The Ultimate Guide to Pasta Shapes
Pasta, one of the most popular foods in the world, comes in various shapes, sizes, flavors, and even colors. Besides spaghetti – everyone’s favorite pasta – there are also penne, linguine, fettuccine, orecchiette, tagliatelle, and many, many more pasta noodles just waiting to be included in your dishes. We break down some of the super-popular as well as some of the less-popular fun pasta shapes right here, also telling you how to best pair them with other foods and dishes. Picking the right type of pasta for your recipe has never been so easy!
Here are 26 different types of pasta noodles that you can use in your next dish.
One of the most commonly used kinds of pasta in the world, spaghetti can be served with a variety of sauces, meats and vegetables, including tomato sauce, marinara sauce, meatballs, mushrooms and more. Spaghetti can also be served with no sauce – Cacio e Peppe is one famous dish that not only doesn’t involve any sauce, but is made with three ingredients: black pepper, cheese and pasta.
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One of the ultra-popular pasta types, gnocchi has been around since the days of the Roman Empire. These small, thick and soft dumplings can be combined with a variety of ingredients, foods and sauces, including chicken, mushrooms, spinach, ricotta, pesto and tomato sauce.
A tubular type of pasta, penne resembles the nib of a quill – the very old, feathered kind of quill. It’s fantastic when served with thicker sauces, especially those with veggies, as the ridges on penne help everything stick to it, making the dish wonderfully hearty. Traditionally, penne is served with tomato sauce, but any thicker sauce with veggies is great as well.
Farfalle, also known as bowtie pasta, is a highly versatile type of food that goes well with all kinds of ingredients and sauces. Because they’re shaped like butterflies with crinkly edges (the literal meaning is “butterflies”!), farfalle are able to hold sauces and veggies really well. They’re also wonderful in cold pasta salads.
Linguine is very similar to spaghetti, only flatter and narower, which makes it more elegant and luxurious in a dish. This long, flat noodle is often served with lighter sauces made with cream or seafood like shrimp. It’s also delicious with just pesto or olive oil and herbs.
Fusilli is a long, spiraled type of pasta that comes from Southern Italy. Corkscrew-shaped, fusilli is wonderfull with a variety of thick sauces, including the hearty ones with meat chunks, as well as tomato and cheese sauces. This is because sauce and chunks of meat and veggies can easily get trapped in the screw heads, leading to perfectly proportioned bites.
Similar to penne but wider and slightly larger, rigatoni is fantastic with heartier sauces, including sauces made with chunky vegetables, meat sauces and even cheese sauces. Rigatoni can also be used with other tubular pasta, such as its smaller relative penne.
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One of the super-popular types of pasta, especially in Northern Italy, tagliatelle is flat, long and ribbon-like. While it can be enjoyed with a variety of sauces, ingredients and dishes, it’s best when served with meaty sauces, as well as cheesey and buttery ones. It’s also wonderful when made with fresh pesto.
Taglierini is another ribbon-like pasta, but this type is much thinner and narrower than tagliatelle. This fine and delicate noodle requires minimal cooking time, so it’s delicious when paired with quality fish or butter and truffles. It’s also fantastic with roasted meat sauce.
Orecchiete (literal meaning is “little ears”) is a small type of pasta that goes best with veggie sauces, such as thick tomato sauces, broccoli, spinach and other veggie sauces. It’s also great with meaty gravy and anchovy as the goodness from the sauce packs wonderfully in the cups. This also makes orecchiette perfect for baked pasta dishes.
Long, flat and ribbon-like, fettuccine is a versatile type of pasta as it goes great with a variety of dishes. This also makes it highly popular around the world, especially in Italy. From tomato and other veggie sauces, to seafood and meaty sauces, fettuccine can be served with pretty much anything.
Thin and delicate, capellini is traditionally used in soups, like everyone’s favorite chicken soup (it should be broken in half if used in soups), or with light sauces. It can also be tossed with olive oil, salt and herbs or combined with seafood – there are various ways to use capellini, so feel free to experiment but do make sure the soup or sauce doesn’t overpower the pasta.
