A “pastitsio” of terminology



Sometimes the term designating a dish is the first best clue to understand the composition of the food that we are about to eat.

The Italian word pasticcio comes from the Latin term pastīcium, derived from pasta, and has developed several figurative meanings linked to the idea of “mess” or “confused”.

Actually in Greece, the παστίτσιο or in Italy the pasticcio are quite “messy” plates. In Greek it is a baked gratinated pasta dish that contains ground beef and béchamel sauce. In Italy, the term is used in some region to refer to lasagne or whatever other dish that has a shell containing different ingredients in a chaotic order, pasticcio of macheroni, of wild game, of cauliflower.

We can find a similar dish in Malta called Imqarrum il-forn, or in Cyprus and Turkey, μακαρόνια του φούρνου, fırında makarna. The principle is the same: pasta mixed with other ingredients, usually beef. It is in all cases traditional food eaten mostly on the occasion of religious days or events, but we can easily understand that the technique derives from the humble home cooking that mixes food remains of the previous days.

As mentioned before, the word pastitsio, pasticcio or pastiche in used in different figurative meanings. In Italian, it can refer to a complicated situation difficult to solve, or to an idea that is not clear. Also it has a meaning in theater works, as a comic opera of the XVIIIth century that mixes in the musical part mingled arias, duets, final symphony, etc. of one or more composers.

In architecture, it is the name given to compound reliefs of Roman fragments and grout inserts that in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were placed to adorn the walls, both external and internal, of some noble palaces. Today, in Greek it still refers in architecture to any artifact which amalgamate, arbitrarily, ancient fragments.


Finally, the French word pastiche refers to a work of visual art, literature, theatre, or music that imitates the style or character of the work of one or more other artists.


As we can notice, a term has always a specific meaning depending on the context in which we use or find it, but sometimes the linguistic fields are not hermetic and we can observe how terms escape from their original space to describe new perceptions.


I·ATE is an interactive multilingual glossary on culinary terms that allows to share common knowledge, discover and preserve related concepts widespread across Europe.
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Written by Francesca Bisiani

Terminology Trainee at TermCoord