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Orzo, ditalini, annelini (Recipe: curried orzo chicken salad)

Nothing says "pantry" like dried pasta, and the shelves of The Perfect Pantry hold every imaginable shape and size. Welcome to Italian Pasta Week, Day Three, Short and Stubby.


When I was growing up, in a non-Italian household in a non-Italian neighborhood, there was macaroni and cheese, and lasagna (which seemed to be mac-and-cheese made with bigger noodles, piled up in a pan), and there was spaghetti with meatballs and sauce made from a packet of Spatini.

It wasn't until the 1980s that the term pasta became ubiquitous, and when it did, we tossed aside the beautiful, lyrical names of the more than 500 distinctive shapes of Italian semolina noodles. It was all pasta, all the time.

Lest we forget, even the tiniest Short and Stubby pastas have lovely, poetic names: ditalini (little thimbles), annelini (little rings), acini de pepe (little beads), stelline (little stars). Most often, these very small pastas are used in soup, sometimes in combination with beans or vegetables. Orzo, shaped like grains of rice, is the exception; it's popular for cold salads and stuffings.

To end Italian Pasta Week, here are some fun facts about pasta:

  • World Pasta Day is October 25.
  • The first American pasta factory was opened in Brooklyn, New York, in 1848, by a Frenchman named Antoine Zerega, who apparently kept a horse in his basement to power the pasta machine!
  • Spaghetti is by far the most popular pasta dish, followed by lasagna and mac-and-cheese.
  • More than 75% of Americans say they eat pasta at least once a week.
  • The National Pasta Museum, located in Rome near the Trevi Fountain, has an entire room devoted to pasta in art.
  • The World Directory of Pasta Shapes and Names tells you where to buy the dies to cut each shape, and even suggests sauce pairings.

You will remind me, and rightly so, that we haven't touched on whole wheat pastas (we will; I've got plenty in the cupboard), stuffed pastas like ravioli and tortellini, or pastas — I mean noodles — made with grains other than semolina. I've showed you some of my stash of rice noodles here, here and here, and soba, lo mein, wonton skins and egg noodles wait patiently in the pantry for their few minutes of fame.

For now, dear readers, mangia! Eat!

Curried chicken orzo salad

Inspired by a recipe in Pasta: The Little Guides, this lovely salad with an Indian flair makes use of leftover cooked chicken or shrimp. A rotisserie chicken from the market would work well here. Serves 4-6.


8 oz orzo or other short and stubby pasta, cooked according to package directions, drained, rinsed under cold water and drained again
1 cup cooked chicken (or shrimp, or tofu)
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/4 cup celery, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
1/3 cup plain nonfat yogurt
2 Tbsp chutney
1/2 tsp curry powder, mild or hot
1/3 cup roasted, lightly salted peanuts


Placed cooked pasta, chicken, apricots, celery, green pepper and scallions in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, combine mayonnaise, yogurt, chutney and curry powder, and mix well. Add the dressing to the pasta bowl, and stir to combine. Place in a serving bowl, and top with peanuts.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

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Thanks you for this recipe

Tiny pastas make excellent pilafs, too. Is stelline the same as pastina, or is pastina smaller still?

orzo is my absolute favorite non-stuffed pasta. i love it tossed with heirloom tomatoes, basil, slivers of almonds, and olive oil. the hope street farmers market cannot come fast enough for me to get my hands on those beautiful baby heirloom tomatoes!

That salad sounds lovely, like a spin on Coronation chicken.

I've never heard of annelini (little rings), acini de pepe (little beads)but they sound interesting. I managed to buy the little stars for the first time about a month ago - and they are so cute!

The tiny pastas are so delicate and delicious. I particularly like orzo as a replacement for rice - far less grainy and more more satisfying in summer salads.

hooray for this tiny little pasta- what a big dish it makes up! Yes, perfect for your salad.....

I love orzo! It's so much fun to eat. By the way, my birds love it too (when it's cooked). They think it's........well, they think it's something from the insect world. 'nuff said.

Pom d'api, welcome to The Perfect Pantry!

Susan, I think pastina is even smaller than the little stars. Using it for pilaf is a great idea.

Stacy, I love orzo for so many summer salads. It seems to take to any kind of vegetables, chicken, shrimp, etc. Farmers market tomatoes are a couple of months away for us ... but we can dream.

Kelly-Jane, I never knew there were so many variations of pasta. The little rings are adorable -- so much fun for kids, especially.

TW, I love orzo, too -- it has enough bite, but never seems to overwhelm the other ingredients.

Jann, these short and stubby pastas really are perfect for cold dishes, aren't they?

Sher, I had no idea that birds eat pasta!

Lydia, I'm fond of reading your posts about pasta, they're so descriptive!
This pasta looks so cute, I wish they sold such a variety in my country as well!

Valentina, what kinds of pasta can you get in Mauritius? Are there some kinds of noodles that are made locally? I'm so curious!

mmmm. I´m usually very wary of pasta salads, which people seem to find an excuse to chuck away stuff. but this sounds very delicious.

I buy only Barilla orzo. I find it's the best tasting brand and never clumps like some others. As for ditalini, which I find so fun in soups, it's practically impossible to find here on the West Coast. When you grow up in RI the pasta selection in SoCal is rather dismal.

Hurray for the short and stubbies!
Living in the Midwest means I cannot get Prince brand pasta - I usually get a care package from my dad.
I agree with Susan that the pasta selection away from the East coast is tragic.
Barilla manufactures pastina and lots of other shapes that I can't find here, but I found out after a phone call that those are only marketed in cities east of Cleveland!

Karen, Prince is of course one of our local (Boston) brands. Do you get your care packages from Providence??! For a region of the country that is so heavily of Italian descent, the choice of pasta here is disappointing. good thing we have national distribution of other brands like Barilla and DeCecco.

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