For us, there is nothing better than a perfect and comforting pasta dish. Nowadays, it’s very easy to cook all kinds of pasta dishes, you simply need to go to the local supermarket and choose your favorite pasta. Similarly to what we did in our Japanese Noodles article, we came up with a list of the most commonly used types of pasta.
Pairing types of pasta with appropriate recipes or sauces it’s not a big deal when you know all the types of pasta available to you. To be truly honest, we have to say there is no such thing as “wrong” when it comes to combining a specific type of pasta in a recipe. However, after cooking pasta for several times, you may find that certain shapes or types of pasta are more harmonious in certain dishes. The more you cook and experiment with pasta, the easily you can figure out what types of sauces or preparation methods are most appropriate for each type. To help you with this journey we decide to share with you a list with the 21 most commonly used types of pasta.
1. Angel Hair
Angel Hair pasta, also known as capellini, or “fine hair,” is the perfect choice when you want to pair a light, refined sauce with a delicate cut of thin pasta. Perfect with simple light tomato sauces, broths, consommés, and soups, or in light dairy sauces like parsley crème. Capellini pasta can also be substituted into any spaghetti recipe to compliment even the most rustic sauces with al dente thin pasta texture.
It is difficult to place the origin of Cannelloni in a particular geographical area, but historians agree that Cannelloni was among the first pasta shapes ever created. Since ancient times, Cannelloni were prepared from pasta dough, that was cut into rectangular pieces, then filled, rolled up and cooked. The large hollowness of Cannelloni make them one of the most suitable pasta for rich sauces and fillings. Try them with meat-based sauces like traditional Bolognese, or vegetable-based sauces such as spinach and ricotta.
3. Conchiglie Rigate
Conchiglie Rigate are one of the most popular shapes in Italy thanks to their ability to work with every sauces. Their unique shell shapes make them one of the best known and loved pasta around the world. Conchiglie Rigate have a graceful concave shape and skillful external ridges which allow them to hold all sauces. A real artistic masterpiece in the kitchen.
The name Ditalini means “little thimbles” for its resemblance to the small sewing object. Ditalini’s tiny, tubular pasta shape is a perfect complement to any pasta soup recipe. Ditalini is typically used in the rustic Italian soup, pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans) but can be used in minestrone or any other classic pasta soups. Ditalini is also a nice alternative to Penne or Rotini in pasta salad recipes where you need just a little pasta bite.
Farfalle, dating back to the 1500s, originated in the Lombardia and Emilia-Romagna part of Northern Italy. Meaning Butterfly in Italian, farfalle are a rectangular or oval pieces of pasta that are pinched in the middle. Try it with light sauces with vegetables or fish, dairy-based sauces, simple oil-based sauces, or in pasta salads.
In Italy, the first pasta shapes were made by hand with simple tools. Fettuccine are made from flat sheets of pasta cut into ribbon-shaped strands (known as “fettucce“). The thickness of fettuccine means it can withstand extremely robust sauces. Try it with dairy-based, oil-based, or tomato-based sauces, and with sauces combined with meat, vegetables, seafood, or cheese.
The wide flat sheets of pasta originally made by the Romans were called lasagne. Later came to refer to a dish cooked in a pot using long flat pasta sheets, layered with minced meat, cheese, and tomatoes. Lasagne, the most well-known of all baked pasta dishes, varies from region to region. Tuscans and Emilia-Romagnans make it with a béchamel, a meat ragu, and grated Parmigiano. Ligurians make it with pesto. Try Lasagne made with meat-based sauces like traditional Bolognese, dairy-based sauces like a classic béchamel, and vegetable-based sauces.
A close relative of Fettuccine, linguine is made from long, flat strands of pasta, but is thinner and narrower. Linguine, which means “little tongues” in Italian, originated in the Liguria region of Italy. Throughout this area, the air is fragrant with salty ocean breezes and the aroma of delicious food cooking. Linguine is known to be best paired with traditional pesto. Other perfect matches include tomato, oil-based, or fish-based sauces.
Macaroni, is named for its tubular shape that can vary in size and be either smooth or ridged. Cut Macaroni Pasta originated from Northern and Central Italy, where they are traditionally used in soups. Macaroni are perfect for the Canadian favourites macaroni & cheese and pasta salad. They also pair well with dairy-based sauces (like butter and cheese), tomato-based sauces with or without vegetables, and chunky fish or meat-based sauces.
Manicotti is one of the oldest shapes of pasta that is still prepared today much like it was originally made. In ancient times, pasta dough was prepared, cut into large rectangles, filled with flavorful stuffings, and then rolled and baked in the oven. Manicotti are known for their generous consistency and heartiness, making them perfect for robust and highly flavorful sauces and the most sumptuous and creative fillings. Sauces can be rich in chunks and abundant with moisture to facilitate oven-baking. Try it with meat-based sauces like traditional Bolognese, dairy-based sauces like a classic béchamel, or vegetable-based sauces.
