When it comes to pasta, the possibilities are endless. Ranging from your beloved elbow macaroni and long fettuccine pasta to underrated kinds of pasta like rotelli and orzo, there is an overwhelming variety. In fact, pasta is one of those versatile foods that can be freshly prepared at home perhaps from a box in mere minutes, and can also be ordered at a 7-star restaurant as a delicacy. It is devoured across the globe in various forms. People go for dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, mac and cheese, fettuccine Alfredo, Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad, and Potato Gnocchi.
Despite the popularity, when it comes to ordering yourself some pasta or perhaps buying pasta, people just cannot come up with their Italian names like fettuccine or bucatini. We have probably eaten all kinds of pasta, however, when it comes to their names we find ourselves stumped or struggling to recall the particular pasta name. Well, let’s put an end to that confusion. Scroll on for a crash course on the different types of pasta, their uses along with their pictures because the world of pasta is not nearly as exhaustive as it sounds, it is actually pretty incredible. Let’s find out!
Types of pasta
There are so many different types of pasta out there, it is pretty natural to find yourself stumbling with half Italian words. It is actually pretty amazing how just one type of ingredient can be molded and shaped into entirely different-looking food. The good news is, that different types of pasta can be classified into a few quick categories, namely, short pasta, long pasta, sheet pasta, stuffed pasta, and dumpling pasta. This list has around 33 types of pasta broken down into five categories. These are the ones you’re likely to find on an Italian restaurant’s menu and on the aisles of your regular grocery stores.
Just like it sounds long pasta is thin ribbon-like strands. You’d want to pick long pasta when you’re going for creamy sauces and the least number of ingredients, often just one. There are different types of long pasta, like
Spaghetti is one of the common types of long pasta. It’s long and cylinder-shaped. When it comes to thickness it’s thicker than angel’s hair but thinner than bucatini. Spaghetti with meatballs is one of the classic spaghetti dishes.
2. Angel’s hair
Angel’s hair pasta is another long pasta that’s long but thinner than spaghetti. This pasta is usually cooked with light oil and cream-based sauces. Common recipes include a classic marinara sauce pasta paired with shredded chicken.
Bucatini is similar to traditional spaghetti, the only difference is it hollow. This is what makes the noodle more round and thicker looking. It can be used to make soups, sauce-based pasta dishes, as well as casseroles. Since it’s hollow, bucatini helps in relishing extra sauce.
Fettuccine can be explained as flat spaghetti noodles. They are denser, wider, and thicker that’s why they are easy to pair with chunky meat gravies and sauces. Creamy alfredo fettuccine is common recipe.
Linguine is similar to fettuccine, the only difference is fettuccine is wider. Linguine is usually paired with seafood dishes and white wine sauces. If you’re craving linguine pasta, you must go for any cream or white wine-based recipe.
If you have been told long pasta cannot get wider than fettuccine, meet pappardelle pasta noodles. Pappardelle is just divine with rich meat-based dressings. It is mostly used for bolognese and seafood-based pasta dishes. Since it’s big, you can toss it with all kinds of wholesome sauces.
Another long pasta that you must know about is tagliatelle. Typically it is mistaken for Its fettuccine because they are both flattened and have identical widths. However, tagliatelle usually has a thicker bite. It is perfect for rich tomato and meat-based sauces.
Another long pasta that’s really thin is vermicelli. These skinny noodles taste perfect with some olive oil and tomatoes. They are also used in soups and stir-fry dishes. It is important to note that there are two types of vermicelli noodles, Italian vermicelli which is made up of semolina, and Asian vermicelli which is made up of rice noodles.
When it comes to short pasta, there are a variety of shapes and types out there. Short noodles usually taste best which thick and chunky sauces. They can be made with lots of meat and vegetables. Some common types of short pasta are:
You’ve got to know about elbow pasta, you might call it macaroni from your everyday stable mac and cheese. This small, half-circled pasta is also an extraordinary choice of pasta for making casseroles.
Another very popular type of short pasta is penne pasta. It is likely that you have a jar of penne pasta in your pantry. This hollow cylindrical noodle has slanted edges, which makes it an ideal choice for holding flavorful sauce. Penne pasta is also known as mostaccioli. It can be used in casseroles or in a chicken or zucchini-based dish.
You’ve probably wanted to order some fusilli in arrabbiata sauce and struggled with the name. Not anymore, these spiral-shaped noodles are one of the most appealing short pasta. Because it is spiraled it has the power to grab all the extra sauce or dressing. Also, it’s sturdy which makes it easy to toss with meat-based thick sauces like marinara. It’s also widely used in pasta salads.
