The hidden gems of the pasta world are no doubt stuffed pasta! You can find so many homemade stuffed pasta recipes, filled with creamy ricotta cheese and spinach, or with simple tomato sauce and served with a smooth butter and parmesan sauce. However, here we won't talk only about the familiar ravioli and tortellini – I'm going to introduce you to some lesser-known but equally delicious varieties like sacchetti and casunziei. With so many types of stuffed pastas to choose from, this is a whole new Italian world!
🥜 In a Nutshell
- The vast array of stuffed pasta types, with their different fillings and shapes, can be a bit daunting, especially if you're new to Italian cuisine. Below I created a list of the most famous ones, followed by some lesser known ones you must try at least once!
- Below, I'll also talk about other stuffable pastas, including lasagna and stuffed shells. These types of pasta offer a simple method for you to customize the dish to your taste, whether you like a simple cheese filling, or a ground beef one.
- With each stuffed pasta type and filling, I'll also highlight the best sauce pairing, simplifying the whole process for you.
❓ What is Stuffed Pasta?
Stuffed pasta, also known as filled pasta, is a culinary tradition prominent in the non-tropical regions of Eurasia. This type of pasta involves encasing a variety of fillings, such as cheese, meats, vegetables, or a combination these, inside pockets of pasta dough. (source)
The most famous types globally are tortellini and ravioli. These are found in most grocery stores with a spinach and ricotta cheese filling, while in restaurants lobster ravioli with browned butter sauce are very popular.
A well-known example of large stuffed pasta that is prepared at home is the "conchiglie," or shell pasta, which is often generously filled and baked.
The Stuffed Pasta Market is poised for significant growth from 2023 to 2030, driven by increasing demand across meat, fish, vegetable, and cheese segments. Key players like Giovanni Rana and Voltan SpA are at the forefront.
Despite COVID-19 setbacks, the market is rebounding, particularly in North America and Europe. This detailed report provides essential information on market size and the stuffed pasta industry prospects.
👩🏻🍳 Shaping and Varieties of Stuffed Pasta
The pasta's exterior can be different shapes, such as squares, circles, or unique forms like "little hats" (Cappelletti). The art of shaping these pastas varies: ravioli are typically square or rectangular, tortellini are fashioned into ring-like shapes, and cannelloni are cylindrical tubes.
Each shape is carefully crafted to hold its filling and meld harmoniously with sauces. The diversity of stuffed pasta types, from the cheese-laden manicotti to the meat-filled cappelletti, showcases a rich tapestry of regional flavors and culinary techniques, making stuffed pasta a cherished dish in Italian cuisine and beyond.
These pastas can be found either dry or fresh, so their cooking times will vary greatly, as fresh pasta cooks in just a couple of minutes.
🧾 Different Types of Stuffed Pasta (Most Common)
Ravioli, deriving its name from the Italian word "riavvolgere" meaning "to wrap," is a classic Italian pasta. This dish features two thin layers of pasta dough, wrapping around a range of fillings like cheese, meat, vegetables, or seafood.
The shape is typically square or rectangular, and each piece is crafted by placing a dollop of filling between two sheets of pasta and then sealing the edges. The singular form, "raviolo," refers to just one piece, while "ravioli" denotes the plural.
Serving Suggestions: Serve with a light tomato sauce, pesto, or butter and sage. A side of garlic bread and a green salad complements it well.
Cooking Time: Boil for 4-6 minutes until they float to the surface and are al dente.
Tortellini is a small, ring-shaped stuffed pasta originating from the Italian region of Emilia. Its name is believed to be a diminutive of "torta," implying something small and round, as torta means cake. (source)
Traditionally filled with a mix of meat (pork loin, prosciutto) or cheese, these pastas are shaped by folding a square of dough around the filling and then twisting the ends to form a ring. Tortellini is smaller and more meat-focused compared to its larger cousin, tortelloni, which is often filled with cheese and vegetables like spinach, or roasted pumpkin.
