Garganelli….the mystery pasta.

If you’re a fan of my blog on Facebook, today you might have been following my posts about olives and garganelli. I decided the olives can wait another day so I’m sharing with you more information about the mystery pasta I discovered. I was searching on for a price on a good gnocchi board and what I found was a board and dowel rod combination meant for more than just gnocchi. It included a description for something called “garganelli”, pronounced “garga-nay-lee”. I didn’t have a clue as to what that word meant! I thought it was what the board was called. I soon found out it’s a type of pasta, very similar to penne. It’s also not well-known outside of its home city of Bologna. History says it’s from Rome originally but who knows where it really came from, we’re just glad someone came up with the idea for garganelli. The name means “little esophagus” as in a chicken’s little esophagus. Country cooks in Italy used everything and I’m just taking a guess here that some inventive Italian Nonna discovered these by accident but thought they looks like the chicken’s esophagus. It makes for a good story, right?

I did a Google search to find a few recipes and learned garganelli is normally made with a prosciutto and pea sauce. There are variations, of course, that are equally accepted. I decided to give these little quills a try today and we were not disappointed with the end result.

While mine are missing some of the ridges along the outside, they still turned out well. It took me about two and a half hours to make the dough, let it rest and roll out the twelve dozen garganelli I got from this recipe for the pasta dough. I found it on Ciao Italia! 

Garganelli dough

Makes 12 dozen

3 large eggs

2 Tbsp fresh grated Parmesan cheese

1/8 tsp fresh grated Nutmeg

2 1/4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour

Olive oil, if needed


To mix by hand- put 2 cups of flour in a bowl. Make a well in the center. Crack the eggs into the center of the well. Begin mixing the eggs, using a fork, without bringing in any of the flour. Add in the cheese and nutmeg and begin mixing in the flour from the center. Continue with the fork bringing in more flour until it begins to form a ball. Add more flour as needed or oil if needed to add moisture. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. The dough should bounce back when you press your finger into it. Cover the dough ball with a bowl and let rest 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Cut the dough into four pieces. Using one section at a time, keeping the rest covered, roll out till slightly flat. Using a pasta machine set on the widest setting, begin the process of running the dough through each level, making sure to repeat at the widest level several times for extra kneading. Run the dough through to the second to lowest setting, so the dough sheet is thin enough to see your hand through it.

Square off the dough sheet and cut the dough into 2 x 2 inch squares. Keep covered while you make the garganelli. Using a ridged board and dowel or clean comb and pencil, begin to roll the squares, corner to corner around the pencil/dowel, pressing into the ridges as you roll. If needed, add a pinky-tip of water to one corner to secure the dough on itself. See video to better understand these instructions.

Lightly flour a cookie sheet and put the finished garganelli on the sheet to dry. You could also use a mesh pasta dryer. It’s best to eat these the day they are made.

I didn’t use a food processor like she shows in the video but next time I might. The dough was rough at first and I think it’s because I put too much flour in at first. I added some olive oil to balance the liquid to flour ratio to get a smooth dough. I must confess these took about 2 hours to make these.

To cook the garganelli, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add in the desired amount and stir gently. Once they rise to the surface cook for about 2 minutes, testing to see if they are done. Use a mesh strainer or spider to remove to a bowl. Use in a recipe of your choice. The traditional way to serve garganelli is with a ham and pea sauce but I didn’t have those items on hand. Instead I improvised and adapted a recipe from the Food Network.

Garganelli with Ricotta and Green beans

1 pound garganelli

1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch lengths

1 cup ricotta cheese

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

3 Tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

2 Tbsp fresh grated Parmesan cheese plus more at the table

Lemon zest from one lemon


Bring pot of salted water to boil. In the meantime, heat oil in a large, deep skillet on med-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add in the green beans, salt and pepper to taste and saute’ for 4-5 minutes. Add in one ladle of pasta water, assuming the pasta is now in the water and cooking. Continue cooking the green beans for another 5 minutes, allowing most of the water to evaporate. Remove the garganelli into a large bowl and stir the ricotta cheese into the pasta. When the green beans are crisp-tender, add the pasta to the pan. Stir well and allow the flavors to mix for 2 minutes or so. Remove to a serving dish, top with Parmesan and lemon zest. Serve.

I made a traditional Caprese salad to complete this meal which turned out to be vegetarian.

Thanks to my son Jake who took most of these wonderful photos and the video.


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