Growing up in an Italian American family we ate pasta…a lot. I still consider it to be one of my favorite comfort meals, especially in the winter. I never realized how many different cuts of pasta there are until I opened my Italian Market and had to narrow it down to only a few for the shelves. Since then I have been obsessed with learning all about the different cuts of pasta that we can choose from. My go-to is of course penne with our Bellisari’s Calabrian Sweet Tomato Fennel, fresh basil and smoked mozzarella, but I still love farfalle (bowtie) for my smoked salmon and chives in a cream sauce.
There is a pasta shape to complement every pasta dish out there. Pairing the correct pasta shape can make a big difference in your overall satisfaction when cooking. Pasta shapes with holes or ridges like mostaccioli or radiatore are perfect for chunkier sauces, but remember no matter what shape you chose, portion control is key.
Acini di Pepe
(“Peppercorn”) Acini di Pepe is perfect to use in soup recipes. Include them with plenty of vegetables in broths and you’ll have a wonderful outcome.
This favorite kids’ shape makes any meal fun. Have a child that’s too picky to eat their veggies? Pair alphabet pasta with some vegetables or soup to win them over.
Small rings of pasta. It can be used in various soups and is also a complement to the fresh vegetables in a number of salads. Its smaller version, Anellini, can also be used in its place.
Long, thin noodle with a round shape. It can be used with light sauces and vegetables as well as traditional Italian sauces. Although it resembles another spaghetti, another long and thin pasta, Angel hair is much finer.
This straw-like pasta is shaped like thick Spaghetti but is hollow in the center. Bucatini is the perfect choice for nearly any sauce, or it can be baked in casseroles or stir-fried in dishes. Try it with different lean proteins and sauces for a change of pace.
(“Bells”) Campanelle pasta resembles a small cone with a ruffled edge. Campanelle pasta can be paired with lean proteins, vegetables or sauces of any base. These shapes can also be a treat in a cold pasta salad.
Cappelletti pasta is folded and then twisted to form the shape of a small hat. On occasion, this pasta is sometimes referred to as an alpine hat.
(“Corkscrew”) The tight spiral locks-in the flavor, allowing the shape to pair with both simple and sophisticated sauces. Pair Cavatappi with sauces of any base or partner it with vegetables or lean protein and this pasta is sure to impress. Also, these shapes are great when used in pasta salads.
Casarecce pasta is shaped like a very narrow, twisted and rolled tube. This pasta is best used when served with chunky sauce and can be used in a variety of casserole dishes.
Cavatelli resembles tiny hot dog buns. These shapes are commonly served with thick, chunky sauces or in pasta salads. Cavatelli pairs nicely with meat, cream, seafood or vegetable sauces.
Conchiglie (Shells in Small, Medium and Large)
Shells make a great addition to soups or as the base of a wonderful salad. For a fun twist on a time-honored tradition, try remaking your favorite macaroni and cheese using shells. Large shells are best when stuffed with your favorite mixtures of cheese, meat and vegetables. Stuff with meat flavored with taco seasoning, top with salsa and bake for a delicious Mexican dish, or create your own stuffed treat.
(“Little Thimbles”) This versatile shape can be used as the base of any dish. Bake it, stir it into soups, or create great salads and stir-fry dishes.
Egg Noodles (Medium and Wide)
(From “Nudel,” German meaning paste with egg) – This size of egg noodle can be baked, tossed in soups or salads, or topped with cream, tomato, cheese or meat sauces. Go beyond the traditional Stroganoff and use wide egg noodles to create soups, salads and casseroles. Or, top with a variety of sauces.
A highly versatile shape that can be topped with any sauce, baked, or put in soups, salads and stir-fry dishes. Elbow macaroni is traditionally used to make macaroni and cheese, but why not change it up and add in some seasonings, proteins, or veggies for a delightful dish.
(“Butterflies”) bow ties brighten any meal with their interesting shape. Thick enough for a variety of sauces, or a perfect addition to a number of salad or soup recipes.
Farfalline is a small version of the bow tie or butterfly shaped pasta. This versatile shape can be used as the base of any dish. Bake it, stir it into soups, or create great salads and stir-fry dishes.
This thick ribbon-like pasta is often paired with thick meat-based sauces. One of the more popular pasta recipes is the rich fettuccine alfredo sauce.
Short thin strands of pasta that are slightly curved. Fideo pasta is commonly partners with veggies and lean proteins to be used in various soup recipes.
(“Twisted Spaghetti”) This long, spiraled shape can be topped with any sauce, broken in half and added to soups, or turned into a beautiful salad. Fusilli also bakes well in casseroles.
(“Twins”) Add a touch of style to any dish with this distinctive shape. Gemelli pairs nicely with meat, cream, seafood and vegetable sauces.
(“Lilies”) Gigli is a fluted edge piece of pasta that has been rolled into a cone shaped flower. Gigli is perfect for heavier sauces, like cheese, meat and tomato or it is a perfect addition to a number of casseroles.