Cannelloni is a large tube pasta (cylindrical in shape) that usually measures three to four inches in length. Thanks to its generous shape, it works best with thicker and heavier sauces that can fill in its hollow center– cheese, meat and chunky veggie sauces are all fantastic with cannelloni, and so are various baked pasta dishes too.
Out of all pasta shapes and names, gemelli is our favorite. The literal meaning is “twins”, which is quite appropriate for food that’s made of two strands of pasta twisted together. Short and chubby, this type of pasta is wonderful in baked pasta dishes like casseroles, but it’s also perfect in various cold pasta salads. It can also be served with thick tomato or cheese sauces – basically, the options are endless!
From the Italian word “little worm”, vermicelli is short and usually thin, although it can be thicker, depending on where it’s produced. While the literal meaning may not be appetizing, vermicelli is delicious with a number of sauces, including pesto and herbs, seafood and spices, tomato sauces and even when part of cold salads.
Lasagne, everyone’s favorite type of pasta, can be made in several different ways, including the traditional, four-cheese lasagna, meat-free baked pasta, or even a breakfast version with eggs and bacon. This is because lasagne is long and flat, perfect with a variety of ingredients and foods, including cheese, meat, veggies and even thick sauces.
One of the more fun pasta shapes, capricci (literal meaning is “whimsy”) comes in small, irregularly shaped pieces that can make any dish and sauce more interesting. These coral-like noodles are traditionally made with both thin and thick sauces, including cream and cheese, but can also be used in baked pasta dishes with chicken, tomatoes and other veggies.
Fricelli comes from Southern Italy, specifically Puglia. Traditionally, it’s hand-made into a rolled tubular shape with a consistency of a dumpling. It’s usually served with chunky sauces, especially vegetable sauces that include eggplant and tomatoes. It’s also delicious with cheesy, creamy sauces too.
Squared-shaped with ruffled edges, ravioli is traditionally stuffed with various fillings, including cheese, meat, seafood and vegetables. They taste great in both light and thick sauces though, and can even be served with simple but rich fillings such as butter and salt or cream and salt.
Originated from Liguria during the middle ages, Croxetti is one of the oldest types of pasta. It’s shaped like a medallion and is often stamped by a hand (if made traditionally) to depict different patterns or designs. This beautiful pasta is typically served with simple but hearty sauces, such as fish, meat, mushroom or cream. Croxetii can also be served with rich pesto.
Anelli and Anellini
Anelli are small and thin rings of pasta traditionally used for soups, stews and cold pasta salads. Anellini are basically a smaller version of anelli, which makes them equally wonderful in all kinds of soups, stews and salads. Both anelli and anellini can also be used in combination with meat ragu.
Originating from Puglia, foglie d’ulivo is a handmade type of pasta made in the shape of olive leaves. As such, it’s traditionally served with a creamy olive oil sauce and herbs, or sundried tomatoes with basil. It’s also delicious in chunky veggie sauces, especially those made with mushrooms and spinach.
Shaped like a cone with ruffled edges, campanelle is a type of pasta that most resembles a bell-like flower. While it looks delicate, it goes best with thick or chunky sauces as its hollow center holds the liquid deliciousness really well. It’s great with thick tomato sauces, hearty cheese sauces, and bean, lentil and other veggie sauces. Campanelle can also be used in a casserole.
Pappardelle is a flat, broad and large type of pasta that originates from Tuscany. Because they’re quite chunky, they’re traditionally served with heavy, thick sauces, such as mushroom or rabbit sauces. They can also be made with various other meats, herbs, cheese and veggies – as long as the sauce is hearty and thick, pappardelle are guaranteed to be delicious.
Bucatini looks like a thicker, bigger spaghetti, so it’s perfect for thick, meat ragu sauces. Because they’re bigger, bucatini have a larger center hole, so they trap sauces really well, making them ideal for meaty and hearty sauces. That said, they’re also great with thicker veggie and cheese sauces.
Small, textured and cute, this type of pasta resembles radiators, hence the name. Their size and shape make them perfect for thicker sauces such as meat and veggie sauces. Radiatori is also delicious in heartier soups and stews, and even in casseroles.