The Ultimate Guide to Pasta Shapes from The Ultimate Guide to Pasta Shapes Gallery
The Ultimate Guide to Pasta Shapes Gallery
The Ultimate Guide to Pasta Shapes
The crazy world of delicious pasta is teeming with distinctive varieties, differing in shape, history, and gastronomical purpose. Beyond spaghetti or the comforting and familiar ravioli, a whole other realm of pasta shapes exists — many of which won’t show up on your average menu. Nevertheless, you can use this guide to help recognize even some of the most obscure pasta shapes and their purposes.
Linguine, for example, is pasta from Italy's Liguria region, created to be paired with seafood or pesto, while bucatini, a shape resembling spaghetti with a hollow center, is ideal for holding sauces like a rich cacio e pepe dish.
To illustrate the varied history of pasta, consider strozzapreti, whose name comes from the Italian word meaning "priest strangler." The name refers to a pasta shape that resembles a rolled towel. Don’t worry; the “towel” isn’t necessarily the murder weapon here. Instead, the etymology suggests that the pasta was so good that the even a holy man would eat it so gluttonously that he would likely choke on it!
The following is a collection of 36 different Italian pasta shapes. How many of these could you recognize on a menu?
Agnolotti come from Piedmont, where they are usually filled with braised meat. They are formed into rectangles like ravioli or into half-moon shapes. Agnolotti are traditionally served in a simple beef broth, but any light sauce works well.
Click here for a simple ravioli with sage brown butter sauce recipe and use agnolotti in place of the ravioli.
Like spaghetti, bucatini pasta is long and thin, but it has a narrow hole down the center. It is thicker and reminiscent of a straw; a quality that makes it excellent for holding sauces.
Calamarata is a thick, ringed pasta that looks like rings of calamari (hence the name); it is also often dyed black with squid ink. Anelli is a smaller yet similar representation of this ring-shaped pasta.
Try cooking calamarata with a hearty tomato based sauce. Click here for a great puttanesca recipe.
Meaning “bells” in Italian, campanelle resemble small cones with ruffled edges. They are served with lean proteins, vegetables, or sauces of any base.
Campanelle are a great shape to use in pasta salad, so go ahead and try using them in this pasta salad with sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, feta, and spinach in place of the bowties.
Capellini, better known as angel hair, is the thinnest and most delicate of the string pastas. Its long, thin strands are best paired with light sauces, but it also goes well in salads or can be broken in half and added to soups.
Casarecce pasta is a very narrow, twisted, and rolled tube, almost resembling a scroll. This pasta is best served with chunky sauce and can be used in a variety of casserole dishes, as well.
Hollow, corkscrew-shaped cavatappi are excellent when paired with thick and cheesy sauces.
Cavatelli are shaped like small hot dog buns and are thus perfect for trapping sauces.
Conchiglie are shell-shaped, allowing for versatility with sauces both thin and chunky.
Farfalle is better known as bowtie pasta, although the name means “butterfly.” Farfalle is a very versatile shape and can be used with a number of ingredients and sauces. Farfalline is a smaller version.
Fettuccine is a popular ribbon-shaped pasta that is typically served with thick, creamy sauces. It also goes well with cheese, meat, and tomato sauces.
Fideo pasta is characterized by short, thick strands of pasta, almost like broken spaghetti. It commonly partners with veggies and lean proteins in various soup recipes.
This corkscrew-shaped pasta is good for holding onto sauces. Fusilli hails from southern Italy and was traditionally made by twisting spaghetti around a thin rod.
Gemelli means “twins” in Italian, and looks like a double helix.
Linguine, meaning "little tongues" in Italian, has a flat and long shape that's slightly narrower than fettuccine. It is best paired with seafood, pesto, and tomato sauces.
Malfada (also known as mafaldine or reginette, which means “little queens”) is a type of pasta cut like ribbons; it’s characterized by its long, fairly wide, rectangular shape and curly edges. Like linguine they are best served in a delicate sauce.
Click here for a delectable (and delicate!) lobster and white sauce recipe that will pair perfectly with malfada.
Manicotti are short, large pasta tubes, usually ribbed, meant to be stuffed with meat, cheese, and vegetables; the name means “little sleeve” in Italian.
Meaning “little ear” in Italian, orecchiette are great for scooping up chunky or meaty sauces.
Orzo is shaped like large grains of rice and is popular in soups and salads.
Pansotti is a filled pasta, similar to ravioli, from the Liguria region in Italy. It is characterized by its triangular shape and pairs well with delicious but unfussy sauces like pestos or butter and sage.
The widest and flattest of the ribbon pastas, pappardelle is best paired with oily sauces or thick wild meat ragùs such as those made with rabbit, boar, or duck.
This little pasta is the smallest type produced, and is used in soups.
Click here for a handy slow-cooker minestrone soup recipe and substitute pastina for the orzo listed.
A tubular pasta, penne is cut at an angle to resemble quills; it can be prepared al dente with any sauce or can be added to salads or baked in casseroles.
Filled with meat, cheese, or vegetables, ravioli are traditionally dressed in light sauces made with butter or cream.
Wider than penne, rigatoni consists of large, short tubes with ridges down their sides. The ridges and holes make it great for pairing with any sauce, from creamy or cheesy to chunky meat sauces. Rigatoni can be used interchangeably with other tubular pasta such as penne and ziti.
One of the most popular pasta types, spaghetti is traditionally served with thin sauces such as olive oil or tomato sauce but goes well with nearly any sauce. Variations on the spaghetti shape include spaghettini, which has thinner strands, and spaghettoni, which has slightly thicker stands.
The name strozzapreti means "priest strangler" in Italian, and it refers to a pasta shape that resembles a rolled towel; the etymology suggests that the pasta was so good the local priest would eat it quickly enough to choke on it.
Tagliatelle is nearly identical to fettuccine, although slightly narrower. It comes from the Emilia-Romagna region, while fettuccine is Roman.
Tortellini, Tortelli, Tortelloni
Listed from smallest to largest, these pasta shapes, which may resemble ravioli or be semi-circular or look like little hats or bellybuttons, can be filled with meat or cheese or vegetables. They are great when topped with light sauces or put in broth-heavy soups.
Click here for a nifty sausage-and-spinach cheese tortellini recipe that all comes together easily in a slow-cooker.
Both kinds of pasta are hollow and ridged, resembling rigatoni or penne; trenne is the larger of the two. (Trennette should not be confused with trenette, which is a synonym for linguine in Liguria.)
Click here for a great caramelized pumpkin, onion, sage, and brown butter sauce recipe that will pair wonderfully with trenne or trennette.
Tripolini are tiny, bow-shaped pastas with a wavy edge, and are usually delegated to soups and stews.
Click here for a tasty pesto pasta soup recipe and use tripolini instead of shells!
A medium-sized, tubular pasta, ziti goes best with chunky sauces and meat dishes that are can get trapped in the hollow centers. If you are looking for an easy way to get dinner on the table, use a store bought-pasta sauce — and if you don’t know which one to buy, we’ve got you covered. We tried, tested and ranked the best premium pasta sauces to find the best one!
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