Get out of your pasta rut with this guide to 26 pasta shapes
Some pasta shapes are meant to be stuffed, while others are ideal for catching chunks of meat and vegetables.
As any pasta lover knows, there are many types of pasta, and the beloved carb comes in all shapes and sizes. Some pasta have long, stringy shapes, and some are short spirals. Some have distinct shapes resembling shells or bow ties, while some have shapes very similar to seeds or grains.
Click here to see the A Pasta Lover's Guide to Pasta Shapes (Slideshow)
Depending on its shape, certain varieties of pasta are better paired with certain sauces and dishes. Vermicelli, a thin spaghetti-like pasta sometimes broken into short pieces, is ideal for soups or noodle salads. Manicotti, short, wide pasta tubes, are meant to be stuffed with meat, cheese, and vegetables. And ruote’s wagon-wheel shape goes well with many types of dishes, but its spokes are especially great for catching chunks of meat and vegetables in thick sauces.
It’s easy to get stuck in a pasta rut and continuously fall back on a pasta shape you know and love. But knowing which pasta shapes go best with different sauces and dishes might encourage you to get out of that routine and try new pasta combinations.
This guide to pasta varieties can help you branch out of your one-shape habit and experiment with all sorts of pasta dishes.
Haley WIllard is The Daily Meal's assistant editor. Follow her on Twitter @haleywillrd.
A guide to the pasta shapes of Italy
Italy is home to thousands of types of pasta, from well-known quills and tubes, to unusual shapes handmade from region to region. Know your gigli from your trofie with help from our guide to local pasta variations.
Every one of Italy’s 20 regions has a distinctive cuisine – partly shaped by climate and terrain, partly due to history. You’ll find truffles and creamy Gorgonzola in the mountainous northern region of Piedmont cured meat and flavourful tomatoes in the fertile central region of Umbria and artichokes and seafood in Sicily, at Italy’s southern tip.
These ingredients are often used in sauces, and paired with pasta shapes specifically designed to hold the sauce in the best way possible. For this reason, many regions have created their own pasta shapes – although their origin is often hotly disputed among Italians!
Ah penne, the classic pasta shape. Campania is a southern region of Italy and is home to Naples, Mount Vesuvius, and the beautiful Amalfi Coast. Campania is known as one of the best regions for food with some of the best fresh fish, pizza, and espresso. Its most famous pasta, penne, means ‘pen’ or ‘quill’, accurately reflecting the slanted shape of the cylindrical pasta. Penne is perfect for cheesy, saucy pasta bakes. Try out this simple penne with balsamic sauce recipe.
9. Acini Di Pepe by De Cecco
Acini Di Pepe named after pepper-corn are tiny individual cylinder pieces. They are ideal for creating steamy soups and refreshing salads. With a cooking time of under 8 minutes, this unusually shaped Italian pasta is perfect for quick week-day meals. As Acini Di Pepe resembles pepper, it would be a crime not to pair it with some ground black pepper, a squeeze of lemon, and, of course, some parmesan.
Recipes we recommend trying: Spinach and Feta Acini Di Pepe, Acini Di Pepe Vegetable Soup, ‘Risotto’ with Caramelized Onion.
Types of Pasta
There are now hundreds of pasta choices at grocery stores and restaurants. While endless pasta options sounds exciting – and delicious! – it can be easy to get confused when you’re looking for a quick, tasty, and healthy pasta dish. We break down the main types of pasta, their nutritional benefits, and the dishes they work best in.
Known for its milder flavor and tenderness, white pasta is sometimes called “refined.” Classic white is a great blank canvas for adding veggies and protein. From a nutritional stand point, white pasta is fortified with three major B vitamins (niacin, thiamin and riboflavin), iron and the B vitamin folic acid, which is critical in the prevention of some birth defects. In fact, enriched pasta contains six times more folic acid than its whole grain counterpart.
Whole Grain Pastas
Whole grains are found in their natural state growing on the farm and are actually the edible seed of the plant. All whole grains, including whole grain pasta, are composed of the entire kernel — all three components in their entirety: the endosperm or starchy part of the grain kernel, the germ, or embryo which is where the plant sprouts from, and the protective outer layer known as the bran layer. The bran has most of the fiber along with B vitamins, vitamin E, minerals like magnesium, antioxidants and phytonutrients. The germ also contains B vitamins and minerals, but in addition it has some protein and healthy unsaturated fats. The endosperm is mainly carbohydrate. Research shows that as part of a healthy diet, whole grains may reduce the risks associated with heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity, promote healthy aging and increase longevity. The USDA Dietary Guidelines encourage Americans to make half their grains whole grains.
