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What is Capricci Pasta?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By babylove — On Oct 21, 2011

My family likes the multi-colored capricci pasta. My son says they look like miniature roller coasters. I usually buy it when I want to make a colorful cold pasta salad for family gatherings and such.

It makes a large hearty dish especially when I add fresh chopped vegetables like roasted red pepper, garlic, black olives, onion and tomatoes. All the ingredients are blended together well with Italian herbs and dressing. And it's one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day!

By aviva — On Oct 21, 2011

I make a wonderful baked capricci pasta dish using roasted zucchini, yellow squash, fresh diced tomatoes and eggplant. These ingredients are then tossed together with Merlot, fresh basil, oregano, garlic and parsley. I then top it off with a generous coating of Asiago and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses.

I've shared this recipe with friends and family before, but I've yet to try any of their renditions of it. They still request that I make it for them.

By ellafarris — On Oct 20, 2011

I like to serve capricci pasta with a creamy Parmesan sauce made with real butter and fresh grated Parmesan. I usually serve it alongside rosemary roasted chicken and fresh green vegetables like broccoli, artichoke or asparagus.

And since capricci is always a big hit with my children, I sometimes throw in some fresh peas and carrots into the sauce just to ensure they're eating their vegetables.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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