When we think about pasta we immediately imagine a big bowl of tagliatelle, spaghetti, macaroni, or even fettucini.
But, we bet no one taught you about gigli pasta, right? Once we learned about it we immediately fell in love!
This is one of the prettiest pasta shapes we have come across, and it’ll make your dish pretty and a sure hit at the next dinner party.
But, what exactly is gigli pasta? While there isn’t anything special about the dough, the shape is what makes it so extremely unique. This pasta is shaped like a cone or flute (or bellflower) and has ruffled edges. This shape is not only appealing to look at but functionally holds a ton of sauce much better compared to other pasta shapes.
So, in today’s packed article, we will be looking at exactly what gigli pasta is, discuss a bit of its history, how it is made, and even how it can be used.
We have even included a recipe and instructions so that you can make your very own at home!
What Is Gigli Pasta?
Gigli pasta, or more commonly referred to as campanelle pasta, is arguably one of the most unique types of pasta you can find. It is normal pasta but the shape is what makes it so special.
It has a very random shape that closely resembles a cone or flute with some ruffled edges. The fluted shape allows more space for the sauce to enter which means that the pasta and sauce can mix together perfectly!
This will ensure that the pasta and sauce don’t separate from each other and that there is a great balance of pasta to the sauce!
There is nothing worse than having bland pasta that is barely coated in sauce.
If you look closely, you’ll see gigli pasta looks like a little bellflower or lily, which is exactly where the name comes from! Gigli pasta originated in Tuscany where the lily flower is the national emblem of Florence.
It has been part of the national emblem and the city’s coat of arms for more than a thousand years.
Italian recipes for gigli pasta often refer to it as “gigli toscani”, so make sure to look for that marketing as well. The name “campanelle” is Italian for a little bell, which refers to a bellflower, or bell-shaped flower.
How Gigli Pasta Is Made
There is naturally a difference between freshly made pasta and dried mass-produced pasta. Fresh pasta is usually made with semolina flour, salt, and eggs.
Dried pasta on the other hand almost never contains eggs to help extend its shelf life.
Pasta manufacturing started in Italy a long time ago and it was always made by hand and cooked fresh, but at the beginning of the 1900s, the artificial drying process allowed producers to make pasta in bulk that also kept longer.
It was first only distributed in Italy, but then later on to the rest of the world.
Dried, bulk pasta, including gigli pasta, is usually made with durum wheat semolina flour or farina flour and mixed with water. The dough is made using large machines.
It is first mixed before being kneaded, then rolled into thin sheets so that it can be shaped. The shaped gigli pasta is then dried, packaged, and sent out to different distributors and stores.
The way this pasta is formed is with the help of a uniquely shaped long shaped nozzle. Rotating blades cut the pasta to the desired length which is pushed through the nozzle by the extruder.
The Importance Of Correctly Drying Gigli Pasta
Pasta usually has a water content of 31% after being made and shaped. The moisture of the pasta has to be brought down to 12%.
This will help extend the shelf life ad prevent any bacteria and mold from growing (bacteria need moisture to survive).
The natural drying process will take extremely long and won’t necessarily be able to get the moisture content that low.
Therefore, manufacturers dry pasta by first exposing it to hot air – this is called the pre-drying process. This dehydrates the pasta until about one-third of the moisture is lost. Now the pasta is dry on the outside but still soft on the inside.
In the second phase of drying, the temperature is dropped quickly and the gigli pasta is exposed to cold air to help stabilize it. Stabilizing helps the moisture that is left inside to distribute evenly without causing the pasta to crack.
Different kinds of pasta have different drying methods. Short pasta, which includes gigli pasta, falls on a shaker conveyor which helps prevent pasta from sticking throughout the drying process.
Long pasta, like spaghetti, is dried using different methods.
We wouldn’t recommend drying gigli pasta at home for long-term storage simply because it is extremely difficult, time-consuming, and you probably won’t get the moisture content low enough without special equipment.
Can You Make Gigli Pasta At Home?
When it comes to pasta making, almost anything is possible! gigli pasta can be made at home, but to be completely honest, it might take a little and a lot more practice than making linguini!
But that being said, it is a lot of fun to make, challenges even the most technically advanced cook, and you can definitely use some tricks to ease the process.
To make gigli pasta at home, start by making a good quality pasta dough from scratch. We have included a recipe for you below if you don’t already have an old Italian recipe lying around your kitchen.
If you have a pasta machine the process will be much easier. Roll your pasta out in thin sheets with your machine or by hand using a rolling pin. Cut the thin sheets into rectangular shapes using a ruffled rectangular cutter.
Now, take the rectangle and shape it into a bell or flute. Lightly press the edges out to help give it the curled effect. Make sure to press the fluted end slightly to ensure it holds its shape while cooking.
Pasta Dough Recipe
Here’s a super easy and quick authentic pasta recipe! We use it to make all kinds of fresh pasta, from gigli, to lasagne, to spaghetti.