Serving Suggestions: Ideal with broth for tortellini in brodo, or with cream, tomato, or pesto sauces. A side of Italian bread and a simple arugula salad pairs nicely.
Cooking Time: Cook in boiling water for about 8-9 minutes.
Tortelloni pronounced "tor-tell-OH-nee," these are large, ring-shaped pasta pieces, akin to a torus. Traditionally, they are filled with a blend of ricotta cheese and leafy greens like spinach.
Tortelloni are best enjoyed with light sauces, such as a sage and butter sauce, complementing their delicate flavor without overshadowing the rich filling. A light sprinkling of Parmesan cheese really works wonders too!
Serving Suggestions: Serve with a butter and sage sauce or a light tomato sauce. A side of roasted vegetables or a caprese salad makes a great addition.
Cooking Time: Boil for about 10-11 minutes until they float to the surface and are tender.
Cappelletti, pronounced "kap-pell-ET-tee," are small, hat-shaped pasta similar to tortellini but more complicated. They are typically filled with a mix of meats or cheese.
The key difference between cappelletti and tortellini lies in their shape: cappelletti resembles little hats, while tortellini are ring-shaped, resembling a navel.
Serving Suggestions: Delicious in a rich broth or with a light tomato sauce. Pair with a crisp white wine and a simple mixed salad.
Cooking Time: Boil for 7-9 minutes until tender.
Agnolotti, pronounced "ag-no-LOT-tee," is a type of pasta typical of the Piedmont region in Italy. These pastas are square or rectangular with a folded-over edge, containing a variety of meat or vegetable fillings.
Unlike ravioli, which are sealed on all sides, agnolotti have a distinct folded edge, and their fillings are traditionally more meat-based, reflecting the culinary traditions of their region of origin.
Serving Suggestions: Agnolotti pairs well with a butter sage sauce or a light meat sauce. Serve with a side of grilled asparagus or a simple spinach salad.
Cooking Time: Boil for 4-5 minutes until al dente.
Lesser-Known Stuffed Pasta Types
Sacchetti, pronounced "sa-ket-TEE," translates to "little bags" and is a type of pasta shaped into small pouches or purses. They are also known as Fagottini, which means "little bundles" in Italian.
The filling is typically cheese-based, with a variety of options like ricotta, cream cheese, or goat cheese. To shape a Sacchetti, a small amount of filling is placed in the center of a circular pasta dough, which is then gathered at the top and twisted to form a pouch-like shape, resembling a small bag or purse.
Serving Suggestions: Sacchetti pairs well with creamy sauces like Alfredo or a simple butter sauce. Serve with a light, crisp salad and a glass of white wine.
Cooking Time: Boil for about 4-5 minutes until they float to the surface and are al dente.
Pansotti, sometimes spelled "panzotti" or "pansoti," is a traditional stuffed pasta from the Liguria region of Italy. They are typically triangular in shape, resembling large ravioli but with a more pointed edge.
Pansotti often has a vegetarian filling of greens, such as spinach or chard, and ricotta cheese. The name "Pansotti" translates to "pot-bellied" in the local dialect, referring to their plump, rounded appearance. (source)
Serving Suggestions: Traditionally served with a walnut sauce, but also great with a light tomato sauce. Complement with a fresh garden salad and crusty Italian bread.
Cooking Time: Boil for about 4-5 minutes until tender.
Casunziei, also known as "casonciei," "casanzes," or "csanzöi," is a type of stuffed pasta from the Dolomites area in Northern Italy. Pronounced "ka-soon-ZAY," these half-moon-shaped pastas are typically filled with a variety of ingredients, such as beets, spinach, and ricotta cheese.
The shape is achieved by folding a circle of dough over the filling and sealing the edges to create a crescent. Casunziei is often served with melted butter and poppy seeds, highlighting the unique flavors of the filling. (source)
Serving Suggestions: Best served with melted butter and a sprinkle of poppy seeds or a light tomato sauce. A side of roasted vegetables or a mixed greens salad pairs nicely.
