I’ve always been fascinated by the amazing variety of pasta shapes, and even moreso by the evocative names the Italians give them. From radiatore (little radiators) to farfalle (butterflies), to stracciapretti (priest stranglers), the various shapes give each pasta variety its own unique flavor and texture. Much in the way a wine connoisseur samples vintages to experience subtle nuances, I can’t resist sampling different pastas whenever they cross my path. So, when I spied a bag of the rare hand-stamped Ligurian Croxetti pasta on the shelf of a chi-chi Italian import shop, I had to buy it, even though the price tag gave me an acute case of sticker shock. Since this unusual coin-shaped pasta is traditionally found on the Italian Riviera, I figured I saved a bundle on airfare alone.
Croxetti are made using traditional wooden stamps to press an image into the pasta. The name “croxetti” comes from the fact that the original discs were stamped with a cross. The pasta I bought was stamped with a variety of images including a sheaf of wheat, a mortar and pestle, a flower, and the sun. These pasta medallions are adorable. Typically, croxetti are served with a pesto sauce, and, although my current basil patch isn’t yet ready for prime-time, I was fortunate to have one remaining container of frozen pesto from last year’s harvest.
I was surprised that the croxetti seemed to take forever to cook. There were two conflicting cooking times printed on the package label. In one place it said 15 to 18 minutes and in another, 8 to 10 minutes. Turns out neither were correct as it was closer to 30 minutes before the discs were cooked to tender yet chewy perfection.
I decided to add some a can of creamy cannellini beans (well rinsed and drained) to the pesto and pasta, and it proved to be a perfect choice. Served with a side of sautéed spinach, fresh picked from my garden, the dinner was transporting. When I closed my eyes, I could imagine myself in Liguria. Almost.