Campanelle pasta is an underrated short pasta that’s rolled like a cone. It has ruffled edges which make it look like a small bell-shaped flower. It’s hollow in the center which helps it hold thick sauces. Next time, you want to make your mac and cheese with a twist, pick campanelle pasta.
These are another not-that popular tube-shaped pasta with slightly open but rolled edges. They are loosely rolled and slightly twisted. These are also hollow which helps them hold the sauce.
Again, a perfect alternative for your daily mac and cheese, these hollow noodles are spiral-shaped. They are also popularly known as the double elbow pasta. The twists and turns in these noodles work perfectly to hold the space and keep it trapped. Plus, it looks so exciting.
If you’re looking for something to revive your regular soup and casserole recipes, you must opt for radiatori noodles. Its unique shape is said to resemble radiators and is also popularly known as pagoda pasta.
You’ve got to try these short pasta if you like fusilli pasta. In fact, people usually mistake it for fusilli noodles because they look quite similar. The only difference is rotini has a tighter spiral as compared to fusilli. Rotini is also popularly known as corkscrew-shaped pasta. From thicker and meatier sauces to oil-based or creamy bases rotini is just perfect for a pasta dish.
Although it sounds super complicated, farfalle is a cute little bow tie. Honestly, it is one of the cutest-looking short pasta out there. It can be used to make a perfect pasta salad or a creamy bowl of pasta.
Gemelli pasta noodles are simply two thin noodles twisted together more or like a DNA strand. These beautifully shaped pasta noodles are another perfect alternative for a sauce-based vegetable pasta or an oil-based pasta recipe.
Rotelli pasta noodles are small bite-sized pasta that looks like a little wheel. If you’re making a recipe for kids you must pick Rotelli pasta. It’s perfect for soups and sauce-based recipes.
Rigatoni looks a lot like penne because they are both cylinder-shaped. The difference between the two pasta is rigatoni is a little stumpier when compared. Plus, it does not have slanted edges. Rigatoni is also hollow which works to hold and retain pasta sauces.
Orecchiette noodles are shell or ear-shaped bite-size noodles. Their interesting shape makes it perfect for all kinds of pasta recipes. You can simply toss it with creamy sauces for a flavorful bite.
Ziti is another short pasta noodle that looks a lot like penne. It’s cylindrical, and narrow, but has straight edges. When it comes to recipes baked ziti is one of the most popular ones. They are casserole-friendly and at the same time taste fantastic when tossed with some olive oil or perhaps rich tomato sauce.
Conchiglie is just another shell-shaped short pasta. They are available in a number of sizes and are perfect for thick or meaty gravies.
Orzo is one of the smallest pasta noodles out there. In fact, they are so small, that people often mistake them for grain. Resembling the shape of rice these pasta noodles are just perfect to improve the textures of soups. Plus they taste terrific in a salad.
Another short pasta that’s definitely beloved is ditalini. These bite-sized pasta noodles are like elbow noodles without the curve. They are actually super small cylinders. They can substitute almost all kinds of pasta. It’s commonly used in recipes like minestrone soup and pasta fagioli.
Another pasta category that allows a variety of experimentation is sheet pasta. These pasta noodles are shaped like sheets. Yes, they are thin and flat just like sheets of paper. Here is the common sheet pasta.
Lasagne is a comfort food that makes lasagne sheets one of the most common pasta types. These flat pasta sheets taste like a dream when layered with cheese and your choice of meat sauce. People also go for vegan lasagne recipes that are just as delicious.
Filled pasta is one of the most fascinating pasta types. These pasta noodles can actually be stuffed with a filling of your choice. You may fill it with cheesy veggies or meat of your choice, they just do not disappoint. Here is a few common filled pasta:
Tortellini are little donuts like pasta noodles. You can go for store-bought cheese or meat stuffed tortellini or handmake them like a pro, either way, they just taste amazing. They are usually served with broth or tomato soup. You can also toss them with a little herbed olive oil and serve them with parmesan cheese.
Ravioli is another filled pasta that’s square-shaped. Again, you can get pre-stuffed ravioli in your grocery store aisles or go for hand-making them. Right from cheese-filled veggies to meat ravioli can be stuffed with anything.
Manicotti can be imagined as huge penne noodles. Yep, it’s exactly the same shape and texture, manicotti is just larger. Manicotti can be full of cheese and sauce stuffing. They can also be used to bake casseroles or cooked with a meat-based thick filling.