Whole Wheat Pastas
In response to dietary guidance urging Americans to include more whole grains in their diets, manufacturers have introduced whole wheat pasta varieties. Whole wheat pasta contains the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients found in the entire grain and promotes a healthy diet.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat and related grains like barley, rye, spelt, faro, and bulgur. Aside from pasta, a few popular foods made from these grains are breads and cereals. Gluten helps pasta maintain its many shapes and gives it the slightly chewy texture. Gluten-free pastas can be made from ingredients such as rice or corn. While gluten-free pasta is tasty and can be a preference, individuals who have not been diagnosed by a doctor with a condition, such as Celiac disease, derive no nutritional benefit by choosing to eat gluten-free pastas.
Rice pastas, sometimes referred to as rice noodles, are made from rice flour and can often be found in Asian grocery stores or in the international section of supermarkets. Versatile with mild flavor, they’re often used in stir-fries and soups. With a delicate texture and no gluten, rice noodles are perfect for those who have a gluten sensitivity or allergy.
6 Definitive Guides to all the Names of Pasta
It's the lifeblood of pantries around the world, the go to dish when you're down (and when you're up), the food of champions, families, students and Michelin starred restaurants. yes, you guessed it, we're talking Italy's beloved pasta.
If you're Italian, or a pasta purist, there's a lot to know about pasta, from the different shapes to matching the right sauces, and that's before you nail the al dente cooking.
With several hundred varieties of pasta to choose from, from long to short and everything else in between, being on first name terms with pasta, outside of the usual favourites, is something of a memory and recognition challenge.
We take the guess work out of it with these six visual guides that give you all the need to know names of pasta along with serving suggestions, plus a video on how to make homemade pasta straight from the Simili sisters themselves.
The A - Z Of Pasta Shapes - From Anelli To Ziti
The world of pasta shapes is a crazy one. There are long pasta shapes, short pasta shapes, curly pasta shapes and even ones that look like little ears (mmmm, appetising. ). So to help you understand the difference between fettucine and bavette, and to get an idea of what sauces work best with the likes of penne, farfelle and strozzapreti (which means 'priest choker' in Italian, btw *gulp*), here's a handy guide. An A - Z of pasta shapes, if you will.
Category: Soup pasta
Literal meaning: Rings
Typical pasta cooking time: 7-10 minutes
Anelli is best served as part of delicious Italian soups.
Category: Ribbon pasta
Literal meaning: Little drip-threads
Typical pasta cooking time: 6-9 minutes
Bavette is a narrower version of tagliatelle, so it works well with creamy sauces like our Creamy Tuscan sausage pasta.
Category: Strand pasta
Typical pasta cooking time: 9-12 minutes
Types of Pasta
There are two major classifications: pasta fresca (fresh) and pasta secca (dried). From here, there are more than 400 unique types of pasta: sheets, strips, long strands, cylinders, unique shapes, flavors, and many other local varieties. There are more names for pasta than the mind can retain, yet all are made from the same basic ingredients — 100% durum wheat and water with a specific percentage of acidity and humidity under Italian law. Varying from the basics, light flavors and colors can be added to pasta with egg yolk, spinach, tomato paste, chocolate, and even squid ink. Each of these pastas creates its own unique dining experience when properly served. Another crucial aspect of the experience is pasta being married with an appropriate, complimentary sauce. The individual shape and texture given to pasta can be somewhat of a code in determining the proper sauce. A simple rule of thumb would be as follows: thick pasta = thick sauce, light pasta = light sauce.
Pasta fresca, the starting point of all pastas, is created with higher humidity, and some types only exist in this category. Variations can often be regional. Northern Italy is known to use all-purpose flour and eggs, while southern Italy uses the standard semolina and water mixture. Reputed to have the best pasta fresca in Italy, the Emilia-Romagna region often serves fresh pasta with cream sauces. Another regional variation could be found in Piedmont where butter and black truffles are a common ingredient. Other ingredients vary, from potatoes to ricotta.