- 1 cup (136g) Farina, Semolina, or Bread flour, sifted
- 1 egg, beaten
- 5 ml (1 tsp) salt
- 30 ml (2tbsp) water
- Combine the flour, salt, and egg using a fork until the dough comes together. If the dough doesn’t come together you can add a drop of water, but just until it comes together. Make sure to not add too much water.
- Knead your dough on a lightly floured surface for 7-8 minutes or until it’s smooth.
- Wrap your dough in saran or plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes so that the developed gluten strands can relax.
- Roll out your dough with a rolling pin just enough so it can fit through your pasta machine’s largest setting. Roll out your pasta dough to the desired thickness and shape as you need it.
How To Cook Gigli Pasta
Cooking gigli pasta is extremely easy, whether it’s freshly made or bought from your local store.
Place a large pot of hot water on the stove and bring it to a boil. Add a dash of salt to the boiling water as well as a splash of olive oil.
The salt helps season the pasta while the oil helps prevent it from sticking together while it cooks.
Just keep in mind while the oil is helpful, it might also prevent the sauce from sticking to the pasta, especially if you are planning on adding the sauce immediately after the pasta has cooked – so just use your own judgment on this.
For the homemade dough, you only have to cook the gigli pasta for about 3-4 minutes or until it is tender and al dente. Make sure to not overcook this pasta – it’s much softer and cooks quicker than store-bought pasta!
For store-bought pasta, you can leave it for roughly 7-10 minutes or again, until the pasta is tender and al-dente.
This pasta will cook slightly longer compared to freshly made pasta because it has been dried to remove all the moisture and will take longer to rehydrate.
There are obviously other ways to cook pasta that isn’t on a stovetop, but we must say, the stovetop gives the best results!
Gigli pasta can be added to a casserole and baked in the oven. The pieces are small so they’ll cook through very easily.
If the casserole isn’t going to bake for too long, simply blanch your pasta for about a minute before placing it in the casserole.
For those of you who are a huge fan of the microwave, also you can cook gigli pasta inside one.
Place 1 cup of gigli pasta in a large microwave-safe bowl. Add enough water to completely cover the pasta in the bowl, but don’t add too much as the water might boil over!
Add a pinch of salt and microwave the pasta for 4-5 minutes on a high heat setting. If the pasta is not quite soft enough, simply microwave it for another 30 seconds. Drain the excess water through a colander and add your favorite sauce!
The Best Substitutes For Gigli Pasta
Unfortunately, especially because this is such a unique pasta, not all stores will have some and you may even find that a small town doesn’t stock any.
Sure, you can make your own, but even that requires some special equipment even if you aren’t using an electric pasta maker.
But fear not, as there are a ton of alternatives you can use. Obviously, these alternatives more refer to the shape than the flavor – most kinds of pasta use the exact same recipe and differ only in shape.
To choose a substitute, we would recommend choosing something with an interesting shape (like the gigli pasta) that can still hold sauce well. SO anything with a flute shape or hole will work best.
Some of our favorite alternatives include farfalle (bow-shaped pasta), conchiglie (seashell-shaped pasta), and radiatore (car radiator-shaped pasta with a rich WW2 history).
Other great options are cavatelli (pasta shells that look like hot dog buns) and rotelle (that looks like wheels with spokes).
All these different shapes can allow you to get creative and even playful.
How You Can Use Gigli Pasta
So, now you know all about gigli pasta, how it looks, how it’s made, and why it’s named after Tuscany’s beloved lily! But, what do you actually use it for and what can you make?
Here are a few ideas that are super easy to make and are sure to be a crowd-pleaser!
- Replace macaroni pasta with some gigli pasta and use it inside your delicious mac and cheese recipe.
- Gigli pasta is a fantastic option to add to casseroles that will help bulk it up. Pasta is an incredibly filling ingredient and also adds fiber to the dish. Gigli pasta specifically also works great in casseroles because it tends to be slightly thinner compared to other pasta, meaning it cooks quicker.
- Any creamy pasta sauce or freshly made tomato sauce will go great will gigli pasta. Especially runnier pasta sauces (the less chunky and textured ones) clings to the pasta great and the flute helps it hold more.
- Pasta doesn’t always have to be served hot. A pasta salad is always a crowd-pleaser in the summer and adds a refreshing element to the table. Add the gigli pasta to any of your favorite salad recipes. It will add some interesting texture and make the salad more filling – it can even be served for dinner on its own!
Is Gigli Pasta Vegan/Vegetarian?
Great news for vegetarians and vegans, you don’t have to sit this round out! Dried pasta bought from the store is mostly vegan and vegetarian friendly since they don’t use eggs in the pasta recipe!
As we have mentioned before, eggs add more moisture to the pasta and moisture allows bacteria to thrive and multiply, reducing its shelf life by quite a lot!
Be sure to check the packaging before buying it to make 100% sure. Fresh pasta might not be vegetarian or vegan friendly as it might contain eggs; however, you do get some fresh-vegan pasta alternatives.