Quicklist: Different Types of Pasta Shapes
- Penne Rigate
- Pipe Rigate
- Farfalle Rotonde
You might be cooking pasta at least once a week but how deep is your knowledge about the different types of pasta available?
Unless you are a chef or a culinary student, it is likely that macaroni, spaghetti and a few other kinds are all that you are familiar with — but did you know that there are more than 600 different types of pasta?
Depending on the ingredients, shape, size, texture, and intended use, pasta can be classified into many different kinds. Here we have gathered the most common types of pasta that are popular worldwide and the various ways in which they can be used.
Related: Healthy Alternatives to Pasta | Types of Pasta Sauce | Rotini Pasta Salad Recipe | Fresh Pasta and Pesto From Scratch | Chicken Parmesan with ravioli Recipe | What to Serve with Shepherd’s Pie
Different Pasta Shapes Chart
Pasta Shapes and Names
Long Pasta Types
Derived from the Italian words ‘spago’ and ‘spaghetto’ (thin string), 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 other food ingredients. For instance, spaghetti tossed in marinara sauce and topped with meatballs and mushrooms is a favorite.
Spaghettini is similar to 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.
Bucatini is a type of cylindrical pasta noodle that is similar to spaghetti, except that it is thicker and has a hole running through the center.
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.
Originating in Genoa, Liguria, linguini pasta is thicker but slightly flatter than spaghetti. Traditionally served with pesto or seafood sauces, the name in Italian means ‘little tongues.’
Genovese historian Giulio Giacchero described the pasta prepared with pesto, green beans and potatoes in the 18th century — a popular dish still served in Liguria. Linguine with clams ( ‘al vongole’) is another Ligurian specialty while other linguine dishes are found throughout Italy.
Fettuccine (‘little ribbons’) is a long, flat noodle that is commonly used with creamy pasta sauce dishes, such as Fettuccine Alfredo. Fifteenth-century chef Marino da Como mentions preparing a similar dish in his book of recipes, “Liber de arte coquinaria” (“Book on the Art of Cooking”).
Lasagne is the plural of lasagna — pasta sheets layered with ragù meat sauce, cheeses, seasoning, spices and vegetables. Lasagne may be one of the oldest forms of pasta, first mentioned in medieval texts but the concept is perhaps much older than that.
Originally known as manfredine, pasta makers renamed this ribbon-shaped pasta in honor of the 1902 birth of Princess Mafalda of Savoy, the second daughter of King Vittorio Emanuele III of Italy and his wife Elena of Montenegro.
Mafalda, or mafaldine, is made of long rectangular ribbons with ruffled edges on both sides. It is quite similar in shape and size to lasagna, although narrower (approximately ½ to ¾ inch in width).
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.
Short Cut Pasta
Fusilli refers to a type of southern 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 childhood pasta dish, but elbow macaroni is perhaps the most versatile of all the available types of pasta.
The 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. Commonly used in tomato sauce-based recipes or stuffed with fillings such as cheese in a baked casserole.
Meaning ‘quill’ or ‘feather,’ penne pasta is among the most popular types of cut pasta. 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 two inches long on average but some manufacturers make up to four-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.
12. 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 the ridges are twisted around the pasta. Besides making it visually appealing, the spiral grooves are highly functional for holding on to full-bodied sauces.
Cellentani or cavatappi is the name given to corkscrew-shaped macaroni as ‘cavatappi’ literally means corkscrew in Italian. The helical tube-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.
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.
Fun-Shaped Pasta with Decorative Cuts
Farfalle (the Italian word for ‘butterflies’) is pinched in the middle to look like bow ties, with decorative cuts at the sides.
The pasta shape 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 in English to ‘little ears’. Although the pasta originated in the early 12th century it remains popular to this day. Orecchiette 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.
19. Pipe Regate
The shape of pipe rigate resembles a snail shell with a wide opening on one end and the other end 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 with its shape similar to wagon wheels.
Pair rotelle pasta with rich and thick sauces or serve with salad. It also adds a decorative flair to soups and other dishes.
