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Fideo (coiled vermicelli).JPG
Type Pasta

Vermicelli (Italian:  [vermiˈtʃɛlli] ; lit.'little worms', /ˌvɜːrmɪˈɛli,-ˈsɛli/ , [1] [2] [3] also UK: /ˌvɛərmɪˈɛli/ , [4] ) is a traditional type of pasta round in section similar to spaghetti. In English-speaking regions it is usually thinner than spaghetti, [5] while in Italy it is typically thicker. [6] [7]


The term vermicelli is also used to describe various types of thin noodles from Asia. In Vietnam vermicelli is the same as angel hair pasta or capellini .

Thickness comparison

As defined in Italy:

Pasta nameThickness
Vermicellidiameter between 2.08 and 2.30 millimetres (0.082 and 0.091 in) with little variation between different producers. [8] [9]
Spaghettidiameter between 1.92 and 2.00 millimetres (0.076 and 0.079 in) [10]
Vermicellini ( [vermitʃelˈliːni] , "thin vermicelli")diameter between 1.75 and 1.80 millimetres (0.069 and 0.071 in) [11]
Fidelinidiameter between 1.37 and 1.47 millimetres (0.054 and 0.058 in) [12]
Capellini (or capelli d'angelo—angel's hair)diameter between 0.8 and 0.9 millimetres (0.031 and 0.035 in) [13] [14]

In the United States, the National Pasta Association (which has no links with its Italian counterpart, the Unione Industriali Pastai Italiani [15] ) lists vermicelli as a thinner type of spaghetti. [16]

The Code of Federal Regulations of the United States of America [17] defines "spaghetti" and "vermicelli" by diameter:

Pasta nameThickness
Vermicellidiameter less than 0.06 inches (1.5 mm).
Spaghettidiameter between 0.06 and 0.11 inches (1.5 and 2.8 mm)


Vermicelli with a lemon-pecorino fonduta with fennel fronds and bottarga Vermicelli with a lemon-pecorino fonduta with fennel fronds and bottarga.jpg
Vermicelli with a lemon-pecorino fonduta with fennel fronds and bottarga

In 14th-century Italy, long pasta shapes had varying local names. Barnabas de Reatinis of Reggio notes in his Compendium de naturis et proprietatibus alimentorum (1338) that the Tuscan vermicelli are called orati in Bologna, minutelli in Venice, fermentini in Reggio, and pancardelle in Mantua. [18]

The first mention of a vermicelli recipe is in the book De arte Coquinaria per vermicelli e maccaroni siciliani (The Art of Cooking Sicilian Macaroni and Vermicelli), compiled by the famous Maestro Martino da Como, unequalled in his field at the time and perhaps the first "celebrity chef", who was the chef at the Roman palazzo of the papal chamberlain ("camerlengo"), the Patriarch of Aquileia. In Martino's Libro de arte coquinaria, there are several recipes for vermicelli, which can last two or three years (doi o tre anni) when dried in the sun. [19]

Vermicelli in other countries

Middle East and East Africa

Vermicelli, called shaʿīriyya (شعيرية) in Arabic, is used in one of the most common ways of cooking rice in Egypt and the Levant. The vermicelli is browned by frying with oil or butter, then rice and water are added.

In Somalia, it is used in a sweet dish called cadriyad, originating from the Yemeni ʿaṭriyah (عطرية). The vermicelli is browned by frying with butter, then water, sugar and cardamom are added until it has softened slightly. The dish is similar to the Indian Sheer khurma . However, no milk or cream is added. Bananas can also be added on top. It is usually eaten as a dessert or as a side-dish with Somali spiced rice dishes.

Cadriyad is also a common dessert in certain parts of Ethiopia, particularly in the Arab-influenced Harar-ghe region, where it is known as attriya and is served cold, often with a thin layer of custard on top.


An aletria pudding with typical cinnamon decoration Aletria.jpg
An aletria pudding with typical cinnamon decoration

Possibly due to the Umayyad influence, [20] Spain and Portugal use a type of vermicelli called Aletria. It is mostly used for soups or desserts. In modern-day Portugal, Aletria usually refers to a dessert similar to a rice pudding, but replacing the rice with aletria.

The Americas

Vermicelli (fideo) Q & Q vermicelli (fideo) from O.B. Macaroni Company 001.jpg
Vermicelli (fideo)

The fideo is a type of noodle, produced in Europe ever since medieval times, best known as fideus or fidelis, and then spread to Mexican and Latin American cuisine, often referred to by speakers of English as "vermicelli." It is commonly used in chicken soup and in sopa seca, a type of side-dish.

Indian subcontinent

A bowl of shemai, which is a popular dessert in Bangladesh Vermicelli or Sewai.jpg
A bowl of shemai, which is a popular dessert in Bangladesh
Vermicelli Upma in North India Vermicelli Upma in North India.jpg
Vermicelli Upma in North India

In countries of the Indian subcontinent, vermicelli is available either as long strands or cut into about 2 cm long pieces. Vermicelli is known by various local names such as, Sewiyun in Sindhi, Semya in Telugu, sémiya when made with wheat & sevai when made with rice in Tamil, Semiya in Malayalam, shavige in Kannada, shemai in Bengali, seviyan in Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi, shevaya in Marathi, simei in Odia, sev in Gujarati, semige in Tulu. The noodles are used in a number of dishes including a variation of kheer , a sweet dessert similar to rice pudding. Vermicelli are also used in many parts of India to make a popular dish called upma . To prepare it, dry oil-roasted vermicelli and pre-sauteed vegetables such as onions, carrots, French-beans, peas etc. are cooked together with enough water that can be absorbed by the vermicelli. Roasted cashew or peanuts are used as garnish.

Other noodles called vermicelli

In English, the Italian loanword "vermicelli" is used to indicate different sorts of long pasta shapes from different parts of the world but mostly from South or East Asia.

Central Asian Kesme and Persian reshteh also resemble vermicelli. Fālūde or faloodeh is a Persian frozen dessert made with thin vermicelli noodles frozen with corn starch, rose water, lime juice, and often ground pistachios.

In East Asia, the term rice vermicelli is often used to describe the thin rice noodles (米粉) popular in China, also known as bee hoon in Hokkien Chinese, mai fun in Cantonese Chinese, วุ้นเส้น (Wúnsên) in Thai, ၾကာဆံ (kya zan) in Burmese, and bún in Vietnamese. The term vermicelli may also refer to cellophane noodles made from mung bean or sweet potato, which are translucent when cooked, whereas rice vermicelli turn whitish when cooked. Mung bean vermicelli are commonly used in Chinese cuisine. In contrast, misua (Chinese :麵線; pinyin :mian xian; Pe̍h-ōe-jī :mī-sòan) are vermicelli that are made of wheat instead of rice. While superficially similar to bee hoon they have a very different texture and different culinary uses as well.

See also

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