If you’ve ever eaten at an authentic Italian restaurant, you probably know that there’s nothing quite like it in the world.
It might be hard to believe now, but before we were born, many Italians ate their meals out of cans and frozen boxes.
In the years since then, they have developed a love affair with fresh ingredients, homemade food, and real flavor.
And one of those beloved dishes is gemelli pasta.
This classic Italian pasta is perfect for entertaining guests or just as a side dish on its own.
What Is Gemelli Pasta?
Gemello means “twins,” referring to how this type of pasta looks when cooked.
Gemellini are flat ribbons of pasta shaped into pairs that resemble two strands of spaghetti twisted together.
The name comes from the fact that these pastas look similar to twinned twins because each pair has both red and white stripes running through them.
As far back as the 17th century, Italians had been preparing gemelli pasta by hand, which was labor-intensive.
The process involved rolling small pieces of dough between two sheets of paper until they formed thin noodles about half an inch wide.
Then they would cut the strands off of the roll and cook them separately.
Today, however, most people use machines to make gemelli.
There are several different types of machines used to produce gemellos, including extruders and pressers.
Although they don’t always appear as delicate as handmade gemellos, machine-made gemellos can still provide delicious results if prepared correctly.
If you want to learn more about making your own gemellos, check out our guide here.
Read also: How to Make Pasta Like a Pro With These Easy Tips
How to buy gemelli pasta
When purchasing gemellos, it’s important to keep in mind what kind of shape you want them to take.
In general, you will find three main shapes:
- Oval – oval gemshelli are typically used in soups or stews where the pasta cooks quickly and needs to hold up well against intense heat. They aren’t great in salads, though, so try them with creamy sauces instead.
- Round – round gemshelli are often used in casseroles and other dishes that need to simmer for a long time. You can serve them hot, cold, or even room temperature.
- Square – square gemshellis work best in stir fries and other quick cooking recipes. They retain their shape better than round ones do, so you won’t end up with any empty spaces.
Another thing to consider when buying gemshelli is the size. Most manufacturers offer four sizes per package:
- Extra Large (1 pound)
- Large (0.5 pounds)
- Medium (0.25 pounds)
- Small (0.125 pounds)
You should get the largest size available unless you plan to double the amount of pasta you purchase to feed large groups.
Otherwise, you may run out of space in the pan.
Before you start cooking, rinse the gemellos under cool water to remove excess starch.
Next, put them in a bowl filled with ice water to stop the cooking process.
After draining, lay the gemellos out to dry on clean kitchen towels.
Where Does Gemelli Pasta Come From?
Gemello comes from the word “gemellare” which means “to mix together.”
In this case, it refers to mixing two different types of pasta.
The first type is called penne rigate (literally meaning “ribboned”) because of how long the strands are.
The second type is called spaghetti sfogliato (meaning “rolled”).
Together these two shapes create the gemelli pasta shape.
This combination of pastas makes up the base of most traditional Italian recipes, including lasagna, ravioli, manicotti, and baked ziti.
You can also find them used in other Italian dishes such as carbonara sauce, fettuccine alfredo, and gnocchi.
Some people even use them for dessert! You’ll see them sold under various names depending on where you live.
For example, if you live outside of Italy, you may call them twister, rotini, cavatelli, orecchiette, corzetti, bucatini, and pappardelle.
Ingredients and How To Make Gemelli Pasta
To make your own gemelli pasta, you will need to start by cooking some penne rigate.
These tend to be thicker than regular spaghetti, so cook them slightly less time than usual.
Once cooked, drain off any excess water and set aside.
Next, combine half of the penne rigate with the remaining penne rigate in a large bowl.
Mix well until all pieces are coated evenly with the doughy mixture.
Now add in the egg yolk, Parmesan cheese, parsley, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and garlic powder.
Stir everything around until combined.
Finally, roll each piece into a small ball about 1-inch wide.
Set aside while you prepare more pasta dough.
Once you’re ready to continue making the gemelli pasta, take a sheet of parchment paper and cut it down to size.
Then fold it over itself twice, creating a triangle shape.
Place another piece of parchment paper on top and cover tightly with plastic wrap.
Take the dough you rolled earlier and flatten it out onto your work surface using your hands.
Take one corner of the flattened dough and pull it back toward yourself slowly.
Repeat this process until you reach the end.
When you get near the edge, stop pulling so that you don’t tear the dough.
Then, open up the paper and lay it flat against your countertop.
Now place a quarter cup of flour inside the middle of the folded dough and sprinkle lightly with additional flour as needed to keep it from sticking.
Roll the dough out to form a thin circle.
Carefully flip your dough onto your work surface again and repeat the same steps with the other corner of the dough.
Cut both circles into strips about 2 inches long (you should get 8 total pieces per page) and let rest for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
You want to spray the baking sheet lightly with nonstick spray.
Once the dough has rested, remove each strip and gently twist it once clockwise and once anti-clockwise.
Next, carefully transfer the twisted strips to the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter.
Return to the oven for 3–5 minutes to finish crisping the edges.
When done, toss with olive oil and serve immediately.
