How Italy's Pasta Alla Crudaiola Differs From Cold Pasta Salads

Ah, Italian pasta — who could resist it? In Italy, pasta is usually made with a mixture of flour and eggs or flour and water. The flour is made from wheat or durum wheat, which only grows in central and southern parts of the country. Italy boasts a huge number of pasta varieties and pasta dishes, which differ depending on the region (per Eataly). But how did pasta become so popular in this boot-shaped country? PBS reports that it is thought pasta was "brought to Italy from China by Marco Polo." 

However, the origins of Italian pasta are a subject of endless debates, and some people believe that pasta was already popular in Italy in the 13th century, if not earlier. Today, the general consensus is that the first noodles were originally made in central Asia. 

Over time, Italy became famous for its pasta. And now, there are two main styles of Italian pasta: cold pasta salads and warm pasta mixed with various sauces (per Giallo Zafferano). But there's one dish that's a hybrid of both styles: pasta alla crudaiola.

Pasta alla crudaiola uses hot pasta and cold sauce

La Cucina Italiana explains that there's a big difference between a cold pasta salad, known as pasta fredda, and a dish called pasta alla crudaiola. For pasta alla crudaiola, the pasta is first cooked and remains hot, and it's then mixed with a cold sauce that usually consists of raw vegetables. 

On the other hand, cold pasta salad uses cooked and cooled pasta mixed with other ingredients. For pasta alla crudaiola, it's recommended to use short pasta types such as penne, rotini, farfalle, or rigatoni (per Barilla). But if you're short on those types of pasta, it's fine to use the more-familiar spaghetti instead. (Still confused? Check out this guide to pasta shapes and the best way to use them.)

For the sauce, it's best to use extra-virgin olive oil, fresh aromatic herbs, and raw, seasonal vegetables. If you're short on ideas, use simple ingredients — simplicity is key with Italian cooking. Classic combinations of tomatoes and mozzarella, grilled veggies, or pesto Genovese and steamed potatoes will all work quite well for pasta alla crudaiola, which means "raw-style pasta," referring to fresh, raw ingredients that are mixed with the pasta (per Italian Food Fast). And if the dish isn't as refreshing as you'd like, cold pasta salad is always a viable option, especially on hot summer days (per Trips2Italy).