Conchiglie and Co! Sea Shell Pasta.
Sea shells aren’t found only on the seashore!
Commonly called ‘shells’ or ‘sea shells’ because of their shape, conchiglie is a type of pasta that do actually look like conch shells. In fact, the word ‘conchiglia’ in Italian means sea shell. They are usually sold dried in a plain durum wheat variety, but can also be found in coloured varieties with natural colouring, such as tomato extract, squid ink or spinach, or in a whole wheat version.
Conchiglie have a ridged exterior and smooth interior which means that the inside fills up when stirred in the sauce, whilst the ridges enable the sauce to adhere to the outside as well. So every mouthful is totally delicious!
3 different sizes.
This pasta shape comes in 3 sizes. Conchigliette are the smallest and traditionally used in soups. Conchiglie are the middle-sized version and are very good with thick sauces, but can also be baked. Finally, conchiglioni are the jumbo shells, which are similar in size to lumaconi (snail shell pasta) and are excellent stuffed and baked.
The best conchiglie pasta is made from hard durum wheat which holds up well during cooking. Hard wheats hold their shape better especially when boiled and then baked as is often done with the jumbo pasta shells, conchiglioni. As with other dried pasta, I prefer conchiglie from Gragnano (pasta di Gragnano) home to some of the best pasta makers in Italy, although of course, other companies produce good pasta too.
Conchiglie aren’t a very ancient pasta shape and are only produced dried. Because they haven’t been around for very long they don’t have a history which is particular to a certain Italian region, although they seem to be more popular in the South. Probably because Southern Italians eat more dry pasta and the Northerners eat more fresh pasta. Plus many specialty pasta shapes were first produced in the South, especially in Gragnano near Naples, which is the place I mentioned above.
There are many wonderful recipes throughout Italy for these shell pasta shapes. They are served with meat, fish, and vegetable sauces and the small conchigliette are used in soups, with pesto sauce, and in salads. I’m looking forward to sharing some of these recipes with you. In the meantime, if you have never tried them and you see conchiglie or shell pasta in your local supermarket, stick it in your basket. You won’t regret it!
Recipes on The Pasta Project for pasta shells
Pasta shells with tuna and ricotta
Classic spinach and ricotta conchiglioni
Skye Norvell says
I have been trying to find a recipe that shows how to shape the large Conchiglioni or Lumaconi Pasta. I can only find how to shape the small sea shells.
Hi Skye, thanks for your message. I’ve tried to find a recipe for you even on Italian sites but I don’t think that Italians make homemade large conchiglioni and lumaconi. They only use ready dried ones. There are some pasta machines that have a mold/die for smaller lumaconi or shells but I haven’t found a company that sells the molds for larger ones either. Sorry not to be of more help!
Thanks for the questions and response. Thanks for the Pasta Project being my vehicle for my for new journey into pasta enlightenment.
David Kellett says
The Kenwood Chef (stand mixer) has a pasta extruding attachment that you can use to make large shells. I’ve just made some this afternoon.
I used 2 eggs plus one yolk and then the same eight of pasta flour, salt and a little olive oil. With the attachment on the mixer you need a “dough” that looks rather dry/crumbly. The attachment compresses it together as it extrudes shapes like shells or macaroni. I wish I could post a picture here but I don’t think I can?