21. Farfalle Rotonde
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. 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. Conchiglie is perfect for use in different soups and casseroles. Although it is commonly miniature-sized you can also find it in larger sizes. The larger version is called conchigioni while extra small sizes are called conchigliette.
Orzo looks like grains of barley and also comes close to looking like larger grains of rice. Be it soup, salads or simply as a side dish with meat and lots of veggies, orzo is toothsome pasta option.
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.
Top Brands of Pasta
Founded in the 1870s in Parma, Italy, Barilla is a multinational food company that is recognized as the largest producer of pasta in the world. The company operates 30 production sites globally with half located in Italy.
In 1999, Barilla added its first U.S. production facility in Iowa. The company currently carries 20 brands and generated revenue of nearly $4 billion in 2020.
2. Pasta Garofalo
Garafalo was founded in the late 1780s in Gragnano, southeast of Naples in southern Italy. Its line of products, made from durum wheat semolina, organic whole durum wheat semolina, and gluten-free pasta, are available in traditional and creative shapes and sizes.
Established in Abruzzo, Italy, in 1886, DeCecco offers consumers a wide variety of high-quality milled products and pasta, including pasta sauces and extra virgin olive oil. The brand’s pasta varieties provide an outstanding balance of color, flavor, and aroma.
4. Rustichella D’Abruzzo
Rustichella D’Abruzzo was established in 1924 in Abruzzo, Italy, at a family-owned stone mill. In the early 1980s, the original owner’s daughter led a family initiative that led to the creation of one of Italy’s most extensive artisanal lines of pasta products.
Rustichella D’Abruzzo now offers a wide variety of pasta, and pasta sauces to accompany the many available shapes and sizes.
5. La Molisana
La Molisana is a publicly owned company that was founded in 1912 as an artisanal workshop by the Carlone family. Headquartered in Campobasso, La Molisana offers classic, organic, whole wheat, and gluten-free pasta products, among others. The La Molisana brand was awarded first prize and gold medal at the 1927 Exhibition Fair in Rome.
The Ronzoni Macaroni Company was founded in Queens, New York in the early 20th century by Emanuel Ronzoni, an Italian immigrant from San Fruttuoso, in northern Italy. Early on the company specialized in Genoa-style pasta, or fancy-cut shaped noodles and became the number one pasta maker on the East Coast.
Its owners have changed over the years through Hershey Foods and, ultimately, Post Holdings in 2021. In addition to traditional pasta, Ronzoni has led innovation into other ingredients by creating vegetable and turmeric pastas.
7. Rao’s Homemade
Founded in the 19th century, Rao’s Homemade began its legendary role in the pasta trade as one of New York’s best Italian restaurants. Rao’s Homemade expanded across the country, making the finest quality pasta sauce and then launching a premium pasta brand.
Rao’s complete line of pasta includes farfalle, rigatoni, fusilli, linguine, spaghetti, penne and fettucine. Rao’s Homemade now offers complete meals in the frozen sections of supermarkets.
Lidia’s pasta is the creation of Lidia Bastianich, an Emmy Award-winning TV host, restauranteur, cookbook author, and food business entrepreneur. Her first restaurant, Buonavia, opened in Queens in 1971.
Lidia’s flagship restaurant, Felidia, opened in Manhattan in 1981, with many restaurant ventures to follow. Lidia also offers sauces and meals created from her many creative recipes.
Colavita is a privately operated food company that was established in Rome, Italy in 1930. Colavita USA was developed to import Colavita’s specialty Italian products.
Best known for its olive oil Colavita now offers a variety of products: classic and specialty pasta lines include organic, whole wheat, and gluten-free, among others. The company also markets gnocchi, grains, couscous, and a variety of polenta and specialty rice.
The Montebello pasta brand is a member of the Stonewall Kitchen. Located in northern Italy, Montebello is a region that is prized for its hearty durum wheat and vine-ripened tomatoes.
The artisanal air-dried ancient-grain pasta is now available worldwide in many varieties — penne, spaghetti, tagliatelle, fusilli, maccheroni, and lasagna, to name a few. In addition, to its organic extra virgin olive oil, Montebello also offers basil marinara, verdure, and arrabbiata sauces to complement their pasta.
