By some estimates, Italy has over 350 different kinds of pasta—and that’s only counting the different shapes. You’ll find twisted strozzapreti (literally “priest stranglers”), shoe-shaped ravioli, “swaddled baby” ravioli, and ear-shaped orecchiette.
While some of these variations can be found all throughout Italy, others are prepared only in certain regions, mostly by elderly women who may not have taught these family recipes to the next generation. One of the rarest types of pasta is su filindeu (which translates to “God’s wool”), and only a few people in the world know how to make it.
Vicky Bennison, the creator of the Pasta Grannies website and YouTube channel, wants to change that. By documenting these women (and sometimes men) doing what they do best, she hopes to preserve these centuries-old recipes.
Take, for instance, Anna Faggi, whose signature lumachelle della duchessa (literally “the duchess’s little snails") can only be found in the Pesaro Urbino region of central Italy.
According to the Encyclopedia of Pasta by Oretta Zanini De Vita, legend has it that lumachelle was invented inside the royal court of the Duke of Urbino, a walled city in Italy’s Marche region. The duke’s kitchen servants carried the recipe beyond the palace, where it became popular among nuns in the region.
The dough contains cinnamon and nutmeg, and the preparation is rather time-consuming, making it a dish that’s only prepared for weddings and other special occasions.
After preparing and slicing the dough, Faggi wraps the strips around a bulrush reed to create tiny tubes. Next, she rolls the tubes over a comb to create ridges in the pasta. It’s served in chicken stock, and while it’s traditionally topped with chicken stomach, you can do what Faggi does and add Parmigiano cheese instead.
See how it’s made in the video below: