Central-southern Italy and Sardinia
The industrial version is widespread throughout Italy
The homemade version consists of taking a strand of spaghetti, rolling it around a knitting needle, spacing it slightly to create a pasta coil. Industrial processing has also enabled the creation of a hollow version of fusilli. The name is derived from the Italian fuso ("spindle" a round wooden stick with tapered ends used to form and twist the yarn in hand-spinning) an instrument with a continuous rolling action reminiscent of the movement required to forge this pasta by hand. Available in various lengths, fusilli have an extraordinary variety of local names, confirming their wide use throughout Italy: known as strangolapreti in many regions, in Veneto and Friuli they are called subioti; in Abruzzo, Molise, and Lazio ciufolitti and gnocchi col ferro; and in Puglia, Basilicata, and Sardinia, lombrichelli and maccheroni a ferrittus (or similar expressions, with ferro taken to mean a knitting needle). In industrial production, in addition to official fusilli, other twisted pastas, such as eliche, gemelli, and spirali are often also referred to by the same name, sometimes creating confusion.
Fusilli have Arabic origins—they were first documented in the islands where the Muslim conquest of the Mediterranean began. They are known as busiati in Sicily and busi in Sardinia, terms deriving from the Arabic word bus, indicating the thin reed on which the pasta was rolled. This particular pasta-processing technique, documented in the fifteenth century using the term strangolapreti, became widespread first in central and southern Italy before becoming popular throughout the country. Industrial production dates back to 1924, when the brothers Guido and Aurelio Tanzi, emigrants to New York, developed a machine they called Fusilla, which, for the first time, produced a type of pasta with a centered and perfectly regular hole. Each region has its own varieties, with different names, sizes, and traditional sauces. In Sicily, it is served with a pesto typical of Trapani, while in Puglia and Lazio, the spread of sheep-farming favored lamb-based accompaniments. In Basilicata, where fusilli with salami and horseradish was the highlight of Mardi Gras, this pasta was also believed to predict the sex of unborn children: a single strand, thrown into boiling water, predicted the birth of a male when it remained upright, and of a female when horizontal.
In Calabria, tradition has it that a young girl risks becoming an old maid if she is unable to show her betrothed that she knows the 15 ways to cook pasta, with fusilli being the most important variety in this test:
«...fusilli, filitelli, paternostri, lasagne, fettuccine, capelli d’angelo... On that day, the betrothed must set aside his love for the lady. With a stone in the place of his heart, he turns up at the bride-to-be’s home—perhaps with his witness—in the guise of an uncompromising, unyielding examiner. He tastes this and that. How’s the pasta? It seems a little overcooked. And the sauce? A little tasteless per- haps? A pinch of salt makes up for everything.... The girl holds out the dishes with a trembling hand. The boy never lifts his eyes from his plate, not to be swayed, but you can well imagine the tragedy he is going through at that moment, the conflict between his heart and his stomach.»
From: Morbelli, Riccardo, Il boccafina, ovvero il gastronomo avveduto
Rome (I), Casini, 1967.
Ingredients per 4 servings
- 3/4 lb fusilli
- 7 oz salmon, fresh
- 5/8 lb asparagus, fresh
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
- 1 fresh spring onion
- 1 small bunch dill
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- salt and black pepper to taste
Wash and peel the asparagus stalks.
Cut the tips in half lengthwise and the stems into rounds.
Slice the fresh spring onion and sauté it gently in a pan. Add the asparagus and cook them a few minutes, keeping them bright and crispy.
Add the single cream, a pinch of salt and pepper and set aside.
Cut the salmon into cubes of 2 cm, add a pinch of salt and black pepper, and fry in a teflon pan with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil for 1 minute.
Keep aside, warm.
Cook the fusilli in lightly salted boiling water, drain al dente and toss in the pan with the asparagus.
Dress the individual plate, placing the roasted diced salmon around, and sprinkling on top some leaves of dill.