Cannelloni noodles are huge tube-shaped pasta with no ridges. It’s basically like a sheet of pasta that’s rolled as tubes. Stuff it with some cheese, spinach, and corn, you have yourself a gorgeous-looking healthy meal.
31. Jumbo shells
Just like the names suggest jumbo shells are jumbo-sized shell-shaped noodles. Actually, they simply are large-sized conchiglie pasta. Since is large in size it can be stuffed with interesting fillings. People usually go with cheese-based fillings and top it up with tomato sauces or herbs.
Mezzelune pasta looks a lot like flattened potsticker. They are basically hand-rolled pasta that is cut into ovals, stuffed with a filling of choice, and then folded in half. They are also known as crescent-shaped stuffed because of their half-moon-like shape.
If you are a pasta lover, you must make yourself aware of this pasta category. Here is the most beloved dumpling pasta noodle you must know about:
Gnocchi is Italian miniature pasta dumplings that are made with potatoes along with flour and eggs. With a rich potato flavor, they are definitely a striking type of pasta. Gnocchi can be cooked with creamy sauce or can be baked with pesto sauce, it always brings out a unique flavor.
Other special types of pasta
Pasta is undoubtedly one of the most versatile kinds of food there is. Apart from these 33 types of pasta, pasta can also be classified in various categories other than shape. Your grocery store aisles are likely to have a pasta category that’s gluten-free versions, whole grain pasta, or whole wheat pasta. People usually go for these categories as a way to have their favorite pasta dishes while consuming a balanced diet.
How to pick the right pasta for your sauce?
Believe it or not, when it comes to pasta picking the right combination of sauce and pasta shape is extraordinarily important. In fact, it’s half the job done. Typically, if you’re going for larger pasta, you must go for thicker meaty gravies as they can hold the sauce and are more flavorful. While thinner and longer pasta is suitable for light oil-based or cream-based sauces. Here is a quick guide with common pasta shapes and suggest recipes.
Baked pasta dishes
If you’re going for baked pasta dishes you must pick pasta shapes like elbows, gemelli, orzo, penne rigate, penne ziti, radiatorre, rigatoni, shells, or tortellini. Popular baked pasta dishes are, cheese baked ziti, baked eggplant cheese ziti, and baked cheese rigatoni
Butter or oil-based pasta dishes
If you’re going for butter or oil-based pasta dishes, the recommended pasta shapes are bucatini, capellini, linguine, penne, ziti, shells, or spaghetti.
Here are some common but classic recipes: pasta a cacio e pepe, pasta alla gricia, and spaghetti all ‘aglio.
If you’re going for carbonara the recommended pasta shapes are fusilli and spaghetti. Carbonara pasta with brussels sprouts and bucatini alla carbonara are some common carbonara recipes.
Cream or cheese-based pasta
If you’re going for cream or cheese-based pasta here are the recommended pasta shapes: casarecce, elbows, farfalle, fettuccine, linguine, penne, ziti, and radiatorre. Here are some common cheese-based pasta recipes, pumpkin alfredo, penne with peas, pancetta & cream
and ziti with sweet peas and prosciutto
If you’re going for meat-based pasta sauces you can pair them with pasta shapes like fusilli, rigatoni, shells, elbows, or spaghetti. Go for classic meat-based recipes like bolognese sauce, braised beef with fusilli, or Sunday sauce.
Make your pasta salads a lot more fun by pairing them with pasta shapes like elbows, farfalle, fusilli, orecchiette, orzo, penne, ziti, or shells. Pick pasta dishes like Italian pasta salad, spicy veggies pasta salad, or chicken caesar pasta salad
If you’re going for seafood sauces, it is wise to pick pasta shapes like bucatini, fettuccine, linguine, penne, ziti, or spaghetti. Go for dishes like linguine with clam sauce, classic shrimp pasta, or pasta with tuna sauce
If you’re going for soups you must add orzo or any other short pasta. Go for recipes like pasta fagioli or chicken soup with whole-wheat pasta.
If you’re going for classic tomato-based sauces, you must pick ziti, penne, fusilli, or spaghetti. Common tomato-based recipes are fresh tomato pasta sauce and spaghetti pomodoro.
Vegetable-rich pasta sauces
If you’re going for veggie-filled pasta dishes the recommended pasta shapes are bucatini, elbows, fusilli, rigatoni, penne, ziti, radiatorre, rigatoni, shells, or spaghetti. Go for simple vegetable-rich recipes like chickpea and caponata pasta or simple marinara sauce pasta with mushrooms.