A collection of the best recipes with ditalini pasta to celebrate the Italian short noodle.
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Get familiar with this tasty carb first and then browse the recipes
What is Ditalini Pasta?
Ditalini is a very little, short, tube-shaped pasta that is said to have originated in the Campania region of southern Italy. It is very popular in the cuisine of the entire south, including the island of Sicily.
The word ditalini translates to “very little thimbles” which is fitting because the shape of ditalini pasta resembles the sewing artifact. It is also tiny, small enough to be considered a pastina. Sometimes ditalini is called tubettini (little tubes).
What Does Ditalini Pasta Look Like?
In Italy there are two versions of ditalini with a slightly different look.
rigate – with a grooved outside surface, little ridges running the length of the noodle before it is cut into short shapes
lisci – this version has a smooth outside surface
In the US the dominant version of ditalini (affiliate link) is the smooth lisci and most pasta brands do not make a distinction. You can however find imported artisanal rigate ditalini at various specialty stores.
What is Ditalini Pasta Used For?
Ditalini is a favorite to use in soups and sauces because it retains its texture really well and is small enough to fit in a spoonful.
It is typically used in rustic Italian soups like pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans) and hearty minestrone. It is suitable for a variety of recipes however – from traditional to creative twists.
The smooth pasta is typically added to soups or tossed with light sauces.
The grooved pasta is better with heavier sauces because they stick to it better.
What is the Difference Beween Ditali and Ditalini Pasta?
The key difference is the size of the shape – ditali, although relatively small, is bigger than ditalini.
In Italian, the word ditale means thimble. There are three pasta sizes connected to this shape:
- ditaloni – the largest, means big thimbles
- ditali – the middle, means little thimbles
- ditalini – the smallest, means very little thimbles
Is Ditalini Pasta the Same as Macaroni or Elbow Macaroni?
It is not the same. The shape of Italian macaroni is a smooth, straight enlogated tube. Not only is it longer, it also tends to be bigger in diameter than ditalini.
Elbow macaroni in the US with its grooved surface and curved tubular shape is also quite different from ditalini.
That being said, there is a good reason for ditalini to often be refered to as ‘salad macaroni’. It is perfectly sized to be used in pasta salads – cooked al dente it provides a firm pasta bite while it does not dominate.
Ditalini Pasta Substitute
A suitable equivalent to ditalini pasta would be pastina if you are looking to add it to soups or orzo for salads.
Ditalini Pasta Recipes
We begin with two classic recipes that always use ditalini – a chickpea stew and a bean stew.
We then transition to soups, salads and other tasty ditalini recipes.
Pasta e Ceci (Pasta and Chickpeas)
Classic Roman fare can be on your table with this lovely homecooking recipe, made by a true Roman, born and raised, who knows her way around the kitchen.
Creamy chickpeas are cooked in tandem with ditalini over a backdrop of flavorful soffritto of onion, carrot and celery. The stew is accentuated by the intense fragrance of garlic and rosemary which are a landmark for this dish.
You can use either lisci or rigati ditalini. The recipe author gives wonderful suggestions on how to treat the chickpeas to affect the thickness and creaminess of the dish and what other ingredients to add at your whim. Enjoy! Recipe here.
Pasta e Fagioli
A pot of this classic dish is most frequently made with borlotti beans – an Italian staple also known as cranberry beans or Roman beans. Otherwise a soffritto along with crushed or pressed tomatoes form the base.
Pasta e Fagioli can be really thick to more “soup-like”. The stew does not need to be pureed but doing so for half of it creates a pleasant creamy texture as a backdrop for the whole beans and the ditalini. Recipe here.
It is said that every Italian household has its own minestrone recipe. Take that to mean that this vegetable soup so symbolic of the country’s cuisine can come in many shapes and forms.
The vegetables can change according to the season, the soup can be thicker or thinner. But adding ditalini pasta always makes it delectable. Recipe here.
Creamy Chicken Ditalini Soup
Loaded with tender shredded chicken and healthy vegetables this creamy soup benefits from the addition of ditalini as the pasta of choice.
The cream cheese and shredded cheddar folded into it create a lovely richness – the broth is most comforting. Not for people on a diet. Recipe here.
Italian Meatball Soup
Who can resist a large pot of Italian meatballs simmered in a delicious tomato based broth and accompanied by plump ditalini? Where is that person?
This hearty soup is all about the best known flavors of Italy and the combination of textures enhances the enjoyment of eating it. Recipe here.
Baked Meatballs with Ditalini
We love this dish! If you do not have a Traeger grill, worry not – simply prepare the meatballs and the sauce as instructed and bake in a 350 F oven for about 25 minutes.
Once the ditalini pasta is cooked al dente remove from the oven, garnish with fresh basil or oregano, grate some parmesan cheese over it, grind some black pepper and dig in. Recipe here.
Using a tubular pastina such as ditalini (tubettini) instead of arborio rice makes this dish twice as comforting!
A risottata is a dish where the pasta is cooked in stock from the start with more stock added as needed during the cooking process.
In this case vegetable broth is iused and the savory base features tomato paste – hence the rich color. Some red pepper flakes or a bit of feta cheese are good garnishes. Recipe here.
Coleslaw Ditalini Pasta Salad
Ditalini is right at home in this creamy and crunchy mixture of cabbage, celery, cucumber, and green bell pepper. You can always add some olives along with the fresh herbs garnish.
The dressing is rich with mayonnaise, sour cream, Dijon mustard, sugar, and cider vinegar dancing together and coating the al dente pasta shapes. Recipe here.
Italian Chopped Salad
A mighty chopped salad that serves twelve! A mixture of fresh and pickled vegetables, meat and ditalini pasta is tossed in a creamy Italian dressing.
You can add chickpeas if desired and enjoy it year round! Recipe here.
Chicken Macaroni Salad
A perfect example of why ditalini has earned itself the distinction of called salad macaroni.
This creamy chicken salad is light with just the right amount of veggie crunch and pasta goodness. Absolutely a must try and a very likely candidate for your light summer meals rotation. Recipe here.
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Ditalini Pasta (Best Recipes to Cook It)
A collection of the best ditalini pasta recipes to celebrate the Italian short noodle. Classic stews, soups, ditalini salads and more.
- Choose a ditalini recipe by following the direct link.
- Prepare the needed ingredients and kitchen equipment.
- Make a delicious ditalini pasta dish.
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