Lumache Is The Pasta Shape You've Been Missing

It's worth looking beyond the usual boxes of elbow macaroni and twisted rotini to find the intriguing pasta known as lumache. It has a unique shape that bears a striking resemblance to everyone's favorite gastropod — the snail. Lumache is a plump and curved pasta that's open on one end and pinched closed on the other, and it looks just like a snail shell.

In fact, lumache means "snails" in Italian, according to Chef's Mandala. The oulet also shares that in the Piedmont region of Italy, where this pasta shape originated, folks are quite fond of eating snails. They even hold an annual festival where chefs gather to celebrate, and cook up, snails. When you learn that, it makes sense that the snail shell shape would inspire their pasta making. 

The shape of lumache pasta is ideal to pair with thick and heavy sauces (via Delighted Cooking). The open end of the pasta and the ridged surface hold lots of sauce in every noodle. Larger lumache pasta can also be stuffed with many types of fillings.

There are a few names this cute pasta goes by

Lumache is available in different sizes, and is packaged with different names as a result. The "luma-" prefix is your clue that you're dealing with the snail-shaped pasta family. Lumaconi, according to The Pasta Project, are the large version of lumache. The oversized shells are ideal to stuff with fillings for an appetizer or main course, like the kale, squash, and ricotta stuffed lumaconi from Sugar Love Spices. Lumachine, like the variety sold by Garofalo, are smaller lumache pasta. The pasta company recommends incorporating these little shells in soups. Lumachine are also small enough to use in place of pasta shells in recipes like creamy garlic shells from Iowa Girl Eats.

There are, however, some lumache that aren't so clearly labeled. Delighted Cooking says that lumache are sometimes sold under the names, "shell pasta, pipe rigate, or conchiglie pasta." When in doubt, take a close look at the pasta for the likeness of a small, curved snail shell. Then take a package home so you can devour a pasta dish that's sure to resemble a plateful of cute, little snails, even if it doesn't taste like one!