, and few households in the countryside had them. Prior to World War II cooks made the most of what they had, and lucky for them, most family members showed up for dinner (Unlike in today's world where "grazing" -- eating on-the-go -- is the thing to do).... Photo: by the contributor.

Back to main list