The Ultimate Guide to Pasta Shapes
Picking the right type of pasta for your recipe can be an overwhelming task. Not anymore!
Rotini, fusilli, orecchiette…picking the right pasta shape for a recipe can be overwhelming. But you’re about to become an expert. We break down some of the most popular types, beyond classic spaghetti, and tell you how to cook with them.
One of the most popular types of pasta, tube-shaped rigatoni (meaning “ridged” or “lined”) is extremely versatile. Whether you’re serving up a light garlic chicken rigatoni or using the noodles in a baked dish like this meaty rigatoni casserole, it’s a pasta that can get tossed into any meal.
You may know these shapes as bow ties, but in Italian, they’re actually “butterflies.” A kid favorite because of the fun shape, these noodles work well with chunky sauces (try this no-cook fresh tomato sauce) or as the main ingredient in a cold pasta salad (we recommend this summer strawberry salad).
When it comes to this pasta, less is more. Because ravioli are stuffed with anything from cheese to meat to veggies (or all of the above!), there’s already a lot going on. Keep the sauce simple with the classic sage and browned butter ravioli or toss in fresh spinach and olives for this Greek-style version.
You probably know it primarily from fettuccine Alfredo (and the myriad ways to play it up, like with seafood). But you can also use these “small ribbons,” which are wider and flatter than spaghetti noodles, in any dish with a thick or creamy sauce.
Similar to fettuccine, linguine (which means “little tongues”) is a long, flat noodle. Because it’s slightly narrower than fettuccine, linguine is often served with lighter sauces or even simply with olive oil or pesto. It’s also commonly used in seafood dishes like this shrimp linguine with Parmesan cream sauce.
These spiraled noodles may look like corkscrews but they’re actually “little spindles.” Fusilli is a go-to for dishes with chunky vegetable or meat sauces because yummy morsels get caught in the noodles’ crevices. Get the best of both worlds with this beef tip stew served over fusilli.
Think of rotini (aka “spirals”) as a tighter-wound version of fusilli. Common among home cooks, the corkscrew noodles can be used in a variety of dishes but are most often eaten in the form of pasta salad. Want to try it yourself? We recommend this cashew chicken rotini salad or this antipasto salad.
One of the oldest types of pasta, these wide sheet noodles are a staple in many American households in the popular dish featuring layers of pasta, sauce and cheese. While traditional four-cheese lasagna is always a delicious option, you can switch it up with Southwest lasagna or even a breakfast version using bacon and eggs.
It may have the most unappetizing name of the bunch (“little worms”), but it’s just as delicious as its carby counterparts. There are two types of vermicelli, Italian (what you’re most familiar with) and Asian (which is known as rice vermicelli). Toss with scallops and pesto for an elevated pasta bowl or twirl it into a cold salad.
These “large tubes” are part of the lasagna family, except that the noodles are filled instead of layered. Naturally, these rolled-up pasta shapes are often stuffed with a mixture of cheese and meat and used for baked Italian dishes. Try this twist on classic lasagna using cannelloni or this chicken cannelloni dinner.