About The Origin of Italian Names for Food Part 2

About The Origin of Italian Names for Food Part 2

Today we extend our two part series looking at the names of Italian dishes. Sometimes looking at an Italian menu can be like looking at, well, a menu based in another language. Which it is, of course. This is why we will cover some of the various Italian dishes, so that the next time you are ordering Italian you will understand the meaning and preparation behind some of the most common Italian dishes. Some of these are sauces, some of these are ingredients, others are types of pastas, others types of cooking. There is a lot that goes into a name. For example, an extremely common dish is “Fettucine Alfredo”, which is Fettucine pasta with Alfredo sauce. Here are some popular dishes:


Large, hollow, cylindrical pieces of pasta. “Cannelloni” in Italian literally means “large reeds,” which, appropriately, is what this pasta resembles. There are a few different types of sauces that can be put on top, but generally cannelloni dishes tend to stick with marinara sauce.


“Parmigiana” in Italian means “the Parmesan way.” This does not refer to the type of cheese, but rather the region of Italy, Parmigiana-Reggiano. The dishes that are labelled as parmigiana are actually indicative of being an eggplant-based dish, though in the Parmesan way. They are normally deep-fried, not unlike pizza, and filled with tomato sauce with cheese layered on top. And in case you were wondering, the Italian word for “Parmesan cheese” is actually “parmigiano,” one letter different from the eggplant dish covered here.


Rigatoni comes from the Italian word “rigato.” But there are other forms of the word. For example, the plural form in Italy is actually “rigatoni.” But the augmentative version of the word is “rigatone.” Plural simply means any amount more than 2, and when it comes to augmentative Italian words, that means the version indicating “a large, or great amount of something,” or a somehow more intense or older item. Rigatoni is simply a type of pasta, similar to canneloni but normally not as thick, and slightly elongated. This is another common word that can help you when you are ordering at an Italian restaurant.


Tortellini is the same in English and Italian. There are however a few different names that it is known by in Italy. One of these is cappelletti, another is ombelico. This actually means “belly buttons,” because these shell-like pastas are eerily similar looking to bellybuttons. These originated in the region of Emilia, and have been written about by other countries since the earliest times in the Medieval ages.


If something is referred to as being “marsala,” that simply means that while it was cooking this type of wine was added during the process. Marsala wine actually refers to the sweet wine produced around the city of Marsala. There, and in many other places, food is drenched in it for its sweet juices that allow a certain taste to be established. This is usually quite savory, but ultimately sweet, still with the slight taste of wine, almost bitter in a way.

If you’re interested in trying some of these Italian foods for yourself, visit Italian Garden, located in San Marcos, TX.