Busiate is a spiralled spaghetti-like pasta shape, originally from the seaside city of Trapani in Western Sicily. With its charming ringlets, busiate is often said to be shaped like an old landline telephone cord (now there’s a throwback) but it could just as easily be likened to a corkscrew.
Whilst busiate isn’t particularly well-known outside of Sicily, it’s actually been made there since the 10th century. In keeping with many other great Italian food stories, there are competing theories of where the name busiate came from. Some say it comes from the word ‘busa’, which refers to the stem of a native Sicilian grass. Others claim it’s actually named after a ‘buso’; a thin iron needle used to knit wool and cotton that was specific to the Trapani area.
In both cases, the story goes that local women historically wrapped the pasta around the busa/buso in order to give it its spiral shape. Nowadays, most Trapanese use a pasta tool called a ferretto rod to shape their busiate – but a bamboo skewer works just as well.
Like many pasta shapes from Southern Italy, busiate is made from just two ingredients: durum wheat or semolina flour and water. This is called pasta bianca, or white pasta dough, and because it’s egg-free, it’s suitable for vegans! You can use the same dough to make shapes like cavatelli and orecchiette. Ready to make your own busiate? Andiamo, let’s get to it!
Our homemade busiate pasta recipe
Serves: 2-3 people
Prep time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Calories: 232 kcal per serving (without sauce)
- Bamboo skewer
- 200g semolina flour or durum wheat flour, finely ground
- 100ml warm water
- Pinch of salt
Check out the recipe below or follow along with Chef Roberta in our step-by-step video.
Step 1: Making the dough
- On a clean marble or wooden work surface, pile your flour and pinch of salt into a mound.
- Make a well in the centre of the mound large enough to contain the water.
- Gently pour the warm water into the well.
- Begin stirring the water with your fork, gradually incorporating the flour from the sides of the well.
- As the mixture thickens, start using your hands with a scraper to continue incorporating the flour.
- If the dough is a little dry you can add extra warm water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
Step 2: Knead the dough
- Clean the work surface of any excess flour or dough bits. Then lightly flour your clean work surface.
- Knead the dough by pressing the heel of one hand into the ball, keeping your fingers high.
- Press down on the dough while pushing it firmly away from you. The dough should stretch and roll under your hand to create a shell-like shape.
- Turn the dough over, then press into the dough with your knuckles, one hand at a time.
- Continue kneading for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and springy to the touch.
- Roll the dough into a smooth ball.
Step 3: Let the dough rest
- Place the dough in a small bowl and cover with a cloth or plastic wrap.
- Let the dough rest for 15-20 minutes at room temperature.
Step 4: Roll the dough
- Once you’ve rested the dough, cut it into two equal pieces.
- Work with one piece of dough at a time, keeping the rest covered to stop it drying out.
- Use a rolling pin to flatten the ball of dough into a rough pancake-like shape, then cut your flat piece of dough into thin strips using a knife.
- Using both hands, roll each piece into a long rope-like shape, then cut the rope in half.
Step 5: Shape the busiate
- Put a rope of dough on the work surface with one of the ends facing you.
- Place your bamboo skewer at the top end of the dough at a 45 degree angle with both hands on either side of the dough.
- Wrap the tip of the dough around the skewer. Slowly coil it around the skewer, using the palm of your left hand (if you’re right handed) to roll the skewer back towards you.
- Once your dough looks like a complete spiral, gently slip the busiate off the skewer.
- If you’re having trouble, try twisting the skewer in the opposite direction to which you rolled it. This should help to loosen the dough.
- Put your finished busiate on a tray that you’ve covered with parchment paper and dusted with flour, then repeat the process for each piece of remaining dough.
How to cook busiate
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add a generous amount of salt.
- Add your busiate and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until al dente (taste a piece before you remove it from the water).
- Strain the pasta and mix with your chosen sauce, then tuck in. Buon appetito!
What sauce is best with busiate?
With busiate being so tied to Trapani, it’s only right that the traditional accompaniment is the area’s namesake sauce: pesto alla Trapanese. Made with almonds, fresh tomatoes and fragrant basil, not to mention a healthy hit of garlic and a generous glug of extra virgin olive oil, this pesto is a celebration of some of Sicily’s most iconic flavours.
If you’re lucky enough to visit this coastal jewel, you’ll find busiate served with pesto alla Trapanese in practically all of the trattorie that pack its narrow streets. It’s also a suitable partner for many other pesto recipes, and goes very well with another Sicilian classic, pistachio pesto.
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