Best Type of Pasta for Various Recipes
Best Noodles for Soup
The best pasta for soup depends on what type of soup you make. Acini di Pepe is a great pasta for Italian Wedding Soup, while Ditalini is delicious when used to make Pasta e Fagioli.
Tubettini is a long, small pasta that is used to make Pasta e Ceci, a popular chickpea soup that’s easy to make. One of the best pasta for soup is Orzo, a tiny pasta that looks like long grain rice and can be added to a wide variety of soup recipes.
Best Pasta for Bolognese Sauce
Bolognese is a thick, chunky sauce that requires heavy pasta. Fettuccine is an excellent choice to go with Bolognese sauce thanks to its thicker shape than traditional spaghetti.
Tagliatelle is similar to fettuccine except that it has a nice rough texture that clings to the sauce, and it’s slightly thicker. Another great pasta for Bolognese sauce is pappardelle due to its wide shape and chewy texture.
Best Pasta for Carbonara Sauce
Carbonara sauce is a hearty sauce made with garlic, cheese, eggs, bacon and heavy cream. The best pasta for this rich sauce is spaghetti or linguine. You can also make carbonara sauce and serve it with spinach fettuccine for a unique flavor and color.
Best Pasta for Pasta Salad
A delicious pasta salad is a summertime favorite. You can use virtually any type of pasta for this recipe including classics like a bowtie, elbow and rotini. Combine your pasta of choice with healthy ingredients like fresh herbs, oil and vinegar, and fresh chopped veggies.
Best Pasta for Alfredo Sauce
Alfredo is a creamy white sauce that pairs beautifully with fettuccine. The wide shape and thick consistency of fettuccine are a great companion to Alfredo sauce.
Best Pasta for Shrimp Scampi and Other Seafood Pasta Dishes
Seafood dishes like shrimp scampi are best served with long, thin noodles like angel hair pasta, spaghetti or linguine. You can make a variety of seafood pasta dishes with different kinds of pasta, too, such as fresh cooked salmon and spaghetti or spiraled rotini. Top the dish with fresh lemon and a creamy sauce.
Best Pasta for Meatballs
There’s nothing more classic than a dish of spaghetti and meatballs, which is always the best type of pasta for this hearty dish. Meatballs also taste great with other long pasta like fettuccine and linguine.
Best Pasta for Marinara Sauce
Pasta and marinara sauce naturally go together. This red tomato sauce is delicious with a plate of fresh spaghetti or angel hair. It also goes nicely with thicker pasta, including linguine. Of course, if you’re making lasagna with marinara sauce, you’ll need to use lasagna noodles. The type of pasta you use will ultimately depend on the recipe.
Best Pasta for Mac and Cheese
Elbow noodles are a classic choice for creamy and delicious mac and cheese. Another great choice is cavatappi, which has ridges and a spiraled shape that helps the cheese cling nicely to the pasta. You can also use other kinds of pasta such as shell pasta and farfalle (bowtie), which are both popular with kids.
Best Pasta for Chicken Cacciatore
Penne pasta is a good pairing for chicken cacciatore, but this rustic Italian dish can be served with virtually any pasta style. Look for pasta that can stand up to the richness and heaviness of thedish. Bucatini is an excellent choice since it’s much thicker and heartier than spaghetti.
Best Pasta for Chicken Marsala
This beloved Italian dish is made with a dry wine sauce, chicken, mushrooms, and a range of spices. Many kinds of pasta go well with chicken marsala including a side of angel hair or spaghetti drizzled with olive oil.
You can also serve this rustic dish with buttered fettuccine or some risotto. If you’re looking for a healthy alternative, this dish also goes well with spiralized veggies like squash or zucchini.
Best Pasta for Pesto Genovese
Pesto Genovese is a bright and lively sauce made from pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, olive oil and fresh basil. This hearty sauce goes well with pasta in longer cuts such as fusilli, thanks to its corkscrew shape.
Other great pairings with pasta Genovese include capellini, fettuccine, bucatini, and thinner versions of spaghetti like angel hair. You can also add pesto to fresh-baked, crusty bread for a delicious and filling side dish.
