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A-Z of Making Pasta Shapes: Busiate

Busiate is considered the queen of gastronomy around Trapani in Sicily: today, you can find them in most restaurants with a fish-based sauce, a Sicilian Pesto made with cherry tomatoes, almonds, basil, garlic, and olive oil, or even a delicious pistachio pesto.

Busiate belongs to the large fusilli family, and it is considered the oldest Sicilian homemade pasta, born around the year 1000. This telephone cord-shaped pasta is made of durum semolina and water. In restaurants, you will probably find the factory-made version of this pasta shape with local Sicilian flours like Tumminia or Russello.

The name derives from busa, la busa di ferru, that is, the knitting needle or buso — the stem of local grass. In the past, the busa and the buso were used to coil the dough, thus giving this beautiful shape. Nowadays, a thin iron rod, called ferretto or a wooden skewer, is used to shape the busiate.

Busiate is one of my favourite shapes of pasta. Since I was born in Sicily, making busiate really connects me with all my ancestors. And when I am making busiate, all the Sicilian women making busiate from the past come alive in my mind.

If you are around Trapani, you could find some of the best busiate at Osteria Ossuna in Trapani or La Collinetta in Castelvetrano. A special mention goes to La trattoria delle cozze, or Il cozzaro – like the locals call it – in Mazara Del Vallo.

In this rustic trattoria, you will find some of the freshest best-cooked mussels and great busiate.

Back home in Melbourne, you could pay a visit to Bar Idda in Brunswick East and Mister Bianco in Kew, two incredible Sicilian Restaurants, where occasionally you will find busiate on the menu.

If you are curious to know more about Sicilian culture and food, I warmly suggest you visit these two blogs:

Today I am pairing my handmade Busiate with Pesto Alla Trapanese. There is something about fresh tomatoes and pasta that is just meant to be!

Pesto Alla Trapanese makes for a nice variation on the classic summer pasta al pesto. You will immediately recognise the resemblance, but true to its southern roots, pesto alla trapanese stars abundant ripe tomato.

On these hot days, try this fresh and delicious recipe!


Makes 3 serves

Pasta Dough:

  • 300g semolina flour

  • A pinch of salt

  • 150ml warm water

Sicilian Pesto:

  • 50g blanched and peeled almonds

  • 200g cherry tomatoes

  • 1 clove garlic

  • Pinch of salt

  • A small bunch of fresh basil

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated (optional for a vegan recipe)

Tools needed:

- a wooden skewer, like those used for BBQ.

- a mortar and pestle to make pesto. If you don’t have one, feel free to use a food processor.

- a medium pot for boiling pasta.

Making the dough:

Place the flour on a wooden board. Make a well in the centre and add a pinch of salt. Gently mix to combine.

Slowly incorporate 150 ml warm water into the flour, using a fork or your fingers to mix.

Knead the dough until it is smooth and resilient, about 10 minutes.

Cover the dough with a bowl and let it rest for at least 20 minutes on the bench before using.

Twirling busiate:

Cut off 1/3 of the dough and, using your hands, flatten the section into a disc about 1 cm thick.

Cut the disc into strips about ½ cm wide. Roll each strip into ropes about 0.4 cm thick.

Cut the rope to obtain 15 cm long rods.

Put your wooden skewer on the board in front of you, then take a rod and put it at a 45-degree angle to the skewer. Use your index finger to press the skewer into the pasta and roll it toward you, so the pasta begins to spiral around the skewer.

Once your pasta is twirled, gently roll it with the palm of your hand onto the wooden board to flatten it a bit. Don't press too hard, or it will stick to the skewer. Hold the skewer upright, and the pasta should slip off. Repeat until you have used all the dough.

If you prefer you can prepare the busiate the day before and leave them to rest on the wooden board overnight

Making pesto:

Preheat oven to 180C and toast almonds for 10 minutes.

Score the top of each tomato with a sharp knife. In a medium saucepan, bring water to a gentle boil. Add tomatoes and blanch for 1 minute. The skin will begin to shrivel. Drain and place in a bowl. When cool enough to handle, peel off the skin, roughly chop the tomatoes, drain them, and set them aside in a bowl.

If you prefer, you can avoid blanching the tomatoes and use them with the skin on.

If you're using a mortar and pestle:

Place garlic and a pinch of salt in the mortar and grind until you have a paste. Add almonds and continue grinding until you have a rough paste. Finally, add basil leaves and grind all ingredients together until well combined.

Finally, add the tomatoes and crush them with the rest of the ingredients.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl, add the olive oil and stir well. The pesto will have small chunks of tomatoes and will not be as smooth as pesto made in a food processor.

If you're using a food processor:

Place the toasted almonds, drained tomatoes, garlic, salt, basil, and olive oil in the bowl of your food processor and process until smooth.

Cooking busiate:

Cook pasta al dente for about 5 or 6 minutes, or until it is cooked through. Drain and reserve some pasta water. Place the busiate in a serving bowl, add your pesto and mix well.

Loosen it up with 2 or 3 tablespoons of pasta water. This step results in a luxuriously smooth and creamy sauce. The pasta sauce has salt that lends extra flavour and starch that adds a silky richness to your pesto.

Garnish with Parmigiano, fresh basil leaves, and some more chopped almonds (if you prefer).

Serve and enjoy!

Busiate with pesto trapanese. printable version
Download PDF • 228KB



Follow along on Instagram @_pastajourney_ and Facebook

Each week I will share how to make a particular pasta shape, starting with A for Agnolotti.

Want to find out more and the secret to a great Agnolotti del Plin?

You can find my recipe here.

Tune in to @_pastajourney_ social posts and stories to discover the best pasta recipes and how to perfect the shapes.

I'll also be sharing the interesting history of each pasta, the traditional ingredients and how to ensure that after they're cooked, your palette is dancing from a flavour burst, leaving you wanting more.

Each week you will learn:

  • How to pair pasta with the right sauce

  • How to shape and fold each type of pasta, and what flours to use

  • Where to purchase the right pasta making tools (hint: it's at Constante Imports in Preston, VIC)

  • The region of Italy each shape of pasta is from plus excellent restaurants recommendations from the area

  • Where to eat each pasta in Melbourne

The A-Z of Making Pasta Shapes series wants to celebrate all handmade pasta shapes according to the tradition, so if you want to know more about a pasta shape, just put the name in the comments.


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