Pastas come in so many shapes and sizes — over 600, in fact — and the weight, texture, size and shape of each is carefully engineered to hold sauce in a different way. Unfortunately, the pasta aisle at your local supermarket can only hold so many varieties, and there are a lot of pastas we have never heard of — ones you can only really find if you travel to different regions of Italy.
By looking through our pasta lover’s guide to pasta shapes and doing some additional research, we found eight pasta shapes that you have probably never come across. They may look similar to favorites like spaghetti, orecchiette, and penne, but the experience of eating them is certainly very different.
The world’s most versatile (not to mention cheap and easy to make) food is not just versatile because it goes with so many different kinds of sauces. Don’t like messy spaghetti? No worries; there is a pasta shape for everyone.
Originating in Siena, this fat, spaghetti-like noodle is formed by rolling the dough in between your palms to a size that is slightly smaller in width than a pen. It is best enjoyed with boscaiola sauce.
Pizzoccheri is similar to tagliatelle, except it’s shorter and largely composed of buckwheat flour. It is a healthier alternative to regular pasta, and you can easily make it at home.
Garganelli is similar to penne, except its ridges are lined along the width of the pasta as opposed the length. It is essential for a fold to be visible on a garganelli, so the pasta has a rolled shape. In Bologna, it is often enjoyed with a duck ragout.
Cencioni translates to “little rag,” and this pasta does look like a tatty piece of cloth. It doesn’t seem very appetizing, but the irregular petal-like shape and rough texture allow runnier sauces like marinara to cling to the pasta.
Campanelle translates to “bellflowers” in Italian, as it is shaped like a bell with a ruffled edge — or a fashionable skirt. Try it with some salsa arrabbiata.
Lanterne, a pasta with deep ridges and a lantern-like shape, looks like a fancy curl of butter. It is ideal for scooping up some eggplant bolognese.
Do these little pieces of pasta look familiar? Created in the 1960s by an industrial designer, they are named after your radiator. Shake things up by swapping spaghetti for radiatori but keeping the thick and chunky “spaghetti” sauce.
Bucatini is similar to spaghetti, except it is thicker and has a hole going through its length, not unlike a pencil. The Romans like to eat it with a buttery sauce, like alfredo.