Here's a chart setting out the different types of pasta noodles and shapes followed by photos of each type and descriptions. The ultimate pasta guide.
Despite being a staple in Italian cuisine, did you know that 1.5 million tons of pasta are exported by the country every year?
But it shouldn’t be so surprising anyways. After all, pasta is everyone’s favorite. Not only is pasta quick and easy to make, but it also tastes great and can be prepared for any occasion and at any time. Be it with tomato sauce, white sauce, vegetables, meatballs, or with any other seasoning; pasta can be added to soups and salads, prepared in a casserole or eaten however you wish.
You might be cooking pasta at least once a week but how deep is your knowledge about the different types of pasta available in the market? Unless you are a chef or a culinary student, it is likely that macaroni and spaghetti are all that you are familiar with. But did you know that there are over 600 different types of pasta in the world?
Depending on the ingredients, shape, size, texture, and intended use, pasta can be classified into numerous types. Here we have gathered the most common types of pasta that are popular all over the world and the various ways in which they can be used. Read on to find more.
Table of Contents
- Long and Medium Length Pasta Noodles
- Flat Cut Pasta
- Pasta in Short, Cut Pieces
- Pasta with Decorative Cuts
- Miniature Pasta
Long and Medium Length Pasta Noodles
Spaghetti is amongst the most popular types of pasta that is widely used all over the world. Derived from the Italian words for ‘thin strings,’ spaghetti refers to thin, cylindrical strands of pasta that are normally about 10 inches long. Made from flour, water, and semolina, spaghetti is commonly served with a variety of sauces, meats, vegetables, and some other food ingredients. For instance, spaghetti tossed in marinara sauce and topped with meatballs and mushrooms is everyone’s favorite.
If you have ever ordered a dish of ‘spaghetti’ or bought a packet of spaghetti and wondered why the noodles seem thinner than usual, then that’s probably because it is spaghettini.
Spaghettini is completely similar to the traditional spaghetti. The only difference is that spaghettini is a lot thinner than spaghetti (but thicker than vermicelli). Many people don’t realize it but the thickness of the pasta noodles makes a significant impact on the taste and overall flavor of the dish.
Spaghettini is best served with tomato-based or olive oil-based sauces. You will also find it commonly used in exotic dishes due to its delicacy and the visual appeal that it adds.
Have you ever eaten straw-like pasta? If you have, then you have eaten bucatini. Bucatini is a type of pasta noodles that is similar to spaghetti, except that it is thicker and has a hole running in the center throughout its entirety.
Bucatini comes from the Italian word ‘buco’, which means hole and ‘bucato’ which means pierced. This type of pasta tastes great in casseroles or stewed in a broth with fresh and juicy tomatoes because the hollow center allows it to soak as much sauce as possible so that each bite is bold and full of flavor.
Linguini pasta is thicker but slightly flattened compared to spaghetti. This pasta shape is famously used for Linguini with clams, which most Italian restaurants offer. Other pasta dishes use linguini as well.
Fettucini is a long, flat noodle that is commonly used with creamy pasta sauce dishes such as Fettucini Alfredo and other cream sauces. I actually like Fettucini for all dishes because I like the thicker, dense noodle.
Flat Cut Pasta
Who hasn’t heard of lasagna? It’s a North American staple made from pasta sheets layered with tomato sauce, meat, cheese, and vegetables. There are many varieties you can make such as meat, vegetarian, seafood, etc.
Mafalde, mafalda or mafaldine are the different names given to a type of pasta that comprises of long rectangular ribbons with ruffled edges on both sides. It is quite similar in shape and size to the famous lasagna, although Mafalda is narrower (approximately ½ to ¾ inch in width) than lasagna.
Mafalda is available in strips that can measure up to 10 inches long as well as in short pieces that are about an inch and a half only. This type of pasta is best served in thick, rich, and creamy sauces with shredded or minced meat.
Pasta in Short, Cut Pieces
Fusilli refers to a type of South Italian pasta. This short to medium-sized tightly wound pasta is an ideal choice for saucy dishes because the grooves in its shape hold on to a lot of gravy. The twisted or spiral shape of fusilli not only looks appetizing but it also allows you to wipe clean all that delicious sauce served with it.
Who doesn’t love macaroni? Not only is it everyone’s favorite pasta since childhood, but elbow macaroni is perhaps the most versatile of all the available types of pasta.
Did you know that macaroni is called maccheroni in Italian? This little, tubular pasta is slightly arched like a bent arm, giving it the complete name ‘elbow macaroni.’ It is the perfect pasta shape to use in soups, baked pasta dishes, or devour with a thick paste of cheese and vegetable sauces. After all, need we mention the legendary mac ‘n cheese?
This type of pasta originated in the regions of Calabria and Campania. It consists of wide, pipe-shaped tubes that are usually smooth but sometimes their outer surface can be ridged. This version of paccheri is known as paccherimillerighe. They have commonly used in tomato sauce-based recipes or consumed stuffed with fillings such as cheese or the likes. Stuffed paccheri is also baked as a casserole for a unique delight. Combine paccheri with heavy garlic accents because the two make a divine tasteful duo but be careful while cooking as paccheri tends to collapse under its own weight.
Meaning ‘quill’ or ‘feather,’ penne pasta is amongst the most popular type of pasta consumed all over the world. It features medium length, hollow tubes that are cut diagonally at both ends, making it a perfect bed for moist sauces and toppings. Penne pasta is about 2 inches long on average but some generous manufacturers can make up to 4 inch long pieces as well. Penne goes great with chunky vegetables, meat, and cream sauces. Simple penne with smooth outer sides is also called penne lisce to distinguish it from penne rigate.
