Spindles and knees


Welcome to the ABC of Czech and its current culinary series. Today we'll look at pasta in Czech cuisine. If you have so far associated pasta only with Italy, today you have a chance to find out about homegrown Czech pasta - těstoviny.

First of all, one should try to avoid using the word "pasta" in Czech restaurants, because the waiter might bring you toothpaste instead. As we already said the general word is těstoviny which comes from the word testo, meaning dough.

Even before the market here was flooded with real Italian products, people could buy Czech versions of it, complete with Czech names.

Forget about fusilli or rotini - they are traditionally known as vřetýnka - or little spindles in Czech. No one knows about conchiglie but everybody likes mušličky - little mussels. One of the most widely available shapes of pasta in the past decades were elbow macaroni - or kolínka, meaning little knees. The type of pasta known worldwide as penne, is commonly called sekané potrubí or chopped pipes in this country. Rosa marina was always sold under the name těstovinová rýže or pasta rice. Most of these types of pasta were eaten as a side dish in the past decades rather than a meal in its own right.

Onto soup pasta: Stelle are hvězdičky or little stars, alphabets are písmenka or little letters ("letter soup" - písmenková polévka is certainly very popular with kids).

With some types of pasta, Czechs just mispronounce the name to better suit their mouths. For example spaghetti becomes špagety and macaroni becomes makaróny.

But there are types of pasta that seem to have always been prepared in this country. One is ordinary noodles or nudle. Short and thin noodles are used to thicken meat or vegetable broths. Thicker versions are eaten with ground poppy seeds, sugar and butter - nudle s mákem. I remember my grandmother rolling out the dough, cutting the noodles and then drying them. Cut into little squares, they are called fleky or flíčky. They are used either as soup pasta or to make a typical Czech meal known as šunkofleky. It is made of cubed smoked meet, cooked fleky and eggs and it's all baked in an oven.

And finally, there are noky - little dumplings made of flour and eggs that are eaten with meat or in clear soups. Although the name sounds similar to the Italian gnocchi, the Czech term comes directly from German. We should also mention the Slovak potato dumplings halušky which are even more similar to gnocchi and are usually eaten with bacon and Slovak sheep cheese.

But now we are out of time. Thanks for joining us and till next time dobrou chuť - bon appetit!