Fusilli Pasta; long, short, homemade and hollow.
Most people have heard of, and probably eaten, fusilli pasta. However, did you know there is actually a fusilli family; the traditional short spiral pasta which originally comes from Southern Italy and a long version which Italians call fusilli lunghi, plus hollow types which are called ‘bucati (meaning holed)? In USA they often call this pasta rotini, but the name rotini isn’t used here in Italy.
I read that it was actually two Italian-Americans who developed the first machine for the industrial production of fusilli in 1924. The introduction of industrial processing techniques subsequently enabled pasta makers to not only make the beautiful spiral fusilli found in most supermarkets today, but it also made it possible to make fusilli and other types of pasta hollow.
Traditional fusilli, on the other hand, was originally only handmade . The spiral, corkscrew shape was obtained by wrapping a strand of pasta dough around a long needle or thin rod, known as a ‘ferro’, using a particular method which was reminiscent of spinning. In fact, the name ‘fusilli’ comes from ‘fuso’ which means spindle.
In Southern Italy, it is still possible to find handmade fusilli, although they look quite different to the machine made versions and the method of making them differs somewhat from region to region. In some regions, the dough is wrapped around the ‘ferro’ by placing the ferro at an angle over one end of a pasta strand and rolling it in a way that the pasta wraps around the rod in a spiral shape. Sicilian busiate are traditionally made the same way and look like long handmade fusilli, even when dried. Other traditional Southern spiral fusilli are ‘fusilli Avellinesi’ from Campania, ‘fusilli Napoletani’ also from Campania and ‘Fusilli ricci alla tricaricese’ from Basilicata.
In other places, the ferro is placed along the length of the pasta strand and then rolled with the pasta which flattens and spreads around the rod to form a thin hollow cylinder. Once the pasta has spread to the required length, the ferro is then removed from the middle. This second type of pasta, which isn’t really a spiral, is referred to as maccheroni al ferro in some regions and fusilli in others! In some regions this type of ‘fusilli’ can be up to 22cms in length. Traditional cylindrical fusilli include ‘fusilli cilentani’ from the Cilento region in Southern Campania, ‘fusilli Calabresi’ from Calabria and fusilli di Felitto also from the Cilento.
So, if you are travelling around Southern Italy and find homemade fusilli on the menu, the chances are the pasta won’t look like the machine made fusilli we are all used too. However, it will probably taste better! Whether handmade or store bought, fusilli are very popular throughout Italy.
In the South, homemade fusilli is often eaten on Sundays or feast days with a meat or sausage ragu. In the North, where commercially produced fusilli is more popular, it’s often eaten in pasta salads or with lighter creamy sauces, pesto and in vegetarian pasta dishes. Fusilli is also delicious baked. Really a pasta that goes with everything!
There are a number of recipes here on the Pasta Project for long, short and hollow fusilli. I’m planning to make some homemade fusilli too and will be posting a recipe for that in the not too distant future but in the meantime you can take a look at these videos on how to make homemade fusilli. The first is from Pasta Grannies (cyndrical fusilli) and the second from Basilicata (Fusilli ricci alla tricaricese). Enjoy!