Castellane pasta is a boutique pasta from Italy, related to the family of shell pasta shapes. In addition to being popular in many parts of Italy, the pasta has spread to other nations, particularly the United States, where it can be found in stores which focus on boutique and unusual pastas. It is also possible to make castellane pasta at home, although a pasta mold will greatly simplify the process. The shell-like shape also makes castellane pasta highly versatile, and it is a good choice of pasta to keep stocked in the cupboard.
The shape of castellane pasta starts out as a simple shell, but it is tightly coiled into a conical shape. The outer edge of the pasta is lightly ridged, a texture which is sometimes accomplished with the use of a butter paddle when the pasta is not made in a mold. As a general rule, castellane pasta is made from durum wheat flour, which is the hardest type of wheat flour, and it is often designed to be dried, rather than eaten fresh.
The origins of the name of the pasta are rather interesting. According to the Barilla Company, a major Italian exporter of pasta, castellane pasta was originally known as paguri, named for a small crab found on the shores of Italy. Paguri pasta came to be known as castellane when someone noticed its resemblance to the long, flowing skirts worn historically by women in the Italian court. The women usually draped their skirts over one hand, and the shape of the skirts probably would have resembled the shape of the pasta. Thus, consumers started calling the pasta castellane, or “castle dwellers.”
Since the pasta is usually made with durum wheat, it has a robust texture, especially when cooked al dente. The inner coils of the pasta tend to be resilient and springy through cooking, unlike other shells, which tend to soften. The shape is also well suited to a wide range of sauces, since it can stand up to heavy meaty sauces while also supporting delicate and simple ones. It also bakes well, since the coils retain moisture.
When castellane pasta is made with good wheat, it has a rich, nutty flavor which can be excellent plain, or with a small amount of oil, butter, salt, pepper, or herbs. The nuttiness of the pasta can also complement an assortment of pasta sauces, or stand out in chunky soups. Since it bakes well, castellane can be used instead of shells or macaroni in casseroles and similar baked dishes.