Fiocchetti: The Stuffed Pasta That's Shaped Like A Purse

The world is filled with a wide variety of pasta shapes beyond the basics of spaghetti and penne, and many of them come from the motherland, Italy. If you've never heard of fiocchetti before, you're in for a treat, as this type of noodle is the fancier cousin of the rich and tasty gnocchi. But while the latter is typically considered a dumpling more than a pasta, fiocchetti is the reverse. "Fiocchetti" means "little bows" in Italian, although each pasta is shaped more like a purse than actual farfalle, which are the bowtie shape you're probably used to seeing.

Imagine enveloping a chocolate truffle in wrapping paper. You'd gather the paper around the top of the sphere and twist it, leaving any remaining tufts sticking out. This present is almost exactly what fiocchetti look like. The beauty of pasta shaped this way is that while they're not stuffed with chocolate truffles, they're still filled with all sorts of good stuff: multiple cheeses and sometimes fruit. In that sense, you may think of them as more like ravioli than gnocchi. Either way, you'll want to add them to your list of new pasta shapes to try. And the best part? You may be able to easily snag a bag at Trader Joe's, in the form of the chain's Cheese Filled Fiocchetti with Pink Sauce.

Where did fiocchetti come from?

So who came up with a pasta shaped like a purse (or like a small wrapped present)? The exact origins are a little murky, but stuffed pastas are nothing new in Italy (just think of ravioli, tortellini, etc.). In fact, stuffed pastas go all the way back to at least the 14th century, when they were mentioned in a book from Tuscany called "Libro della Cocina." It seems that fiocchetti may originally hail from Tuscany as well. Perhaps the most popular restaurant that serves the pasta shape today is called Trattoria 4 Leoni in Florence, which claims that it serves "typical Tuscan cuisine."

The trattoria's fiocchetti dish is so adored that everyone from travel bloggers to culinary queen Giada de Laurentiis herself sings its praises, so it may be that Trattoria 4 Leoni can be credited with the modern global popularization of the pasta shape. The specific dish that gained recognition at the restaurant is the pear and cheese-stuffed fiocchetti, also called "pear-stuffed pasta in a sauce of taleggio cheese and asparagus." As its name suggests, small bits of pear are nestled into the little bundles of pasta dough, potentially along with ricotta.

Popular fiocchetti fillings and sauces

If you want to copy the world-renowned fiocchetti dish from Trattoria 4 Leoni, you'll want to stuff your pasta purses with a mixture of ricotta, Pecorino Romano, parmesan, and chopped pears — although you can also incorporate another creamy cheese, like mascarpone, if you'd prefer. The flavor combination is so popular now that you may even be able to find boxes of purse-shaped pasta with dehydrated pears and cheese already stuffed inside, which you can simply pour into boiling water and cook like any other noodle. To truly replicate the trattoria's dish, top your fiocchetti off with a creamy béchamel sauce, reminiscent of the taleggio cheese sauce the restaurant uses.

These flavors would also be delicious in a sweet and savory pasta salad with other fruits, like oranges; some Italian recipes tuck pasta with this filling into desserts with fruit, caramel, and gelato. In general, you may love filling these little purses with cheeses like gorgonzola or diced fruit like apple, and topping with sweet ingredients like candied pecans. Even when fiocchetti is used for savory dishes, pears tend to be a popular filling, although the pasta is often topped with a pink sauce or a fresh tomato sauce instead. But like we said, no matter which way you test out this cute little pasta shape, you're in for a treat.