Why Pasta Have Numbers

Why Do Pastas Have Numbers?

Ever notice how your pasta has numbers underneath their name? For example, you have your box or package of Spaghetti but underneath it says #12. Thin spaghetti might be #11 while thick spaghetti might be #13. Don’t quote me on the numbers, because each brand has a different number for the very same particular type of pasta. But let’s look at my favorite brand of pasta, DeCecco… for Fettucine its #6, Linguine #7, and then its #91 Orecchiette. I am guessing there is a method of numbering pasta like this. Fettucine and linguine could be mistaken easily, so its important to know one is #6 and one is #7 so you don’t mix them up in the factory. And, if you are familiar with your pasta, #91 orecchiette cannot possibly mistaken for anything since its so far away from your long/thin/flat/round pastas. Even Penne Rigate is #42. So why numbers when the type of pasta is clearly visible and labelled? Well, in the days when Italians immigrated to various parts of the world, they were given jobs in pasta factories. And what one regional Italian might call “spaghetti” another would call it capellini (thin spaghetti) and another would call something similar “thick spaghetti”. It was a matter of a opinion, but a number is consistent. So it would not matter if you thought the spaghetti was too thin, too thick, or just perfect, pasta #12 was the pasta you would be working on that day and should be consistent with that day’s production. And, when other immigrants came in, whether Irish, Eastern or Western European or even Asian and South American, rather than train them in the names and how to pronounce different pasta types, a number cuts through the language barrier. So immigrants from all parts of the world not having a common language, had a number to know which pasta goes where and what to produce that day. My personal favorite since childhood is DeCecco #5 – I will let you figure out what that is… but its a hybrid of spaghetti, bucatini and fusili… the best of all 3 rolled into one!

So, tonight, I was all about #91, seen it all this weekend on various cooking shows, even homemade, and its a great shape named Orecchiette, it means “little ear” in Italian, but for me it looks like a little hat or cap.

Tonight I made an oldie but a goodie, best yet, its super easy and takes less than 20 mins beginning to end. Simply boil your water, in a separate pan, add olive oil, garlic, add your crumbled sausage (one link or patty per serving), and once that gets crispy, reduce heat on the stove to low, add in your bunch of broccoli rabe (rapini), I cut the harder bottom stems and cut the tops/head into bite size pieces, some say you should not do this, but I enjoy it better like this. Wash, and its ok to leave wet so it steams as it cooks. Add in your salt, red pepper flakes, pepper, and your water should be boiling now for your pasta. Add in orecchiette pasta (DeCecco #91), cook for 11 minutes and by then your broccoli should be good and tender but still bright green. Add the pasta to your pot of sausage and broccoli, stir for another minute or two so the pasta absorbs the flavors of the sausage and broccoli… serve with lemon, or grated cheese, both are acceptable. You will never cook something so easy yet so satisfying and delicious.


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