Penne rigate is a modified version of penne pasta with grooved or ridged outer sides. The vertical ridges that run lengthwise down each tube not only add to the texture but also hold on the sauces that normally slide down the smooth penne lisce.
Rigatoni refers to a type of medium to large pipe-shaped pasta that has square-cut ends on both sides. Depending on the method of production and the cutter used, rigatoni can be straight or bent slightly with varying length and diameter. However, it is always grooved and never as curved as elbow macaroni. The ridges provide excellent adhesive surfaces for sauces and grated cheese.
Tortiglioni is much like rigatoni apart from the fact that tortiglioni is much larger and that unlike rigatoni whose grooves like vertically top to bottom, the ridges of tortiglioni are twisted around the pasta. Besides making it visually appealing, the spiral grooves are highly functional for holding on to full-bodied sauces of all kinds.
Cellentani or cavatappi is the name given to corkscrew-shaped macaroni as cavatappi literally means corkscrew in the Italian language. This helical tubes shaped pasta is normally lined with ridges on the surface. What’s unique about cellentani is that although it is pale yellow like most other types of pasta, it is made without eggs. Food colors such as red or green are often added to use it in salads, soups, and casseroles that not only taste great but look superb too.
Chifferi refers to pasta that is shaped like conventional elbow macaroni but is shorter and wider. It comes in two varieties, which are lisce (smooth) and rigati (ridged). You can substitute the macaroni in mac n’ cheese with chifferi to get more full and flavorsome bites that are loaded with cheese.
Pasta with Decorative Cuts
Farfalle (the Italian word for ‘butterflies’) is hands down, the most pretty looking type of pasta. Pinched in the middle to look like bow ties, farfalle has decorative cuts at the sides that make it fascinating to look at and eat. It closely resembles a butterfly with wings wide open and makes a great ingredient for various hot and cold pasta dishes. You can use farfalle in cold salads for a nutritious treat or toss it in a bowl of warm meat and veggies for an equally delicious meal.
Orecchiette translates to ‘little ears’ but despite the weird meaning, this pasta is one of the best. Although it originated in the early 12th century, this type of pasta remains popular to this day. It is ideal to use in any recipe but is best served with ricotta, pancetta, and other cream-based sauces. You can also use it to add a fascinating spin when cooking broccoli because its concave, dish-like shape with creased surfaces merge well with the texture of broccoli itself.
If you want to eat something that reminds you if escargot, then try pipe rigate as its shape closely resembles that of a snail shell. This is because pipe rigate has a wide opening on one end whereas the other end is pressed so that the flattened side is closed altogether. This type of pasta goes well with chunky, oil-based, or creamy sauces.
Rotelle fascinates children a lot as its shape is similar to that of tiny wagon wheels. Therefore, it is often called wagon wheel pasta as well.
Children will enjoy this pasta with any flavor but for more thoughtful cooking, pair it with rich and thick sauces, or serve with a healthy salad. You can turn to rotelle if you want to add some flair and fancy touch to soups n order to wow your guests.
Farfalle rotonde is bow-tie shaped pasta that is similar in appearance to farfalle but differs at the sides. While farfalle has zigzag cut edges, farfalle rotonde has round sides. This type of pasta is almost the same size as farfalle but often comes in miniature cuts as well. The smaller version of farfallerotonde is referred to as tripolini.
Those who don’t pay attention to fine details might say that macaroni, chifferi and chifferirigate are different names for the same pasta. But the reality is just the opposite.
Macaroni is curved, pipe-like pasta that is bent in almost a half-circle in the case of elbow macaroni or cut at 180 degrees otherwise. Chifferi is shorter and wider as compared to macaroni while chifferirigate is like elbow macaroni but with ridges on the outside.
This pasta is shaped like a conch shell. Like most of the various types of pasta, conchiglie also originates from Italy and is amongst the most popular pasta shapes in the region because of its ability to hold a lot of sauce. Conchiglie is perfect for use in different soups and casseroles. Although it is commonly miniature-sized pasta, if you love this shape then you can also find it in larger sizes.
The larger version of this pasta is called conchigioni while extra small sizes are called conchigliette.
You might mistake a packet of orzo on the supermarket shelf for a pack of rice. But you wouldn’t be the only one. After all, orzo is exactly similar to rice – except that it is not actually rice.
This type of pasta gets its name from barley because it is shaped like it. Orzo looks like grains of barley and also comes close to looking like larger grains of rice. Therefore, it is also often called risoni, which means big rice in Italian. Orzo is not specified to a single region in Italy as it’s is widely used all across the country. Be it soup, salads, or simply as a side dish with meat and lots of veggies, orzo is toothsome pasta that will take any dish up a notch.
The exact region of origin of this delicate pasta has remained debatable for long, but it is safe to say that it comes from Italy nonetheless.
Stelline pasta is a type of miniature pasta that is shaped like small stars. Given its shape and size, it goes without saying that stelline is the preferred choice for various soups as it adds subtle bursts of flavor in every spoon.
Tip: If you ever want to try out an Italian recipe but can’t understand the difference between fusillini, fusilli, and fusillioni, then remember that -ini and -oni are merely suffixes that denote the pasta size. Terms ending in -ini are the smallest version of the particular pasta type while -oni denotes the larger size.
With dozens of varieties of pasta out there, it is difficult to discuss them all. This article covers the most popular and widely used types of pasta that are not only easily available at most shops but can also be prepared in various ways for everyone to feast on. So, which type of pasta are you making this weekend?