Capricci pasta is an unusual Italian artisan pasta which strongly resembles small chunks of coral reef. The squiggly surface of each piece is slightly unique, making a plate of capricci pasta a capricious pile of dense, flavorful pasta. The pasta is also extremely versatile, suitable for a wide range of sauces as well as plain consumption. Like many other artisan pasta shapes, capricci pasta can sometimes be difficult to obtain, but it can be ordered through specialty stores, especially those which focus on cuisine of Southern Italy.
In Italian, capricci means “whimsical” or “capricious,” so the pasta literally translates as “whimsical pasta.” The strongly individual shapes of the pasta make it fun to eat as well as tasty, and capricci pasta is often a conversation piece as a result. The shapes are achieved by pressing the pasta into pasta molds, which are traditionally made from bronze. As the pasta dries, different shapes tend to emerge.
High quality capricci pasta is made from durum wheat, also called semolina. This wheat has a high gluten content, which means that the pasta will form a strong, chewy, al dente texture. In addition, the pasta will be slightly sticky, allowing it to hold sauces better. The ingredients in pasta are usually listed on the box; when you purchase capricci pasta, look for durum wheat.
Since the shape of the pasta is deeply furrowed, it is an excellent vehicle for both thin and heavy sauces. The structure of the pasta will hold up under heavy weights like dense meat sauces, and it will also retain thinner sauces. The versatility of capricci pasta makes it a great food to have in the cupboard, and the fun shape will make a plain pasta meal an occasion. If the pasta is particularly well made, it can be enjoyed plain with butter or olive oil, salt, and pepper. Capricci pasta tossed with fresh herbs is also a simple and pleasant meal.
The pasta appears to have originated in Southeastern Italy, and was probably developed as a novelty pasta item. Because capricci pasta production is not widespread throughout Italy, and it is considered a "boutique" pasta, it tends to be slightly more expensive than traditional pasta shapes. You may want to ask around at several stores to find capricci pasta at a good price, or consider ordering it through an Internet retailer, as it may be more affordable that way.