Best Pasta Shape for Puttanesca
This savory sauce is made from garlic, capers, anchovies, canned tomatoes and olives. Pair homemade puttanesca sauce with thin, long pasta options like linguine, vermicelli or bucatini. The key to a great puttanesca sauce is to add pasta that’s simple and subtle, and that won’t detract from the sauce’s robust flavors.
Best Pasta for Arrabbiata Sauce
Arrabbiata sauce has a spicy kick thanks to the addition of ingredients like red pepper flakes, paprika or cayenne. You can pair your arrabbiata sauce with classic pasta like spaghetti or linguine.
Best Pasta for Ziti
Baked ziti is a cheesy, saucy dish that’s extremely easy to make at home. Classic ziti pasta is always the best choice, but there are some substitutes that you can use that will work just as well. If you can’t get your hands on ziti, try making the dish with penne pasta or rigatoni. The key is to use tube-shaped pasta that’s not too wide, too long or too thin.
Best Pasta for Veal Scallopini
This unique Italian dish is made by searing fresh veal and serving it with capers, lemon juice, stock and parsley. You can serve the dish alongside fresh linguine, fettuccine or spaghetti. It also goes wonderfully with angel hair pasta.
Best Pasta for Casseroles
There are countless casserole dishes that use pasta as part of the ingredients. Some of the best pasta for casseroles include egg noodles, elbow noodles and bowtie pasta.
You can also use ziti noodles for baked ziti casserole or try some manicotti or large shells to create baked cheesy casseroles such as stuffed shells filled with marinara sauce and ricotta cheese.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Pasta Noodles Healthy?
I think the most straightforward and correct answer is that pasta noodles are healthy when consumed in moderation as part of a healthy and nutritious diet.
However, pasta noodles are a carbohydrate-rich food, making them less healthy for those with diabetes. They should also be avoided by those with gluten intolerances and celiac disease, although gluten-free options are available.
Additionally, refined pasta noodles are the most consumed pasta and are higher in calories and lower in fiber than some other pasta types. Whole grain pasta noodles are higher in fiber and slightly lower in calories and are an excellent alternative to the more common pasta types.
Lastly, remember what you add to your pasta noodles, such as sauces, meats and cheeses. This can mean all the difference between a healthy and not-so-healthy bowl of pasta.
Do Pasta Noodles Go Bad?
Yes, pasta noodles can go bad, but this really depends on whether it is dry pasta noodles, fresh pasta noodles or cooked pasta noodles.
Dry pasta noodles in unopened packaging can be stored safely in the pantry for up to two years. After that, you could probably still cook and eat them, but they may lose their flavor. Fresh pasta should be kept in the fridge and consumed within two days because it contains raw eggs. Cooked pasta you can keep in the refrigerator for up to five days. If, however, your cooked or fresh pasta noodles look and feel slimy at any stage, toss them in the trash immediately.
What to Do With Leftover Pasta Noodles?
You can eat them! Pasta with added ingredients can be stored in the fridge for a few days for reheating as leftovers. Spaghetti Bolognese tastes better the next day, anyway. Cooked pasta noodles that are still plain can be turned into salads, soups, or zhooshed up with olive oil and a little garlic and chili. Parmesan and bacon are optional.
How Long Do You Boil Pasta Noodles?
Pasta noodles are best cooked al dente when you boil them. Dry pasta noodles take approximately eight to 12 minutes to cook. Fresh pasta takes much less than that, between three and five minutes.
Don’t overcook your pasta noodles; they’ll turn into a mushy mess that is not appealing to eat. If you aren’t sure, separate a noodle from the boiling water and taste it after you’ve let it cool a little.
Are Pasta Noodles Vegan?
Yes, most dry pasta noodles are vegan and contain products like semolina and enriched flour. The easiest way to tell is to check the ingredient list for egg or animal-derived products. Fresh pasta noodles are unlikely to be vegan as they usually contain fresh eggs.
How Many Carbs in Pasta Noodles?