(From “lasanum,” Latin for pot) Create original Lasagna casseroles by using chopped vegetables, cheeses and any kind of sauce. You can also assemble your casserole and freeze it for a later meal.
This wide flat-shaped pasta is arguably one of the oldest types of pasta. The word Lasagne refers to a dish made with Lasagne sheets alternating with sauces and other ingredients in many languages.
(“Little Tongues”) A great shape to complement a variety of sauces. Also a good choice for salads and stir-fry dishes.
This flat wide ribbon pasta is said to be similar in shape to the lasagne noodle but with a slightly narrower in size. The pasta comes in both short and long lengths.
(“Small Muffs”) Stuff Manicotti with a mixture of meat, cheese and vegetables, top with your favorite sauce, and bake.
(“Little Ears”) These “little ears” are commonly served with thick, chunky sauces or in pasta salads.
(“Barley”) This small, grain shaped pasta can be topped with any sauce, added to soups, or baked as a casserole. Perfect as a side dish as well as a main course.
This Italian flat pasta is usually cut into a broad ribbon shape. Its width is between Lasagna and tagliatelle. Pappardelle goes great with heavy rich sauces. This pasta is very popular during the winter months.
This super tiny pasta is perfect for children. They are traditionally used in soups with Italian and Turkish cuisine.
(“Quills” or “Feathers”) Penne complement virtually every sauce and are exceptional when paired with a chunky sauce. Penne pairs nicely with chunky meat, chunky vegetable, cream, or oil based sauces. Also, these shapes are great for baking dishes.
(“Quills” and “Small Mustaches”) This tubular pasta complements a variety of sauces, is frequently used in salads, baked in casseroles, or made into stir-fry dishes.
(“Quills” or “Feathers”) Penne compliment virtually every sauce and are exceptional when paired with a chunky sauce. Penne Rigate are ridged and ideal to lock-in flavor. Penne Rigate pairs nicely with chunky meat, chunky vegetable, cream, or oil based sauces. Also, these shapes are great for baking dishes.
A hollow curved pasta that resembles a snail shell. This shape has a wide opening at one end and the other end is flattened. Pipe Rigate pairs nicely with chunky meat, chunky vegetable, cream, or oil based sauces.
This shape is a smaller version of Pipe Rigate. Pipette Rigate pairs nicely with chunky meat, chunky vegetable, cream, or oil-based sauces. Also, these shapes are great for baking dishes.
(“Radiators”) This ruffled, ridged shape adds elegance to any sauce. It also works well baked in casseroles, or used in salads and soups
(“Large Grooved”) Rigatoni’s ridges and holes are perfect with any sauce, from cream or cheese to the chunkiest meat sauces.
This short pasta is perfect for preparing casseroles and salads.
(“Little Wheels”) The cartwheel is not a classic Italian shape, but due to the variety of color and entertaining shape they are a crowd favorite. Because the spokes of the wheels are good for capturing flavor, these shapes are easy to pair. Rotelle pasta pairs nicely with meat, cream, seafood or vegetable sauces.
(“Spirals” or “Twists”) Rotini’s twisted shape holds bits of meat, vegetables and cheese, so it works well with any sauce, or you can use it to create fun salads, baked casseroles, or stir-fry meals.
Ruote (Wagon Wheels)
Wagon Wheels make interesting salads, casseroles and stir-fry dishes. Add to soups, or simply top with sauce and enjoy.
(“A length of cord”) America’s favorite shape, Spaghetti is the perfect choice for nearly any sauce, or it can be used to make casseroles or stir-fry dishes. Go beyond tomato sauce and see what your favorite becomes.
The Tagliatelle pasta is long and ribbon-like in shape, very similar to the fettuccine. It can be served with an array of sauces but a classic meat sauce tends to be the way to go.
Thin Spaghetti is very similar to Vermicelli. Each one is slightly thinner than Spaghetti. Thin Spaghetti is perfect topped with any sauce, or as a salad or stir-fry ingredient.
Tortellini is a ring-shaped pasta typically stuffed with meat, cheese or vegetables. Tortellini is commonly served in a broth or cream sauce.
Tortiglioni is narrow, tubular pasta. This shape is commonly used to add decoration to salads or paired with a simple sauce.
Tripolini is a tiny bow tie-shaped pasta used in soups and salads or paired with a simple sauce.
A medium-sized, tubular pasta shape, Tubini is perfect for chunky sauces and meat dishes. It also makes wonderful salads, baked dishes and stir-fry meals.
(“Little Worms”) Slightly thinner than Spaghetti, Vermicelli is good topped with any sauce, or as a salad or stir-fry ingredient.
(“Bridegrooms”) A medium-sized, tubular pasta shape, Ziti is perfect for chunky sauces and meat dishes. It also makes wonderful salads, baked dishes and stir-fry meals.