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Pasta Shapes 101

While spaghetti is the ideal pasta shape for thin, light sauces, when making a thicker hearty sauce a larger pasta shape is ideal. It's important to choose the pasta shape that best compliments the sauce, for example a chunky meat sauce adheres best to pasta shapes with holes and ridges like rigatoni or mostaccioli and rich creamy sauces work best with the slippery noodles of fettuccine. Since today we are all about pasta I thought it would be fun to overview pasta shapes...until I realized that there are over a hundred various kinds! To see a list of interesting pasta shapes, what their name means in English and which type of sauce works best with them,

Rotini: (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.

Bow Ties, Farfalle: (butterflies)
Bow Ties brighten any meal with their interesting shape. Thick enough for any sauce, or make into a salad or soup.

Ditalini: (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.

Spaghetti: (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.

Orzo: (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.

Fusilli: (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.

Penne, Mostaccioli: (quills and small mustaches, respectively)
This tubular pasta goes well with sauce, used in salads, baked in casseroles, or made into stir fry dishes. There are both ridged and smooth versions. The ridged version will allow sauce to cling a bit more.

Ziti: (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.

Rigatoni: (large grooved)
Rigatoni's ridges and holes are perfect with any sauce, from cream or cheese to the chunkiest meat sauces.

Fettuccine: (small ribbons)
Perfect for heavier sauces, like cheese, meat and tomato sauces. For variety, try breaking in half and putting in soups, or use for a salad.

Have I forgotten to mention your preferred pasta shape? Tell me about it below. If you want to learn more about pasta shapes, check out this complete list of the pastas of the world.


Join The Conversation
Pumpkin-Queen Pumpkin-Queen 9 years
Shell shaped pasta is also like farfalle. I suggest taglierini for veggie pastas with no tomato sauce
tifygodess24 tifygodess24 10 years
Sorry about the double post.. oops!
tifygodess24 tifygodess24 10 years
I love pasta . Penne tends to be the one I buy most in the stores to make at home. Now I want baked ziti...thanks...hahaha :)
arianell arianell 10 years
What a fun post. I'm Italian and I didn't even know what half of these names translated to.
JennaV JennaV 10 years
Wow, this is so informative! I know some of these but not most.
DStirk DStirk 10 years
This is the best post yet, i always get cornfused at restaurants and i feel like the waiters think i am retarded for asking so many questions. thanks yum!
crispet1 crispet1 10 years
Angel hair is good.
lauren lauren 10 years
I had once heard that each pasta shape supposedly represented a body part, just wondering, Yum, have you ever heard anything about this? Orecchiette-ear spaghetti-hair Just wondering?
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