Capelli d’angelo is a very thin type of long pasta, similar to spaghetti in length, more commonly marketed in English speaking countries as angel hair pasta or capellini. Like its wider cousins, capelli d'angelo pasta tends to be made of durum wheat. From time to time you can find whole wheat or buckwheat versions of angel hair in natural foods stores.
Since the pasta is so thin, it cooks very quickly, making it a great pasta choice for people who need to prepare pasta in a hurry. As compared to the thicker spaghetti noodle, capelli d’angelo pasta cooks in about two to three minutes when added to rapidly boiling water. It’s extremely important to follow cooking instructions for this pasta, which may vary with different brands. Overcooked angel hair will result in a clumped and sodden mass of pasta that is not very appetizing.
Angel hair pasta also should always be cooked, when prepared with sauces, with boiling water to which olive oil is added. This will help prevent the pasta from sticking together. When you add this pasta to soups, this step is unnecessary, since most soups will have natural oils that will prevent pasta adherence. In soup capelli d'angelo pasta should be added at the last minute, since it will cook so quickly.
In stores you’ll find capelli d'angelo pasta in several varieties. It may be sold in what are called “nests.” These resemble little birds’ nests with the pasta curled in rounds. When dropped into boiling water the nests separate into single strands of pasta. Angel hair can also be sold much like spaghetti, in long single strands in bags or boxes. You may have to do some looking to find fresh versions of this pasta, and always remember that cooking fresh pasta is a much swifter process. Fresh angel hair may only take a minute, or even less, to cook in boiling water.
Due to the thin and delicate nature of capelli d'angelo pasta, heavy sauces can easily overwhelm it. It’s not the best choice for sausage laden red sauce or Alfredo sauce. Many recipes merely toss the pasta with a bit of olive oil, add Parmesan cheese and sprinkle chopped basil and pine nuts on angel hair. Thin marinara sauce, or any other type of thin sauce is best suited for capelli d'angelo pasta. Angel hair pasta lends itself particularly well to soups, especially simple ones like chicken noodle. A quick way to make chicken noodle soup is to bring chicken broth to a boil and then drop in angel hair pasta a minute or two before serving.
This type of pasta also makes a suitable “bed” for meat dishes. You can serve capelli d'angelo pasta underneath chicken piccata, which has a thin lemon sauce, or under a variety of veal dishes. A nest of angel hair can compliment any meat simmered in a wine sauce.