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Pasta Guide: 28 Types of Pasta and How to Serve Them

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Aug 28, 2020 • 6 min read

Pasta can be a simple comfort food or haute cuisine. Learn about the different types of pasta, from fusilli to capellini, and the best sauces to serve with each.



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28 Traditional Types of Pasta

  1. Fettuccine: Fettuccine ("little ribbons" in Italian) is a flat pasta traditionally made with an egg and durum wheat dough. Popular in Rome and Tuscany, fettuccine is commonly served in fettuccine alfredo, and it pairs well with ragù, or meat sauce.
  2. Tagliatelle: The word tagliatelle comes from the Italian "to cut." Similar to fettuccine but typically slightly wider, this flat pasta is popular in Bologna and classically served with bolognese sauce.
  3. Pappardelle: Much wider than fettuccine and tagliatelle, pappardelle is a Tuscan pasta often served with a chunky sauce.
  4. Mafalda: Mafalda is a wide (half an inch), flat pasta with ruffled edges. It's usually served with a light sauce such as vodka sauce.
  5. Lasagna: Lasagna is the widest of the flat pasta types. It's also the name of the Italian pasta dish made from layers of pasta sheets and ragù to form a casserole. Cannelloni are cylindrical lasagne, and manicotti are ridged cylindrical lasagne.
  6. Linguine: Linguine, which means "little tongues," is a long, thin pasta like fettuccine, but it's not flat. Instead, it's slightly curved. It's also made with durum wheat and egg.
  7. Penne: Penne means feathers or quills. It's a tube-shaped pasta from Genoa. Penne are cut on the diagonal and can either be ridged (penne rigate) or smooth (penne lisce). Its tubes are the perfect vehicles for smooth sauces such as marinara, arrabbiata, and pesto.
  8. Macaroni: In Italy, macaroni is any short, tube-shaped pasta. For example, cavatappi is a corkscrew-shaped macaroni. In the United States, macaroni is typically elbow macaroni. The curved tubes are ideal for holding the cheese sauce in a classic macaroni and cheese.
  9. Ziti: Ziti is a tube-shaped pasta that can be ridged or smooth and is most often baked into a casserole with a tomato and ground meat sauce. Ziti is larger than penne but smaller than rigatoni.
  10. Rigatoni: Rigatoni is a tube-shaped pasta that almost always has ridges to catch sauce. (Rigato means “ridged” in Italian.) Rigatoni can vary in size, but they're typically larger than ziti and sometimes slightly curved. Tortiglioni are similar to rigatoni, but their ridges follow a spiraling pattern.
  11. Ditalini: Ditalini means “small thimbles” in Italian. The short, smooth tubes are traditionally used in pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans) and soups.
  12. Bucatini: Bucatini looks like spaghetti, but it's actually hollow inside. The long, skinny tubes are perfect for holding amatriciana, a tomato and guanciale sauce.
  13. Vermicelli: Vermicelli ("little worms") is thicker than spaghetti but thinner than bucatini. Like bucatini, it's often served with amatriciana sauce.
  14. Farfalle: Farfalle means “butterfly” in Italian, but this Northern Italian variety is commonly known as “bow tie” in English. It looks exactly like a bow tie, and it works well with most cream sauces and tomato sauces.
  15. Fusilli: Known as “rotini” in the United States, this corkscrew-shaped pasta is great for pasta salads.
  16. Ravioli: The most famous of the stuffed pastas, ravioli are typically square or circular. They can be filled with almost anything, but ricotta is traditional.
  17. Tortellini and tortelloni: Tortellini and tortelloni are both stuffed pastas shaped into rings. Tortellini are traditionally stuffed with meat and served in broth, while slightly larger tortelloni are typically filled with cheese and served in a butter sauce.
  18. Orzo: Orzo means “barley” in Italy, where this pasta shape is commonly known as risoni (large rice). Although orzo is made from pasta, it looks like a grain. Orzo is a great choice for pasta salads.
  19. Cavatelli: Cavatelli translates to "little hollows" in Italian. Cavatelli look somewhat like hot dog buns. They can be smooth or ridged, and the hollow is perfect for catching light sauces, traditionally broccoli-based.
  20. Conchiglie: This seashell-shaped pasta has ridges on the outside and a large hollow on the inside. Conchiglie is a great shape for either stuffing or serving with chunky sauces.
  21. Gemelli: Gemelli is the Italian word for “twins,” but it's made from a single strand of twisted pasta. The twists are great for catching creamy sauces or pesto.
  22. Campanelle: The name of this pasta shape means "little bells." Campanelle pasta looks like a trumpet or flower with ruffled edges. The ruffles and interior can catch thick sauces.
  23. Capellini: Capellini ("little hairs") are thin strands of pasta. The thinnest variety is capelli d'angelo, or angel hair. This thin, long pasta goes best with light sauces.
  24. Casarecce: Casarecce is a Sicilian pasta shape consisting of a split tube with curved in edges that gently twist. This versatile shape works well with many different sauces.
  25. Gnocchi: Gnocchi are pasta dumplings that can be made from wheat, potato, or cheese. The dumplings are typically simply sauced with butter or pesto.
  26. Rotelle: Known as “wagon wheels” in the United States, rotelle are a fun shape for pasta salads and baked dishes.
  27. Orecchiette: Orecchiette means “little ears” in Italian, and this pasta from Apulia in Southern Italy looks like its name—it consists of a small, slightly concave round traditionally made by pressing a thumb into the wheat-and-water pasta dough. Orecchiette work well with light sauces, such as the Apulian orecchiette alle cime di rapa (orecchiette with broccoli rabe).
  28. Pastina: Pastina is a style of super-tiny pasta that comes in many shapes, including stars, risi (rice), rings, and more. Pastina is typically served as a soup.

8 Essential Pasta Sauces

  1. Pesto: Pesto sauce is made from fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, extra-virgin olive oil, and parmesan cheese. Traditional pesto pasta recipes call for pounding the pesto with a mortar and pestle, but today most home cooks use a food processor. Basil pesto is a versatile sauce that goes well with everything from penne pasta salad with fresh cherry tomatoes, to gnocchi topped with grated parmesan.
  2. Alfredo: Alfredo sauce is a cream sauce made with parmesan cheese and heavy cream. This rich sauce is classically paired with fettuccine.
  3. Bolognese: Bolognese is a meat sauce (ragù) from Bologna, Italy. Bolognese is traditionally made with a soffritto, ground beef, ground pork, dry white wine, and tomato. Pasta bolognese is traditionally made with tagliatelle or lasagna, but spaghetti works, too.
  4. Marinara: Marinara is a meatless tomato sauce made simply of tomatoes, onions, garlic, and fresh basil or oregano. This simple sauce goes well with ricotta-stuffed pasta.
  5. Pomodoro: Pomodoro is a lighter tomato sauce, made with fresh tomatoes and olive oil. It goes well with orecchiette.
  6. Arrabbiata: Arrabbiata is a spicy Roman tomato sauce made with hot dried red peppers, tomato, garlic, and olive oil. Penne is the classic pasta shape for this sauce.
  7. Carbonara: Pasta carbonara is made with egg yolks and pecorino romano or parmesan cheese cooked in hot pasta water with the addition of cured pork, such as guanciale or pancetta. Any long pasta will work for carbonara: spaghetti, bucatini, fettuccine, rigatoni, or linguine.
  8. Cacio e pepe: Cacio e pepe means “cheese and black pepper.” As with carbonara, swirling the al dente pasta with pecorino romano and hot pasta water makes a strand-coating sauce. It's usually made with spaghetti.
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