Cencioni pasta look very similar to orecchiette or foglie d’ulivo, falling somewhere in the middle in form and shape. It is a typical pasta from either of the following regions which border each other: Marche, Lucanian (Basicilicata) and/or Puglia. For this reason, cencioni, meaning ‘little rags‘, are also known as ‘strascinati’, meaning ‘pulled‘. The name simply depends on who you ask and where they come from.
Let’s delve a little deeper into the meaning of words. Cencio, which means ‘rag’, is a thirteenth-century term used to describe a cloth to clean the floor. The diminutive of which is ‘cencioni’. Why anyone would name a food after a floor cloth is anyone’s guess.
Back then the dough for these pasta shapes, usually made by peasants, would have contained wheat flour and eggs. Bean curd would also have been used in place of wheat flour since it was not always available to buy then, or was more expensive.
It actually makes sense to call ‘cencioni’ ‘strascinati’ because you need to pull the pasta over the work surface to form it. Compared to orecchiette, this little pasta is flat at the center while maintaining an orecchiette-esque ridge around the outside. Compared to foglie d’ulivo which are elongated, cencioni are more rounded and irregular.
If you want to enjoy a really simple to make pasta, then cencioni are for you. We have played around with making them as you can see from the photograph above. Yes, cencioni (or whatever you want to call them) are a very forgiving shape to make as well as a playful one.
when you have made a pile of them, serve your little rags of pasta with a good thick and rich sauce.
As a note, if you plan to make these, we recommend you cook them fresh and not attempt to dry them out. These pieces of pasta are quite thick in areas and when dry, can take up to 20 minutes to cook.