Special tools are used when making dried pasta. First, the pasta is forced through holes in a die-plate and onto sheets for cutting. The next step is drying. Pasta secca is only considered real pasta if it is made in the proper Italian way, slow-drying it for upwards of fifty hours in a copper mold, and then in the open air. The rest of the world usually dries pasta in steel molds at extremely high temperatures for short periods of time, resulting in an inferior product. Italians take pride in their method and can be proud of a smoother tasting, quicker cooking pasta that can hold on to its sauce.
Amatriciana Pasta Sauce
Need a simple dinner idea? Amatriciana pasta sauce needs just a few ingredients but packs a whole lot of flavor.
Tomatoes make the base of this sauce, and other ingredients include olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and basil.
The star of the sauce, however, is guanciale. This is cured pork cheek, which is sauteed and then added to the sauce.
Alfredo Pasta Sauce
The classic white pasta sauce, alfredo is rich and creamy, not to mention delicious. Just don’t think too hard about the rich ingredients that are used!
To make alfredo sauce, start with plenty of butter. Add whipping cream and parmesan cheese. You can even add some cream cheese for a richer texture.
Other ingredients include garlic, salt, pepper, and Italian herbs. Serve with fettuccine noodles to make the classic fettuccine alfredo.
Frutti di mare Pasta Sauce
Seafood lovers will want to add this recipe to their repertoire. It is a light, simple sauce and the real star of the whole dish is definitely the seafood.
In addition to basic ingredients, such as garlic, salt, onions, tomatoes, and pepper, there should be plenty of seafood. This includes scallops, clams, shrimp, and mussels.
The real beaty of Frutti di mare pasta sauce is the presentation. The mussels and clams should be boiled until they are open and served in their shells.
Roasted Tomato Pasta Sauce
While some red pasta sauces can be used with canned tomatoes, roasted tomato pasta sauce is all about fresh tomatoes.
To start with, use smaller, cherry tomatoes. Cut them in half and then place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the tomatoes with olive oil, garlic, salt, and tomato, and bake for up to four hours.
Once cooked, simply puree the tomatoes and serve over fresh pasta. It really is that simple.
Bechamel Pasta Sauce
In French cooking, there are five basic sauces that all good cooks should know. Bechamel is one of them.
Simple in its origin, once you have mastered a bechamel sauce, you can then turn it into further masterpieces. At its base, combine flour and butter to make a roux. Then, add milk, parmesan cheese, and spices, such as salt, pepper, and chili flakes.
If you want to, you can add extras such as chicken, broccoli, and even mushrooms.
Some pasta sauces are incredibly healthy and some are, well, less so. Carbonara sauce falls into the latter category but is still a treat to indulge in.
Ingredients such as heavy cream, pancetta, pecorino cheese, and egg yolks are used to create a rich and hearty sauce full of flavor.
Butter Flavored Sauce
Picky kids will always exist so instead of fighting it, why not do your best and hope the phase ends soon. As its name implies, a butter flavored sauce is pretty basic.
Once you have cooked your pasta, such as linguini, toss it in butter. If you want to be a bit adventurous, you can add salt, pepper, fresh herbs, and even grated parmesan cheese.
Pomodoro Pasta Sauce
Another essential basic, Pomodoro sauce is rustic and simple to make. All you need are halved cherry tomatoes, olive oil, onions, garlic, salt, and basil.
Everything can be cooked in one frying pan together, with herbs added to taste. You can serve a Pomodoro pasta sauce on its own or add some gorgeous shrimp to liven it up.
If you look at the ingredient list of a puttanesca sauce, you might be a bit worried. But trust us that when they cook together, the result is delicious.
Puttanesca sauce includes black olives, anchovies, and capers. It also has staples such as tomatoes, garlic, and red pepper flakes.
If you’re trying to find an even more basic pasta sauce than a marinara, then Napolitana sauce is perfect.
It is made from just tomatoes, garlic, salt, and basil. This is a simple, incredibly versatile sauce that can be thrown together no matter how tired you are.
Adding a bit of spice to dinner is always a lively decision. With arrabiata sauce, you can have a warm, hearty meal.
Start with a basic tomato sauce, including tomatoes, olive oil, and spices. The extra ingredients include ground pork, chopped prosciutto, celery, and carrots.
You can add red chili flakes for a hotter element, or even add spicy Italian sausage.
