There’s a big debate about tagliolini pasta…about what it is, but also about what it is not! Despite this, tagliolini pasta is really a simple and delicious traditional pasta underneath it all, and a culinary treasure of the Italian Riviera.
Still, there is a lot to learn about it: what it is, what makes it so distinct, and how to cook with it properly. Even today, it remains the favorite pasta of our resident French Michelin star chef and partner, Dominic Le Stanc, and his cooking at La Merenda…for many decades and counting!
What is tagliolini pasta?
The word “taglia” in Italian, which is where the word tagliolini comes from, means “cut” in Italian. As it turns out, tagliolini is all about the way it is cut…like many artisan types of Italian pastas out there!
Unlike other handmade pastas, however, tagliolini is unique. It holds both a ribbon-like and cylindrical shape, giving it a pleasingly curvy appearance. Some say that it is more like spaghetti pasta this way, partially in shape but especially in length. It still has a “flatness” and width closer to capellini in nature, but not quite, and has lots more character and authentic pasta flavor compared to grocery store spaghetti.
To create tagliolini, expert pasta makers combine egg, durum wheat, and water in perfect proportions. But again: tagliolini is all about the cut! The best products are made by drying the dough slowly at low temperatures and carefully crafting them into their curvy, characteristic strips with old fashioned pasta cutting frames.
But wait…isn’t tagliolini just another name for tagliatelle or taglierini pasta? Let’s untangle a bit more confusion for you….
How is tagliolini different from other pasta?
Even in the birthplace of pasta, there can be some mix-up about tagliolini and two very similar-named Italian pastas, tagliatelle and taglierini. Are they the same? Are they different? Are they even “related” at all?
Though they may all sound alike (and are also each pasta types defined by how they’re “cut”, thus their Italian names), they are actually different…even though some cooks may claim they are each interchangeable forms of pasta. Au contraire!
Tagliatelle is a thicker, wider, and flatter pasta in general.At a glance, it may look a bit like tagliolini, but this is because both are hand cut types and have a lot more “character” than most store-bought kinds when compared. But, looking closer, you’ll see that tagliolini is a little rounder, thinner, and lighter! Tagliatelle also requires a longer cooking time and is better paired with different ingredients than tagliolini.
Taglierini is also wider and flatter in shape than tagliolini. It’s slightly thinner than tagliatelle, but thicker than tagliolini. It takes longer to cook than each of these types: tagliatelle requires the most cooking, and taglierini a little less.
When it comes to cooking tagliolini, on the other hand….
How to cook with tagliolini pasta
Whether it’s tagliolini, tagliatelle, or taglierini, any of these pastas can be purchased as long, packaged strips or as intricate pasta “nests.” As the most delicate type of these “taglia” pastas, tagliolini is the perfect choice for a quick yet fancy dinner at home that only needs a few of the most sublime Mediterranean ingredients for a complete dish.
With a quick cooking time of only around 5 minutes, you really don’t need to spend too much time or preparation to transform your tagliolini into a sumptuous meal! If you happen to get your hands on fresh tagliolini, its required cooking time is even less (1-2 minutes!) though if you’re not buying your pasta from a fresh Italian maker, you’re more likely to find a very fine dried version of tagliolini pasta.
What foods should you cook with tagliolini?
What ingredients pair best with this pasta? This is where tagliolini’s distinctiveness and specialty truly shine! Such a rich Italian pasta is better when paired with ingredients that happen to be quite different from those that work better with tagliatelle or taglierini. In fact, tagliatelle typically cooks better with the opposite of what works best with tagliolini: namely thick sauces and robust, hearty ingredients like pork, beef, or rabbit.
Owing to the pasta’s light, cylindrical shape and texture, tagliolini combines best with light, thin, and creamy sauces. It’s even recommended for soups or broths! Seafood, vegetables, cured meats, extra virgin olive oil, truffles, and other mushrooms are amazing companion ingredients with tagliolini.
Since this pasta type is especially cherished in Liguria, Italy, you should try preparing it with delicious pesto,the star preparation of this famed Italian Riviera region! Further south in Rome, tagliolini is enjoyed as yet another different culinary incarnation: a simple combination of the pasta with Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper, locally called tagliolini cacio e pepe. It’s a very popular pasta dish in this ancient Italian city!
For those new to the wide world of authentic Italian pasta, try replacing recipes that call for spaghetti with tagliolini. You’ll notice that tagliolini cooks quite similar to spaghetti…except it’s brimming with far more flavor and character! Light tomato sauces, cheesy pasta bakes, and simple dinners with pasta, basil, and Parmesan are all typical spaghetti recipes you can pursue with tagliolini also. And who knows….you might even think they’re better with tagliolini!
Still, here’s the most amazing thing about tagliolini: on its own, and without any other ingredients, this egg-rich pasta is full of superb flavor and texture that needs no help to be enjoyed. For those who enjoy plain cooked noodles with only a touch of butter or olive oil (and maybe a hint of lemon), tagliolini is the perfect candidate for enjoying pasta at its very best and just as nature (or, more accurately, pasta makers!) intended it.
The more you learn about tagliolini and cook with it, the more acquainted you’ll become with its charms, its uniqueness, and everything about it that sets it apart from all other pasta: whether it’s store-bought pasta (like spaghetti), fellow artisan Italian pasta (like tagliatelle), and even similar types of egg-based pasta like taglierini!
Despite its name sounding like other similar pasta types, tagliolini always has been (and always will be!) something truly special and different. Best of all, you don’t have to be a master chef to enjoy or appreciate this authentic Mediterranean pasta: lovers of Italian cuisine and culinary “newbies” alike can quickly learn to cook with it properly, and make amazing meals at home with practically no effort or experience needed at all!