How Is Gemelli Pasta Made?
Gemelli are small shells shaped like ‘M’ letters stacked together.
They can be filled with any number of delicious sauces, meats, vegetables, cheeses, herbs, spices, and more.
The name comes from the shape of the pasta itself.
Gemelli pasta means “twins” because each piece has two halves joined back-to-back.
When you cook gemelli pasta, you start by boiling water over high heat until it starts to boil vigorously.
Then you drop in your gemellis (singular) and wait for them to rise to the surface.
When they do, use tongs to remove them and place them into a colander set inside a bowl.
Rinse off some of the excess starch by running cold water through the colander.
Now all that’s left is to drain the pasta well and add it to whatever sauce you need.
You could fill them with cheese, meat, veggies, and even seafood! But if you want to make this easy gemelli pasta recipe, here’s what you need to do next.
What Is The History Of Gemelli Pasta?
Gemelli are traditional Roman-style thin spaghetti shaped pastas, which was invented by Chef Giuliano Bugialli during World War II (1939 – 1945).
The name comes from two words meaning “twins,” because each strand has two twisted spirals.
The original recipe called for only egg yolk, flour, salt, olive oil, and water.
But Chef Bugialli added Parmesan cheese to his version, which gave the pasta more depth of flavor.
After the war ended, Chef Bugialli opened a successful restaurant in Rome, where he served his gemelli pasta to the city’s elite citizens.
Nowadays, chefs all over Italy still serve this delicious pasta, and some restaurants even use Chef Bugialli’s original recipe.
Today, gemelli pasta can be found everywhere, including grocery stores and supermarkets.
Here’s how to make your own gemelli pasta!
How Do You Cook Gemelli Pasta?
Gemelli pasta comes from Italy.
They can vary in size, shape, and color depending on what region of Italy they come from.
Most people will tell you that this type of pasta has been around for centuries, and that it originated in Rome where it was known by the name “gamba mezzana,” which means “half-moon” in Italian.
The half moon design came about because when cooked, the ends curl up into a rounded shape more than the rest of the noodle.
You may also see them referred to as “farfalli” or “lobster” shells.
The most common way to make gemelli pasta is to boil water, add salt, and then drop the pasta in while stirring constantly so that it doesn’t stick together.
Once done, drain and rinse under cold running water until all of the excess liquid runs off.
Then toss with butter (or olive oil) and Parmesan cheese.
That’s pretty much how everyone makes gemelli pasta these days.
But if you want to get creative with your cooking methods, here are some other ways to prepare gemelli pasta!
What Are Some Popular Gemelli Pasta Recipes?
Gemelli, also known as “twins,” are two strands of thick, hollow spaghetti shaped into a diamond shape.
You can find them in most grocery stores these days in both dried form and canned versions.
They come with different cooking instructions depending on which type you purchase.
- Dried gemelli pasta
- Canned gemelli pasta (with water)
The best part about this versatile pasta is that because of how thin it is, you don’t need any extra sauce when eating it.
If you want more flavor though, try adding your favorite marinara sauce to the boiling water during the cooking process.
Gemelli Pasta With Tomato Sauce Recipe
This simple tomato sauce recipe will take no time to make.
The end result is a delicious pasta meal that everyone will enjoy!
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 28-ounce jars crushed tomatoes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Fresh basil leaves, torn if desired
To prepare the sauce: Bring 1 gallon of salted water to a boil in a large pot.
Once boiling, add the olive oil, garlic, and salt and reduce the heat to medium high.
Stir frequently until all of the garlic has cooked down, approximately 5 minutes.
Add the sugar and stir well again.
Next, slowly pour in the crushed tomatoes while stirring constantly.
Continue to simmer over low heat until slightly reduced, approximately 20 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Remove from heat and set aside.
For the pasta: Bring 2 gallons of salted water to a rolling boil in a large pot.
While waiting for the water to boil, remove the stems from the parsley by running the tip of a paring knife along each stem and gently pulling off.
Place the parsley sprigs in ice water to stop the cooking process.
In another large pan, combine the olive oil, garlic, and salt and pepper.
Heat over medium heat until aromatic, approximately 4–6 minutes.
Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking for 10 minutes.
Next, add the sugar and whisk vigorously until dissolved.
Slowly pour the tomatoes into the pan while continuing to whisk.
Let everything simmer together for 15 minutes.
Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool completely.
When cooled, transfer the sauce to a blender and blend until smooth.
Next, bring the water back up to a rolling boil.
Prepare the gemelli according to package directions.
Return the gemelli noodles to the hot pasta pot and toss immediately with the sauce.
Garnish with the chopped parsley and serve warm.
What Are Some Tips For Making Gemelli Pasta?
Gemelli pasta has been around since ancient times.
In fact, the word “gemello” is derived from the Latin word meaning “twinned.” While this may seem strange, it makes sense once you learn how to cook gemelli pasta properly.
When cooked correctly, each strand looks like two strands twisted together!
So what exactly is gemelli pasta, and why should you care about it?
Let’s take a look at some of the things that you need to keep in mind while preparing your gemelli.
