Discovering Candele Pasta: Italy's Long and Exquisite Pasta Candles
If you're a pasta enthusiast, you've probably come across a wide variety of pasta shapes and sizes in Italian cuisine. But have you ever heard of Candele pasta? These unique and exceptionally long pasta tubes have a fascinating history and are a culinary delight you don't want to miss.
What are Candele pasta?
Candele, which translates to "candles" in Italian, are a traditional pasta of Southern Italy, particularly in the Campania region. The name "Candele" is quite fitting, considering these pasta tubes can reach an impressive length of about 50cm! This pasta appears to have drawn inspiration from the slender candles used in Catholic religious processions.
Candele pasta is exclusively available in dried form. The pasta dough is extruded through bronze dies, and then it's dried for approximately 70 hours at a low temperature. In the past, when technology didn't allow for easy pasta cutting, tubular and long pasta like Candele were left to dry in their elongated forms and were later broken into smaller pieces before cooking.
Cooking Candele Pasta
Candele pasta is so long that it may present a unique challenge in your kitchen. To make them manageable for cooking, they are often broken by hand into 2 or 3 irregular pieces. However, some adventurous cooks have attempted to cook them intact, either by baking them in the sauce or by a rather intricate process of gradually softening and submerging them in a pot.
Whether you decide to cook them intact (usually in the oven) or in pieces, it's essential to use plenty of salt when boiling them. Due to their width, Candele can potentially retain a lot of water inside each tube, so draining them carefully is crucial.
Recipes with Candele Pasta
Candele pasta is a versatile option for creating delightful dishes. In Campania, it's often used for making baked pasta recipes. Traditionally, it's served with robust sauces like Neapolitan ragu, which complements its substantial size. However, it also pairs wonderfully with vegetable sauces featuring ingredients like tomatoes, olives, capers, zucchini, eggplants, and bell peppers.
6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
1 large clove of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
4 anchovies in olive oil, finely chopped (adjust to taste)
1 pound of Italian purple or Japanese eggplant, diced
2 tablespoons of capers, drained
8 green olives, preferably cerignola, finely chopped
1 can (28 ounces) of DOP whole San Marzano tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 pound of candle pasta, broken into 2-inch pieces
Grated Pecorino Romano cheese for sprinkling
1. In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and sauté until it begins to soften. Then, add the minced garlic and continue to cook for about a minute. Stir in the tomato paste, ensuring it coats the ingredients evenly. Add the finely chopped anchovies and mix well.
2. Add the diced eggplant, drained capers, and finely chopped green olives to the saucepan. Sauté for a couple of minutes, allowing the flavors to meld.
3. Using your hands, crush the whole San Marzano tomatoes over the eggplant mixture. Stir the ingredients thoroughly, cover the saucepan, and cook for approximately 20 minutes or until the eggplant becomes tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep the sauce warm and covered.
4. Break the candle pasta into pieces, roughly 2 inches in length. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, adding 1 tablespoon of salt. Cook the pasta until it reaches an al dente consistency, which should take about 6 to 8 minutes.
5. Before draining the pasta, reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water and add it to the eggplant sauce.
6. Drain the cooked pasta and transfer it to the sauté pan with the eggplant sauce. Stir the pasta and sauce together until well combined.
7. Serve the dish with a generous sprinkling of grated Pecorino Romano cheese.
Enjoy your delicious eggplant and candle pasta creation!
So, if you are ready to try some Candele pasta, don't miss the opportunity to try it.