The number of carbs in your pasta noodles will vary depending on your portion size, but as a rule of thumb, half a cup of cooked refined or whole wheat pasta will contain approximately 18-22 grams of carbohydrates. One cup of cooked pasta noodles is a standard portion containing about 36-44 grams of carbohydrates. For the exact nutrients in your pasta, refer to the packaging.
Do Pasta Noodles Expire?
Yes, dried pasta noodles eventually expire or move past their expiration date printed on the package. However, unless they have been exposed to moisture or have visible mold or discoloration, they should still be safe to eat, albeit less tasty. Fresh pasta noodles definitely expire and contain raw eggs. They must be refrigerated and consumed within two to five days.
Are Pasta Noodles Gluten Free?
Traditional pasta noodles are generally not gluten-free because they contain wheat. Luckily, there are many gluten-free pasta alternatives, including rice noodles, quinoa noodles, multigrain pasta and soba noodles. There are also vegetable pasta noodle imitations like zoodles (zucchini noodles), butternut noodles, and spaghetti squash makes an excellent gluten-free alternative to regular pasta noodles too.
How Do You Store Dry Pasta Noodles?
Dry pasta noodles store best in a pantry in a sealed container away from direct sunlight and moisture. You can also keep them successfully in their unopened packaging.
Will Pasta Noodles Cook in Oven?
Yes, not only lasagna or cannelloni are cooked in the oven. Uncooked pasta noodles, with the correct liquid ratio, will cook well in the oven and allow you to up the ante on weeknight mac ‘n-cheese without going to the trouble of parboiling them.
Why Do My Pasta Noodles Stick?
Pasta noodles need lots of water and a rapid boil to prevent them from sticking. Movement is your friend, especially in the first two minutes when your pasta noodles enter the water. If they lie in water that isn’t boiling, they tend to stick together because the starch hasn’t come off properly.
The other reason your pasta may be sticking together is that you made it wait in the colander while you finished up your sauce. Pasta noodles are divas that wait for no one. Make sure your sauce is ready first, and add the pasta noodles as soon as you have drained them. Don’t use oil in your pasta water unless you want your sauce to slide off the noodles.
Why Are My Pasta Noodles Gummy?
Pasta noodles turn gummy when you overcook them or leave them standing for a while after you have drained them. Please don’t do it.
Can You Freeze Zucchini Noodles?
Yes, you can freeze zucchini noodles, a.k.a. zoodles. Reports vary, but the most common problem seems to be a bit of extra wateriness if they are previously frozen. Draining them well and a nice thick pasta sauce will fix that.
Can You Freeze Cooked Noodles?
Yes, you can freeze cooked noodles, but be sure to cook them al dente; otherwise, you risk them turning mushy when you thaw and reheat them.
Where Do Noodles Originally Come From?
This one is a bit of a mystery. Noodles seem to hail from China, the Middle East and Italy. Scientists report that 4,000-year-old noodles made from millet were discovered in China, making it possible that noodles were seen there and inspired a nomadic Arab who inspired an Italian who made them famous in Europe. No matter who first made noodles, I am grateful every day they exist. I love good noodles.
Can You Eat Ramen Noodles Raw?
Yes, you can eat ramen noodles raw. Most ramen is cooked before being dehydrated/dried and packaged, so the raw ramen we know is already cooked. I’ve had a delightful coleslaw with lightly toasted ramen noodles for crunch, and it’s one of my favorites.
Does Noodles Have Protein?
Yes, pasta noodles do have protein in them. They are a triple-threat of fiber, carbohydrates and protein. The protein per cup is between seven and eight grams, depending on the type of noodle you are eating. If you are living a healthy lifestyle, there is space in your diet for nutritious pasta.
Do Noodles Have Yeast?
No, noodles do not typically contain yeast. You make pasta from unleavened dough. However, double-check commercially available dry pasta noodle packaging if you are sensitive to yeast.
Do Noodles Have Dairy?
No, noodles do not typically contain any dairy or milk by-products unless they come mixed with a dry instant sauce. If you are lactose-intolerant or exclude dairy from your daily diet, then it is best to check the packaging.