- You will want to use flour instead of semolina (this is often referred to as durum wheat). Semolina produces a much denser texture than flour does. As such, if you’re using a mix of both flours, it can end up being too dense and heavy.
- Don’t add salt until after the water boils. Adding salt to boiling water will cause the water to become more acidic and decrease the ability of the starch molecules to absorb water.
- Use only cold water for the first portion of the dough, which contains all of the fat. Once the water starts boiling, start adding warm water slowly so it doesn’t get too hot. If you heat the water too fast, it will lose its effectiveness and won’t help the dough bind well enough.
- After mixing the dough, let it rest for 10 minutes. After resting, knead it again to ensure that the gluten develops evenly throughout the entire mixture.
- Before rolling out the dough, lightly mist it with spray oil to prevent sticking.
- Once rolled out, cut into strips by hand or with a knife. A sharp knife helps produce even cuts, which means the strands don’t stick together and come apart easily during cooking.
- As you begin removing the noodles from the pot, immediately place them in ice-cold water. The noodles will curl and turn brown quickly otherwise.
- When serving the pasta, do not overcook it. This will result in mushy noodles. Instead, bring it to table al dente — slightly undercooked. You can also serve the pasta piping hot, but it will taste bland.
What Are Some Common Mistakes People Make When Cooking Gemelli Pasta?
While preparing gemelli pasta can seem fairly straightforward, there are some things you should keep in mind if you want to prepare this delicious meal successfully.
- Don’t overcook your pasta – Most recipes call for boiling the pasta until al dente (meaning “to the tooth”). When cooked properly, the strands will still hold together without being mushy or falling apart. If you cook the pasta too long, however, you risk losing all that great texture. You don’t need to eat a bowl full of mush!
- Make sure to drain the pasta well – After draining the pasta, give it a good rinse under cold water. The residual starch left behind by the pasta won’t cause any problems, so no need to worry about washing off excess moisture. But it does matter how much water you use during the process.
- Use plenty of olive oil – A lot of chefs recommend using two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per pound of pasta. That means two cups worth of oil would go into making four pounds of gemelli pasta. While not necessary, using more oil gives you another way to season the sauce.
- Add salt only after you add the other ingredients – Salt is definitely important to adding seasoning to anything, especially when it comes to pasta. However, it needs to be added last. Add the salt to the pan containing the butter first, stirring constantly. Then add the rest of the ingredients and stir again.
- You don’t have to boil the garlic – Boiling garlic can destroy most of its nutrients, including antioxidants. Instead, sautéing garlic is considered safer because it preserves its beneficial compounds. To do this, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat and allow it to get hot. Once hot, add the minced garlic, and let it cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Be careful not to burn the garlic cloves – Don’t leave the garlic directly on the burner once it has been removed from the heat. Put them back onto the stovetop and turn the gas down low to simmer. Allow the garlic to cool slightly before handling it further.
What Are Some Ways To Dress Up Gemelli Pasta?
The best way to eat this type of pasta is by itself so that your taste buds can fully appreciate how much deliciousness you’re about to dig into.
But if you want to get creative, here are some recipes that will help you add more flair to your next gemelli dinner party!
Add some protein
You don’t need meat to enjoy this pasta.
Instead, you can use other proteins such as chicken thighs or salmon fillets.
You could also try adding vegetables such as bell peppers or onions.
The options are endless.
Just remember that these types of foods should cook alongside the pasta rather than being served separately from it.
Make it fancy
There are several different ways to dress things up.
For example, instead of plain white wine, go ahead and splurge on a nice bottle of red wine.
Add lemon zest to give your meal extra citrusiness.
Or maybe sprinkle some freshly chopped rosemary over it all.
Another great way to jazz up your plate is to include veggies.
Try sautéing spinach leaves with garlic cloves until tender before tossing them with the rest of the ingredients.
Another option would be to slice mushrooms and toss them with olive oil and herbs before layering everything onto your pasta sheets.
There are plenty of choices to pick from depending on what kind of flavors you prefer.
What Are Some Serving Suggestions For Gemelli Pasta?
Gemelli pasta has the versatility to go well with almost any meal.
You can serve it alongside meatballs and sauce, pair it with vegetables and cheese, or make it part of your weekly dinner routine by adding a simple salad and dressing.
Here are some ideas for how to use this versatile pasta:
- Serve it with ground beef and spaghetti sauce for a hearty meal.
- Try pairing it with roasted eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, and basil for a tasty vegetarian option.
- Add a little heat to the mix when you add crushed red pepper flakes to your pan sauce.
- Top off the pasta with melted mozzarella cheese for something special.
- 1 Pot
- 1 Large skillet
- 1/2 pound gemelli pasta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1-2 cloves garlic sliced thinly
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes sliced in half
- 1 cup parmesan cheese freshly grated
- 5-6 leaves basil torn
- Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Return to the pot after draining. Place aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.
- Sauté the garlic and tomatoes for about 4 minutes.
- Pour the skillet contents into the pasta and toss well.
- Add the parmesan cheese and top with the fresh basil.