Pasta Names.

From Oretta Zanini De Vita, Popes, Peasants, and Shepherds: Recipes and Lore from Rome and Lazio, tr. Maureen B. Fant (University of California Press, 2013), courtesy of Laudator Temporis Acti:

The same holds for pasta: poverty and imagination lay behind the proliferation of all the many types that changed name from town to town: the stracci of one become fregnacce of another, and the Sabine frascarelli differ little from the strozzapreti of the Ciociaria, the region’s southern hinterland. The popular imagination gave whimsical names to the simple paste of water and flour, and only rarely eggs, worked with the hands or with small tools. Thus we have cecamariti (husband blinders) and cordelle (ropes), curuli, fusilli (also called ciufulitti), frigulozzi, pencarelli, manfricoli, and sfusellati, as well as strozzapreti (priest stranglers), the lacchene of the town of Norma and the pizzicotti (pinches) of Bolsena, while the fieno (hay) of Canepina has, accompanied by paglia (straw), been absorbed into the repertory of the pan-Italian grande cucina. All these pastas were served with much the same sauce, plain tomato and basil, though on feast days, pork, lamb, or beef would be added.

And from her Encyclopedia of Pasta (s.v. fregnacce):

The term fregnaccia in the dialect of Rome and Lazio means “pack of lies, silliness, trifle” and emphasizes the simplicity of the preparation. It comes from the dialect word fregna, meaning “female genitals.” It is curious to note how often popular terminology for pasta, an important dish in the everyday diet, makes reference to sexual organs: along with fregnacce, there are cazzellitti (see entry), pisarei (see entry), and others. All of them are in addition to the many pasta terms that refer to things, animals, or general words of disparagement.

As a lover of both words and pasta, I want to try them all.


  1. Here is a silly but entertaining quiz on the subject. I’m mortified to report that I only scored 54%. (To answer the questions, type p or c in the box).

  2. I got 85% (Score 34/40, Timer 06:07, Avg Score 54%), but I listen to a lot of classical music.

  3. I’m curious about radiatore. The name implies the modern age, and they seem too difficult to make by hand. Are they some modern industrialist take off on the home-spun odd pasta tradition?

  4. David L. Gold says

    Since the pasta called radiatore (plural radiatori) looks like the fin of a radiator (the finned metal fixture that carries hot water or steam to heat a room), the name of the food is likely to derive from that of the fixture.

    Compare the photos here and here

  5. Right, that’s why I think they were a 20th century city invention.

  6. They are, but then again dried pasta – although it has been around for ages – really caught on throughout Italy only in the late nineteenth century. Until then pasta was not a staple, it was a treat, and made fresh. For that matter, even tomato sauce only developed in the first half of the nineteenth century and for several decades was really just a Neapolitan thing; its spread was definitely aided by the spread of canned tomatoes. And most recipes for pasta with sauce (as opposed to just with cheese, or baked, or in broth, or stuffed varieties) are from around the same time or even more recent than that.

    I’ve always found it amusing that strozzapreti/strangolapreti is one of the most frequently recycled pasta names out there. It turns up all over the country and can refer to wildly different shapes depending on where you are.

  7. “I’m mortified to report that I only scored 54%. ”

    I scraped in 60%, mostly guesses. Its linking of music and pasta reminded me of my last visit to the RSM where some VERY dear friends had prepared for my visit by making cappelletti for me, knowing my inordinate fondness for them. A song I heard while there has the line “e una casa senza le pareti” and to this day I hear that as “senza cappelletti” – it’s sad, because it’s true. 🙂

  8. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    Also 54%. So many composers I had never heard of.

  9. Лагман: растянутое удовольствие

    Lagman is delicious, and could also be the name of a composer.

  10. strozzapreti/strangolapreti

    Calqued into 19C English as chokepriest (a rare example of verb-object compounds in Modern English) ‘thick Italian soup made with pasta or dumplings’.

  11. Foods named for their ability to choke priests were presumably alluding to the reputation of pastors (not just Anglican or Roman Catholic) for eating quickly and heavily—consuming large meals (often at the expense of their parishioners) with surprising ease. The dumplings in chokepriest stew would therefore need to be exceptionally large to be truly deserving of that name.

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