Orecchiette, meaning ‘little ears’ in Italian, is typical of the region of Puglia. It has a unique domed shape, smooth on the inside and grooved on the outside, which makes it perfect for scooping up hearty sauces and fresh vegetables. This pasta is famously paired with salty anchovies, a little chilli and fresh broccoli, but works well with all vegetables and tomato based sauces.
Pappardelle originated in Tuscany in the centre-north of Italy, where it is found in many traditional recipes. The name also originates from the Tuscan dialect, the verb “pappare” means eating with childish joy and pleasure. Pappardelle is an elegant ribbon-like shape, measuring approximately 13mm across. This generous pasta is ideal to enhance rustic sauces, traditionally a thick rabbit ragu, but equally a slow-cooked meat of any kind.
There are few children in Italy who do not grow up eating Pastina, the classic tiny pasta stars that parents first serve as a child’s introduction to the delicious world of pasta. A light and spritely pasta like this can get lost in sauce. Keep it simple by serving it with a light topping, such as olive oil or butter, some seasoning, and maybe a shake of Parmesan cheese. It’s also great in soups!
One of the most famous Italian pasta shapes and loved across Italy, Penne, which means “pen” in Italian, gets its name from its shape. The tube-shape with angled ends was inspired by the quill of an old style ink pen. The large diameter and ridges of Penne make it ideal for retaining sauces on the entire surface, inside and out! Try it with chunkier meat or vegetable-based sauces, refined dairy-based sauces, like a mushroom cream sauce, tomato sauces, or spicy sauces. Penne is also delicious in baked casserole dishes, known as “pasta al forno.”
Rigatoni, inspired by “riga” (ridges), is one of Italy’s most beloved shapes. Born in Rome, this classic pasta was the muse for the famous Italian director, Federico Fellini, who created television commercials in Italy for Barilla in 1985. The large diameter and ridges of Rigatoni make it ideal for retaining sauces on the entire surface, inside and out! Try it with chunkier meat or vegetable-based sauces, refined dairy-based sauces, like a mushroom cream sauce, tomato sauces, or spicy sauces. Rigatoni is also delicious in baked casserole dishes, known as “pasta al forno.”
Rotelle are famous by it´s wagon wheels shape, in fact, this pasta in sometimes referred to as “wagon wheel pasta”. It´s great when combine with thick cream and tomato sauces. It’s also well suited to pasta salad dishes.
Rotini (meaning “twists”) are two-inch lengths of thick, screw-like pasta from Northern Italy. The shape was inspired by children, since it is fun to eat and pairs well with a wide variety of sauces. The twists and spirals of Rotini allow it to embrace both refined and simple sauces. Rotini is perfect paired with light tomato sauces (with or without finely diced vegetables), dairy-based sauces, or oil-based sauces.
Spaghetti is the most popular shape in Italy. The name comes from the Italian word spaghi, which means “lengths of cord.” Spaghetti originates from the south of Italy and is commonly used with tomato sauces, fresh vegetables, or fish. As everybody’s favorite, Spaghetti pairs well with just about any kind of sauce. Try Spaghetti with simple tomato sauce, with or without meat or vegetables (medium-size chunks work well) or try it with fish or oil-based sauces, or carbonara.
History tells us that Tagliatelle was inspired by the hair of Lucrezia Borgia, and was dedicated to her by a poetic and skilful chef on the occasion of her wedding to Alfonso d’Este. Try Tagliatelle with Bolognese sauce, a classic of the Emilian tradition. It is also excellent for creamy sauces with vegetables.
Torchio are elegant twirls of pasta with a bell-like shape. Try it with sauces that have a consistency will lets the get caught in the little cups of the bells of this pasta. It is also great with thick cream or tomato based sauces.
Ziti, the ever-popular tube-shaped pasta, gets its name from the word “zita,” or bride. In Naples, Ziti is the classic pasta served for weddings as the “zita’s pasta”. Try it with fresh, light sauces like olive oil or a simple fresh tomato sauce. Ziti is also great for baked casserole dishes, known as “pasta al forno,” which are delicious with cheese-based sauces.
To truly enjoy a good pasta dish you definitely have to make your own pasta. At this moment you are probably thinking that we lost our mind, but making fresh pasta from scratch it’s not so hard as you might think. You can go check our pasta recipe and you will see that with a few ingredients and a little of knowledge you will be able to make your own pasta.
After making your pasta dough you have to decide which shape you want for your pasta. At this point, you already know many different types of pasta and you also know how to use them, but making all these shapes is another different story. To help you make all these different shapes of pasta we will leave you with the Pastaio of Eataly Flatiron, Luca D’Onofrio, that will teach you how to make incredible shapes of pasta.