Busiate from Trapani, Western Sicily.

Busiate is a traditional pasta from Sicily which is popular with pesto or seafood. If you travel to Western Sicily you will find it on the menu in nearly all the restaurants!

Busiate pasta

Nearly all the Italian regions have particular types of pasta that come from there. Some of these, such as spaghetti, also became popular in different parts of the Italian peninsula and eventually abroad too. Others have remained more exclusive to the region in which they originated.  Busiate is one such type of pasta. Traditionally from Trapani in Western Sicily, this pasta is not often eaten in other parts of Italy and is, subsequently, relatively unknown in other countries.

Busiate pasta with almonds, prawns and bottarga (tuna roe)
Busiate pasta with almonds, prawns and bottarga (tuna roe)

Pasta that looks like pieces of telephone cord!

Busiate is a kind of maccheroni which is formed by twisting strands of pasta dough to create a spiral shape that is hollow in the center and looks a bit like a telephone cord! Nowadays, homemade busiate is made using a special thin rod, known as a ‘ferro’, around which each piece of dough is wound.

There are two theories about the origin of the name of this pasta. Some say it comes from the word ‘busa’, a very thin rod of disa grass that grows on arid and sandy soils. This grass rod was originally believed to be the ‘stick’ that was used to make this pasta. Others think the name comes from the term ‘buso’, a thin iron knitting needle which was used to work wool and cotton in Trapani.  Like other fresh pasta from the south of Italy, busiate is made from durum wheat flour and water only, no eggs. Although also available dried, many Sicilians prefer this pasta to be homemade. 

Busiate Tumminia with radicchio pesto
Busiate Tumminia with radicchio pesto

Busiate Tumminia; a very healthy pasta option!

Nowadays, there are a number of Sicilian artisan pasta makers who are producing normal and whole grain dried busiate. Whole grain busiate can be found in different versions. The one I like the most is made with tumminia. Tumminia is an ancient Sicilian grain which was grown in Sicily from the time of the ancient Greeks until the 1950s. Then production was largely abandoned in favour of other grains because tumminia has to be grown organically and has a lower yield. However, it is regaining popularity because of its health benefits for people with dietary problems. Tumminia is low in gluten and high in fibre and proteins. It also gives the pasta a slightly sweet flavour, thanks to the sweetness of the grain itself.

Busiate pasta with Trapanese pesto from Trapani
Busiate with pesto Trapanese


Pasta recipes with Busiate.

Whichever type of busiate you manage to find, you are sure to love it. In Sicily, and especially Trapani, this pasta is traditionally served with pesto alla Trapanese. Trapani and Genova are both port towns, and according to some food historians, trade between the two resulted in the concept of pesto being passed from Genova to Trapani. However, pesto alla Genovese is made with basil and pine nuts, whereas pesto alla Trapanese is made with tomatoes and almonds. Also, whereas the recipe for pesto alla Genovese actually exists in an official version and different versions are rare, this is not the case for pesto alla Trapanese. Tomatoes, almonds, and garlic are standard but other ingredients such as pecorino cheese may or may not be added. I recently paired this pasta with radicchio pesto which was also a delicious combination.

Dried busiate pasta from Trapani
Dried busiate pasta from Trapani

There are also a number of other typical Sicilian ways to serve this pasta and I’m looking forward to sharing some of them with you soon. For those readers who cannot find this kind of pasta in their local shops, it is worth looking online. Today, many companies sell or ship traditional Italian food products all over the world and busiate are available on Amazon in UK and USA.

Recipes with Busiate. Click the link to go to the recipe post.

With pesto alla Trapanese

With radicchio (Italian chicory) pesto

With almonds, prawns and bottarga (tuna roe)

Busiate - traditional pasta from Sicily

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