Pesto Pasta Sauce
Sometimes it’s fun to add a bit of whimsy when making pasta. Red, white, and green sauces are often used to represent the Italian flag, and if you’re looking for a green sauce, then pesto is the best consideration.
Pesto pasta sauce is quite simple but incredibly delicious. It uses pine nuts, olive oil, basil, garlic, and parmesan cheese.
While you can blend everything together in a food processor, you can also use an old fashioned mortar and pestle. Once finely ground, the pesto sauce is ready to be devoured.
Umbrian Ragu Pasta Sauce
A rich, meaty dish, Umbrian ragu pasta sauce highlights the savory taste of pork, while combining it with plenty of vegetables.
Ground pork and prosciutto are used in this pasta sauce, along with celery, onions, and carrots. Tomatoes, red wine, and spices round it out.
After cooking for a few hours, you will have a thick sauce perfect for a cold winter day.
Salsa di Noci Pasta Sauce
For a nuttier dish, try salsa di Noci pasta sauce. It uses walnuts that are blended with milk-soaked bread. Parmesan cheese, garlic, lemon juice, salt, pepper, olive oil, and parsley are also used.
The blended sauce is incredibly rich, creamy, and thick. You can always alter the consistency by adding more milk.
Truffle Cream Pasta Sauce (Tartufata Pasta Sauce)
Sometimes, a bit of elegance is needed, and truffle cream pasta sauce may be the way to liven up dinner. Along with basic ingredients such as butter, olive oil, and parmesan cheese, truffles are used.
You can cut a few corners and purchase ready-made truffle meals if it is too hard, or too expensive to find raw truffles.
Bolognese Pasta Sauce
Another classic pasta sauce recipe, Bolognese sauce essentially takes a marinara sauce but adds ground beef to it.
Start by browning the ground beef in a pan with oil and onions. You can also add carrots and celery.
Other ingredients include fresh tomatoes, garlic, white wine, and Italian spices. Cook and add spices to your preferences for a delicious meat sauce.
Funghi E Piselli Pasta Sauce
If you’re looking to add more vegetables to your diet, funghi E piselli pasta sauce is the way to go. It includes such healthy ingredients as snap peas, pearl onions, and cremini mushrooms.
To balance the healthiness, plenty of cream and parmesan cheese are also added. Lemon juice and white wine are also essential ingredients.
Those looking for a vegetarian pasta sauce option, or who simply want the nutrition that beans bring, can opt for this alternative, bean bolognaise sauce.
Start with plenty of vegetables, including onions, celery, and carrots. Also add tomato paste and garlic.
Red wine, tomatoes, and Italian herbs add depth to the sauce. For beans, use cannellini beans as they have a subtle flavor and rich texture.
Perhaps the most well-known and versatile pasta sauce, marinara is elegant in its simplicity. It can be used for a basic spaghetti recipe or used as a base for more complex dishes.
Marinara sauce is easy to make. You just need tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, onions, oregano, and salt.
What’s really nice about marinara sauce is that you can use fresh tomatoes or canned, depending on the season. Then, cook all the ingredients together, adding extra herbs and salt to taste.
Vegan Tomato Pasta Sauce
Despite its technical name, a vegan tomato pasta sauce is quite simple to create. Just like marinara sauce, it doesn’t include meat and instead relies on the simple freshness of its ingredients.
Tomatoes make the base of this sauce, as well as olive oil, onions, and garlic. You can add a bit of sugar for a sweeter taste and red chili flakes for a spicier taste.
Finish the sauce off with fresh basil, salt, and pepper.
Tomatoes' strong, savory flavor can help satisfy us sooner, so we may eat less without trying. We added almonds to up the slim-down factor: Dieters who ate the nuts daily lost 56 percent more fat than those who didn't, a study from Loma Linda University finds the nuts' fiber may prevent fat absorption.
Savory cheese and chicken stock share the spotlight here with high-fiber chickpeas. Adding 1/2 cup of these lean beans to your daily diet can help you cut your consumption of fatty foods, a study in the journal Appetite notes.
A wide tube of pasta stuffed with a filling and then baked. They first appeared around the beginning of the twentieth century, although they probably derived from crêpes and stuffed maccheroni, which are much older. They became immensely popular in the 1940s just after the Second World War, as they were easy to prepare in advance.
The most common fillings include spinach and ricotta or a minced beef filling, but – like tortellini or other stuffed pastas – there are all sorts of ingredients you can use to stuff them.