Ruote pasta is more commonly known as cartwheel pasta, since it comes in the shape of a ridged, six-spoke wagon wheel. You may also see it referred to a ruotine, ruote de carro, or most frequently, rotelle. Ruote literally means wheels in Italian.
Ruote pasta is also sometimes marketed in the United States as Choo Choo Wheels to appeal to children. It is approximately the width of the American twenty five cent coin (about 0.94 in or 2.38 cm) and three to four times as thick (about 0.2 - 0.25 in or 0.48 - 0.64 cm), though it is sold in a larger, "stretched" size as well.
Ruote pasta makes a great aesthetic addition to soups or pasta salad. It is also great with chunky sauces or meat dishes since it will soak up lots of sauce in the "spokes" of the wagon wheels. Alfredo sauce is another great option for ruote pasta.
The sauces you pair with route pasta don't have to come from a jar. Making your own pasta sauces can be a lot of fun; an added plus is that you can include the ingredients you prefer. Just a few possibilities include sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, olives, prosciutto, broccoli, colorful peppers, or cloves of garlic. Adding meat to your pasta dishes can turn it into a great, more hearty meal — you might add sausage, chicken, or meatballs to add even more flavor to the sauce.
You can also substitute ruote pasta in recipes with other shapes of pasta. The most popular include penne, radiatori, farfalle, also known as bow ties, or conchiglie, which are small shells. Keep in mind that you are not restricted to the shapes that certain recipes call for — there are many various pasta shapes that will work in different dishes.
Ruote pasta is sometimes colored with vegetable dyes, which will make it appear green, orange, or a burgundy color. These colors make ruote pasta very appealing in summery pasta salads or as a colorful addition to soup. Keep in mind, however, that the various colors do not affect the flavor of the pasta unless it is specifically noted on the package.
Pasta is usually made with white flour, although a recent movement toward healthy eating and the importance of fiber and grains has led to the manufacture of whole wheat pasta, made with wheat flour. Pasta made with wheat flour can sometimes have a thicker, more grainy texture, but if you don't mind those changes it can be substituted in most recipes calling for regular, white-flour pasta. Searching for ruote recipes online brings up a lot of great ideas to try.