For a comforting, carb-centric meal that’ll transport you straight to the charming trattorias of Italy, there are few things that hit the spot quite like pasta. From well-loved standards such as carbonara, pomodoro and aglio e olio to creative recipes that incorporate anything from squid ink to saffron, there are seemingly endless variations that are only limited by the adventurousness of your palate.
As 25 October is World Pasta Day, consider treating yourself to some pasta from one of Singapore’s most popular Italian joints. But instead of opting for spaghetti, linguini, penne or one of the more common pasta shapes, why not go for something a little different in the form of, say, cappellacci, strozzapreti or mafalde?Here are seven novel pasta shapes to try, and more info on where you can sample these dishes for yourself in Singapore.
Originating from Sicily, these rolled pasta tubes are similar in appearance to strozzapreti, but are shorter in length. The flat pasta dough is formed into a tube resembling a scroll of parchment, with curled edges and a central groove – both of which help with capturing and holding sauce.
Where to try it: As one of the premier Italian restaurants in Singapore, Amò on Hongkong Street certainly needs no introduction. Besides their signature pizzas that are deliciously thin, they also boast an impressive pasta line-up. Order the casarecce with black pepper, guanciale (cured pork jowl) and saffron, a deceptively simple but tasty dish that’ll no doubt leave you asking for seconds.
Similar in function to ravioli and tortelli, cappellacci – which means “little hats” in an Italian dialect – are delightful pasta pockets that can be filled with anything from traditional pumpkin to ricotta and spinach. Always made by hand, the pasta shape is said to resemble the straw hats that were worn by farmers working in the fields.
Where to try it: The contemporary LINO Pizza & Pasta Bar at Shaw Centre in Orchard Road is a great place to break for lunch and to sample the unique pasta variety offered there. Their cappellacci dish offers a sweet pumpkin filling that’s encased in perfectly al dente pasta pockets, and finished with a toasty brown butter sauce, crispy sage leaves, pine nuts and balsamic.
3. Gnocchetti Sardi
These tiny little pasta shapes from Sardinia are also known as malloreddus or “little Sardinian gnocchi”. After the dough is formed and cut, it’s rolled out on a round reed basket – a traditional product of Sardinia – or a grooved board to form its characteristic ridges. A tiny amount of ground saffron is sometimes added to the dough to give the pasta a rich yellow colour.
Where to try it: Bar Cicheti along Jiak Chuan Road is arguably one of the most popular pasta joints in Singapore, and you’ll find a wide variety of less common pasta shapes and variations on their menu. Order the Gnochetti Sardi: saffron pasta with pork and fennel sausage, chilli and broccolini. They switch up their offerings regularly, so you may want to dine there soon.
This flat, ribbon-shaped pasta variety comes in wide strips that have wavy ridges on the sides, making it much more interesting than the standard linguini or fettuccini. It’s not all aesthetics either, as the crevices offer additional surface area to accommodate your sauce of choice, making for a more delicious bite.
Where to try it: Tipo specializes in innovative handmade pastas – think paprika caserecce, squid ink canestrini, beetroot and garlic angel hair and lemon mafalde – that you can combine with a sauce of your choice to build your own pasta dish. Madalfe is a staple on their menu, so you can pair the curly delight with a zesty tomato sauce, cheesy alfredo sauce or rich beef ragu.
Hailing from the Apulia region of Southern Italy, orecchiette is a small, dome-shaped pasta with an indentation in its centre that’s surrounded by thicker edges. Its name means “little ear” in Italian – a nod to its appearance, which can be said to resemble the ear of a tiny child.
Where to try it: You can sample this slightly chewy pasta at Ristorante Da Valentino, a family-run Italian joint located at The Grandstand in the Bukit Timah region. Order the Orecchiette con Pollo, in which the pasta comes coated in a velvety sauce with chicken and sun-dried tomatoes. On a date? Try requesting for a seat at one of the alcove tables for a more intimate setting.
This tubular pasta may resemble penne at first glance, but instead of forming a perfect cylindrical structure, garganelli contains two flaps at the ends that allow for maximum sauce penetration. Garganelli is often handmade by pressing together two corners of a square sheet of pasta and rolling it along a ridged board.
Where to try it: Specialising in handmade pasta made fresh each day, Pasta Bar is an ideal place to get your fix of both familiar and unusual varieties. Place an order for the vegetarian Garganelli Cacio e Pepe, in which the usual pici pasta is swapped out for garganelli spirals and combined with pecorino, Parmigiano and black pepper: simple, yet entirely satisfying.
An elongated and thinner form of cavatelli, strozzapreti is a handmade pasta that’s largely found in the Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, Marche and Umbria regions of Italy. The dough is rolled out into a flat sheet, before it is cut into smaller strips that are rolled, twisted and pinched into the final worm-like shape. This usually results in pasta that is not uniform in size or shape.
Where to try it: For delicious pastas that won’t break the bank, check out Grammi*. This new online restaurant concept by Michelin-starred chef Beppe De Vito offers homey Italian staples for you to enjoy in the comfort of your home. The dish you’ll want to order is the Strozzapreti with Crab, which comes with dollops of creamy mascarpone, tomato, fresh peas and a dusting of paprika.
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.
*Editor’s note: We ordered Grammi recently and the meal never arrived due to some delivery mishaps. We are unable to vouch for the eatery’s reliability.