From rigatoni to ostriche, the diverse world of pasta shapes and styles is endless. Each type of pasta has its own distinct size, shape, texture and best cooking applications. Beyond basic spaghetti and macaroni, there are many varieties of pasta you should get to know. Here are descriptions of the 15 most popular types of pasta and how to best use them in your cooking.
Long Strand Pastas
These long, strand-style pastas are perfect for tangling with thick, chunky sauces or being baked into comforting casseroles.
This classic long, thin pasta needs no introduction. Spaghetti is universally loved for its versatility. It pairs well with tomato or meat-based sauces. Its long slender strands allow it to hold heavy sauces without getting lost.
Slightly wider than spaghetti, linguine has a flattened oval shape that neatly captures bits of sauce in each strand. Linguine is best served with light olive oil or cream-based sauces that complement its elegant profile.
These long, flat, thick ribbons are about 1/4-inch wide – slightly wider than linguine. Fettuccine is known for elegantly pairing with rich, creamy alfredo sauce or mushroom sauces that coat each strand.
One of the wider flat pastas, pappardelle features very broad, long ribbons about 3/4-inch wide. It is commonly paired with hearty meat ragu or Bolognese sauces that luxuriously cling to each extra wide noodle.
Translating to “little worms”, vermicelli features thin, delicate strands that are slightly thicker than angel hair pasta. Vermicelli has a light mouthfeel and works well in soups or with light sauces that capture its thin profile.
Short Cut Pastas
Bite-sized short cut pastas are great in soups, salads, or baked into casseroles and pasta bakes.
One of the most popular pasta shapes, penne features diagonally cut tube shapes that are both practical and fun. Penne holds sauce nicely while offering a pleasant, chewy texture. Use it in cold salads or baked pasta casseroles.
With prominent, elongated ridges running down its wide, cylindrical tubes, rigatoni grabs and holds onto sauce stubbornly. The large rigate ridges give it a substantial texture that provides heft and heartiness to any dish it stars in.
Resembling a smooth, wider version of penne, ziti features straight tubular shapes similar to cut pipe pieces. Ziti is commonly baked into casseroles like ziti al forno with tomato sauce, meatballs, and melted cheese.
Better known as bow-tie shaped pasta for its charming shape, farfalle has ruffled edges that can catch and trap thicker sauces. The “wings” on each piece also hold light sauces nicely. Farfalle works with many sauces from cream to pesto.
The tight, spiral shape of rotini not only looks fun but also enhances flavor absorption. Rotini works well in cold pasta salads, with pesto or tomato sauce, or baked in a casserole mixed with cheese.
Tiny, dainty bite-sized pastas are perfect for soups, salads, garnishing entrees, or as sides.
A miniature version of tube-shaped pasta, ditalini resembles very small macaroni or penne pieces. Its tiny tubular shape works wonderfully in soups, salads, or buttery olive oil sauces.
Shaped like large grains of rice, orzo cooks up like a risotto when simmered in broth and cheese. It also makes a tasty addition to soups, salads, and side dishes, absorbing flavors easily.
Also called “little rings”, anelli features tiny rings about 1/4-inch wide that resemble miniature rigatoni. Anelli works well in soups and salads, lightly sauced pastas, or side dishes.
Known as “little stars”, stelline are mini star-shaped pastas that are adorable when featured in soups, salads, or light tomato sauces. Their small size means they cook quickly – perfect for weeknight meals.
What’s more fun than a bowl of pasta shaped into alphabet letters? Make a plate of alphabets and let the kids spell their names and words out of their carbohydrate-rich dinner.
With so many pasta types and shapes to choose from, there’s a perfect match for any sauce, salad, soup or casserole you can imagine. Part of the fun of pasta is trying unique pairings of shapes and sauces. There’s a whole brilliant world of pasta waiting to be explored!