Dischi volanti pasta from Tuscany.
Known almost exclusively as dischi volanti here in Italy, this pasta shape is also sold abroad as just volanti or messicani pasta (I guess because of the shape’s similarity to Mexican hats) or bonetti (meaning bonnets).
A little dischi volanti pasta history.
The invention of dischi volanti pasta dates back to the late 1940s-mid 1950s. So, this is quite a modern pasta shape. The words ‘dischi volanti’ literally translate to ‘flying discs’, which is the Italian way to say flying saucers. Obviously, the name relates to the pasta’s characteristic flying saucer shape.
UFO sightings in Italy inspired the creation of this pasta!
There are two ‘flying saucer’ origin theories for dischi volanti pasta. First, I read that this pasta shape was inspired by the first UFO sightings in the USA back in 1947. However, according to pasta makers Pastificio Fabbri, producers of dischi volanti since 1955, it was a sighting of UFOs in Italy that inspired this pasta’s creation.
The day UFOs stopped a football match.
On 27th October 1954, UFOs were sighted over Florence. They were seen in a number of places including from the city’s Stadio Artemi Franchi football stadium. The local Fiorentina club was playing against rivals Pistoiese. Just after half-time, the spectators started pointing at the sky instead of watching the match. Play stopped as people watched what appeared to be globes or flying saucers pass over the stadium! You can read more about this incident in this article in the BBC online News Magazine from 2014.
In 1955, apparently inspired by the above event, bronze die maker Garibaldo Ricciarelli from Pistoia designed a bronze die to make dischi volanti. The above mentioned pasta company, Pastificio Fabbri, have been using one of those bronze dies to make dischi volante pasta ever since.
What are bronze dies?
Bronze dies are basically molds made of bronze which are attached to the end of commercial pasta making machines. The pasta dough is extruded (pushed) through the mold which shapes it. Italian pasta makers have been using bronze dies for centuries. Nowadays, some big companies use Teflon dies instead. But, artisan pasta makers still prefer using bronze. They say the quality of the pasta is better.
On the whole, dischi volanti pasta isn’t produced by many pasta makers in Italy. I got given some when I visited pasta makers Benedetto Cavalieri in Puglia. And, I used theirs to make this dischi volanti with prosciutto ragu recipe, my first recipe with this pasta. However, I’ve seen that Garofalo make this flying saucer pasta shape, but they call it ‘cappelletti’, meaning little hats. Although, ‘cappelletti’ is usually the name for a filled pasta shape from Emilia-Romagna.
Dischi volanti (messicani) pasta recipes.
This pasta shape is great for pasta salads and thick chunky meat sauces. However, I have found other types of recipes on Italian sites for dischi volanti pasta. These include with tomato sauce, veggies such as mushrooms or radicchio and with seafood. So, a very versatile pasta to try if you haven’t already.