The Ultimate Guide To Pasta Shapes

The big 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 as in bucatini all'amatriciana or cacio e pepe.

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. In the following recipe, use agnalotti in place of the ravioli.

For a simple Sage Brown Butter Sauce recipe, click here.


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.

For a Bucatini alla'Amatriciana recipe, click here.

Calamarata; Anelli

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.

For a Light Onion Cream Sauce recipe, click here.


Meaning "bells" in Italian, campanelle resemble small cones with ruffled edges. They are often served with lean proteins, vegetables, or sauces of any base and make a mean pasta salad.

For a Pasta Salad with Spinach and Tomatoes recipe, click here.


A cylindrical pasta, cannelloni is a filled noodle that is baked and covered in sauce. It is nearly identical to manicotti. To make your own, cook lasagna noodles and use them to roll up the lasagna filling of your choosing. Spread some sauce on the bottom of a baking pan, arrange the filled lasagna noodles snugly in the pan, and top with more sauce and cheese, then bake.

For a Spinach and Sausage Lasagna recipe, click here.


Capellini, better known as angel hair, is the thinnest and most delicate of the string pastas. Its long, skinny strands are best paired with light sauces, but it also goes well in salads or can be broken in half and added to soups.

For a Homemade Tomato Sauce recipe, click here.


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. Try swapping it for penne or ziti in baked ziti.

For a Baked Ziti recipe, click here.



Hollow, corkscrew-shaped cavatappi are excellent when paired with thick and cheesy sauces. 

For 34 Gooey, Creamy, Over-The-Top Macaroni and Cheese recipes, click here.


Cavatelli are shaped like small hot dog buns and are thus perfect for trapping sauces in their crevices.

For a Creamy Pesto Alfredo recipe, click here.


Conchiglie are shell-shaped, allowing for versatility with sauces both thin and chunky, which get scooped up by the pasta. Conchiglioni, also known as jumbo shells, are excellent for stuffing.

For a Stuffed Jumbo Pasta Shells Recipe, click here.


Resembling thimbles, ditalini are traditionally used in soups like minestrone and pasta e fagioli or in thick, hearty stews.

For a Slow Cooker Beef Minestrone Soup, click here.

Farfalle; Farfalline

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.

For a Mediterranean Shrimp with Pasta recipe, click here.


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.

For a Fettuccine Pumpkin Alfredo Recipe, click here.


Fideos pasta is characterized by short, thin strands, almost like broken capellini or vermicelli. It commonly partners with veggies and lean proteins in various soup recipes. There is even a version of paella called fideuà that uses fideos in place of rice. Try toasting then cooking fideos before substituting in your favorite rice recipe, or add to soup, like this sweet and spicy Vietnamese fish soup.

For a Canh Chua Cá recipe, click here.



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.

For a Fusilli and Broccoli Casserole recipe, click here.


Gemelli means "twins" in Italian, and looks like a double helix. Gemelli goes particularly well with tomato sauce and pesto.

For a Green Garlic and Basil Pesto Recipe, click here.


The name lasagna refers to both the noodles and the dish. These noodles can be either flat or wavy, and come fresh, dried, or par-boiled.

For a Grandma's Lasagna recipe, click here.


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.

For a Linguine with White Wine Clam Sauce recipe, click here.


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 creamy sauce, or can even be used in skillet lasagna.

For a Lasagna Soup recipe, click here.


Manicotti are short, large pasta tubes, usually ribbed, meant to be stuffed with meat, cheese, and vegetables; the name means "little sleeve" in Italian. Stuff and top with sauce and cheese and bake, or try in your favorite lasagna recipe.

For a Sausage Lasagna recipe, click here.


Meaning "little ear" in Italian, orecchiette are great for scooping up chunky or meaty sauces. It is most commonly paired with sausage and broccoli rabe, but it's great paired with any veggies and meat.

For an Herbed Beef Italiano recipe, click here.


Orzo is shaped like large grains of rice and is popular in soups and salads. It can also be used in place of rice in recipes like this one.

For a Southwestern Tuna and Rice Salad recipe, click here.



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.

For a Sage Carbonara Sauce recipe, click here.


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.

For a Duck Leg Ragu recipe, click here.


This little pasta is the smallest type produced, and is used in soups. Try some in place of bigger noodles next time you make chicken soup.

For a Chicken Noodle Soup recipe, click here.


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.

For a Tomato Florentine Pasta Bake recipe, click here.


Radiatore — literally "radiators" — resemble rotini pasta but are shorter and thicker with ruffled edges. They are a great shape to use in thicker sauces and are also delicious in pasta salads and casseroles.

For a Supreme Pasta Salad recipe, click here.


Filled with meat, cheese, or vegetables, ravioli are traditionally dressed in light sauces made with butter or cream.

For a Homemade Ricotta Ravioli in a Butter and Sage Sauce recipe, click here.


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.

For a Spicy Rigatoni Vodka recipe, click here.


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.

For a Simple Spaghetti Carbonara recipe, click here.


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.

For a Chicken Bruschetta Pasta recipe, click here.


Tagliatelle is nearly identical to fettuccine, although slightly narrower. It comes from the Emilia-Romagna region, while fettuccine is Roman. It can also be used in place of linguine.

For a Pasta with Lemony Chicken recipe, click here.


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.

For a Pumpkin Pasta Bake with Tortellini recipe, click here.

Trenne; Trennette

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.)

For a Lemon Cream Sauce recipe, click here.


Tripolini are tiny, bow-shaped pastas with a wavy edge, and are usually reserved for soups and stews.

For an Italian Style Soup with Turkey Sausage recipe, click here.


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!

For an Easy Pasta Skillet recipe, click here.

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