Cooking Time: Boil for about 4-5 minutes until they float to the top and are al dente.
Pasta To Stuff
And to finish, here's a short list of pasta that can be used as a vessel for fillings.
Lasagna, with its roots in Italian cuisine, is a beloved pasta dish known for its layered structure. It typically consists of layers of flat lasagna noodles, alternating with fillings such as Bolognese sauce, and cheeses like ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan.
A key to preventing lasagna from falling apart is to ensure each layer is adequately covered with sauce, particularly for no-boil noodles, as it cooks the noodles and maintains the structure, ensuring the lasagna holds together well.
Additionally, allowing the lasagna to rest for about 10 minutes after baking helps the layers set and makes it easier to serve.
Serving Suggestions: Lasagna is a hearty dish on its own. Serve with a side of garlic bread and a simple Caesar or mixed greens salad.
Cooking Time: Bake in a preheated oven at 375°F (190°C) for about 45-60 minutes. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.
10. Stuffed Shells
Stuffed Shells, or "Conchiglie" in Italian, referring to their shell-like shape, are a type of pasta dish where large shell-shaped pasta is filled with various ingredients.
Typical fillings include ricotta cheese, spinach, and ground meat, often topped with tomato sauce and melted cheese.
These jumbo shells are boiled until al dente, then stuffed and baked. The dish is a favorite in many households for its comforting taste and the fun, customizable nature of the fillings.
Serving Suggestions: Ideal with ricotta and spinach or meat filling, topped with marinara and mozzarella. Complements well with green salad and garlic bread, or opt for steamed veggies or tomato salad for a simpler side.
Cooking Time: Boil shells for about 7-8 minutes until al dente. Post-stuffing, bake at 350°F (175°C) for 25-30 minutes until sauce bubbles and cheese melts.
The term "manicotti," translating to "little sleeves" in Italian, aptly describes this pasta's shape. Manicotti are large, tube-shaped pasta shells, ideal for stuffing with rich fillings like ricotta cheese, spinach, or ground meat.
The key to filling manicotti shells efficiently is to either use a piping bag or to spoon the filling into partially cooked, more pliable pasta tubes, ensuring a smooth and even distribution of the filling.
Serving Suggestions: Best served with marinara or béchamel sauce, accompanied by a Caesar salad and crusty bread.
Cooking Time: Bake filled manicotti in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) for about 40-50 minutes.
Cannelloni, meaning "large reeds" in Italian, are cylindrical pasta tubes that are generously filled with various ingredients, including meat, cheese, and vegetables.
The process of filling cannelloni involves either piping the filling into the tubes or using a spoon to stuff them, ensuring they are evenly filled. This pasta is typically covered with sauce and baked, making for a hearty and satisfying dish. For ease, cannelloni can be created using lasagne sheets, like I've done in this beef cannelloni recipe with white sauce.
Serving Suggestions: Serve with tomato or béchamel sauce, along with a mixed greens salad and focaccia bread.
Cooking Time: Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) for about 40-45 minutes.
🙋♀️ People Also Ask [FAQs]
Make sure to seal the edges really well and avoid overstuffing them. Cook them in a large pot of gently boiling water without overcrowding.
I usually put my leftover stuffed pasta in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. When reheating, add a little sauce or water to keep it from drying out. If storing it without sauce, use a little olive oil or butter to stop them from sticking.
Try not to overfill the pasta or skimp on sealing the edges. Also, avoid using a filling that's too watery and make sure not to boil them too vigorously, as it can cause them to break.
I often make extra stuffed pasta and freeze some for the next time. I lay them out on a baking sheet to freeze first, then transfer them to a freezer bag. When cooking them later, I add a few extra minutes to the usual cooking time since they're frozen.