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What is a Rotini?

By Mandi R. Hall
Updated May 16, 2024
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A rotini noodle is a corkscrew-shaped piece of pasta. Made from a basic recipe of flour and water, this noodle is known for its signature spiral shape. Not to be mistaken for fusilli noodles, rotini noodles have a tighter, wider twist. They are known to catch and preserve sauces or dressings better than other noodles due to their entwined nature.

The dough for rotini noodles is usually made out of white wheat flour and water. There are also whole-wheat and whole-grain varieties available, which are typically healthier. Some boxes or bags are sold with multicolored noodles.

When sold as tri-colored, corkscrew noodles may be off-white or brown in color while other noodles are red or green. The red noodles are typically dyed with beets or tomato juice. Spinach juice is used to dye the green noodles.

These spiral noodles go by a variety of names. Corkscrew noodles, scroodles, and mini fusilli are among the most popular terms. It is important to mention that fusilli noodles and rotini noodles have similar shapes but are quite different. The lips on fusilli noodles are thinner and farther apart than those on these shorter, spiral noodles.

Rotini is often paired with heavy sauces such as pesto and thick red gravy. The wide, curvy twists make it easier for the pasta to retain chunky bits of food. It is also a very popular choice for chilled summer pasta salads. Tiny bits such as pine nuts, minced garlic, spices, diced onions, and olives easily get trapped between the spirals.

Many recipes call for refrigeration prior to consuming. Using rotini is a good idea when preparing a pasta dish that is meant to be refrigerated for several hours before serving. During this time, the flavors of the pasta meld together, producing a more developed overall taste. When using these spiral noodles specifically, the additional morsels of food become trapped in the corkscrews, allowing the flavors to meld more.

Like other noodles, rotini is a good source of carbohydrates. Some, though not all, corkscrew noodles are cooked with egg. When working with homemade spiral noodles, the pasta should be refrigerated when not in use. Pasta is generally boiled before consumption for approximately eight to 12 minutes. Al dente spirals would be cooked for a shorter amount of time.

Though these corkscrew noodles are native to Northern Italy, they are manufactured and sold internationally. Americanized Italian pasta salad is perhaps the most popular rotini dish in North America. The corkscrew noodles are typically mixed with vegetables, olives, cheese, and Italian salad dressing. Italian dressing is an oil-and-vinegar based sauce with a sweet, herbed taste. The multicolored herbs are aesthetically pleasing with tri-colored rotini noodles.

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