What's in a name? Plenty — especially when you're talking about pasta, an Italian essential.
The 34th Eldorado Great Italian Festival runs Oct. 8-9 in downtown Reno at the Eldorado Resort Casino. To celebrate the festival, we're sharing the stories behind several unusual pastas (all of which have been made, at one time or another, by the Eldorado's pasta shop).
Forty Italian clans are offering their family sauces at this year's event. From noon to 4 p.m. on both days, at the corner of Fourth and Virginia streets, folks can buy $3 pasta bowls to anoint with the sauces. Event details: www.eldoradoreno.com. And now, let's get to the pasta.
Strozzapreti. This handmade pasta from northern Italy resembles twisted strips of cloth. The name literally means “priest strangler” or “priest choker” and possibly refers to the gluttony of priests in Italian folklore. As in: The priest so greedily ate the pasta, he choked on it.
Ravioli del plin. These small ravioli with sawtooth edges come from the Piedmont region of Italy. They’re sealed with a pinch, and “plin” means “pinch” in the Piedmontese dialect. The ravioli are stuffed with roasted rabbit, pork and veal and served with a little butter.
Orecchiette. Southern Italy, especially Puglia, the “heel” in the Italian boot, claims these convex “little ears” fashioned using durum wheat flour. The name might also derive from “crosets,” disc-shaped hollowed pastas from medieval France that made their way into Italy.
Ziti. These long, thick-walled tubes are smooth (unlike, say, ridged penne rigate). “Ziti” means “grooms” (or “boyfriends,” colloquially), while the feminine “zite” means “brides.” Dishes employing the tubes were once mandatory at Sicilian weddings, hence the name of the pasta.
Bigoli. Dough for bigoli, a Venetian pasta, must not get too warm or it will loosen during its extrusion through a special press into 1-yard lengths. “Bigoli” derives from the Venetian word for “worms”; in the vernacular, the term refers to the male member. Bigoli’s rough surface helps traps sauces.
Pansotti. You traditionally over-stuff pansotti with greens and ricotta — never meat — so it’s no surprise the name translates as “pot bellies.” There’s wine in the dough, but no egg, so the paunchy parcels are translucent, revealing their cargo. Pansotti are served with walnut pesto.
Paccheri. Southern Italian paccheri were originally large tubes that supposedly slapped the mouth when eaten, so they took their name from the Neapolitan word for “to slap.” Paccheri also were considered poor man’s food. Today, the short, wide tubes can be sauced or served stuffed and baked.