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Paccheri pasta is a large, hollow, tube-shaped type of pasta. The shape of this pasta is similar to rigatoni, but paccheri are shorter and have a larger diameter. Legend has it that the paccheri shape was invented as a way to smuggle at least four garlic cloves in each piece. Italian garlic farmers thought that the garlic in what once was Prussia and is now Austria was less flavorful than that grown in Italy. When the Prussian government banned trade in Italian garlic, the Italian garlic farmers hid garlic cloves inside paccheri when crossing the border.
Many dishes made with paccheri do tend to be very garlicky. Paccheri shapes may be stuffed with sausage and garlic and topped with a red wine sauce. A garlic flavored white wine sauce may top paccheri stuffed with porcini mushrooms. Dishes made with this pasta are often hearty and may be served with a thick bolognese sauce or meat sauce.
A sort of a lasagna-style dish can be created by filling paccheri pasta with ricotta cheese and then layering it in a baking pan with tomato sauce and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese before baking. Another popular way to cook this pasta is with eggplant and dry ricotta cheese. Paccheri may be served as a first course, or primi piatti, with vegetables such as zucchini, cabbage or squash and topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Seafood is a popular filling for paccheri pasta. Paccheri scampi is a well-known shrimp and pasta dish, but many different kinds of seafood can be used. Lobster or even octopus pieces may fill paccheri. Variations of sea bass with paccheri are popular on many Italian restaurant menus.
Paccheri pasta is not always filled. It may appear with chunks of meat and vegetables in a thick garlic flavored sauce. Since these pasta shapes are large, the meat and vegetable chunks should also be fairly large, yet still bite-sized, to add balance to the dish.