30 Types Of Pasta And When To Use Them

By Aaron Love 11 months ago

Fettuccine

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It can be hard to distinguish the difference between fettuccine and the other long-stranded varieties of pasta out there. The only thing that tends to give it away is its width, as it is seen to be somewhere in the middle of the rest of the variations like tagliatelle and spaghetti. Fettuccine is part of the 'egg noodles' family and is perhaps most popularly known for being served with Alfredo. This is a very American dish however as it doesn't seem to exist in Italy where they prefer a simple dish where the pasta is covered in butter.

Lasagne

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Some people tend to get confused between the dish 'lasagna' and the pasta sheet 'lasagne'; and that's no surprise, you'd think they'd be able to make it a little clearer! Lasagna has become one of the most popular Italian dishes to take over the world and if you want a real one you probably want to try one authentically. As I've mentioned and you already know, these sheets are typically used in just one way with Lasagna being made up of layers of the sheets of pasta followed by a ragu which is sometimes meaty and occasionally veggie-based.

Spaghetti

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Spaghetti is probably by far the most popular pasta type around the world and is used in dishes spanning all the continents. It's similar to all the other long-strand pasta types but is praised for being able to hold its own against all ranges of sauces. You'll most often see spaghetti used in popular dishes like Bolognese's or paired with meatballs, although I don't mean to force spaghetti into just these dishes. Spaghetti is one of the most versatile pastas and you can also find them pared with a creamy sauce like a carbonara.

Fusilli

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Fusilli is another of the most popular pasta types around the world, most typically store bought as a dried pasta thanks to how difficult it can be to make it at home (the spiral shape can cause a lot of issues). The little gaps between each of the spirals, as you probably already know) are great when it comes to holding in any of the sauces that you've used. I'm talking about pairing them with ragus and as with a lot of pastas they're great when it comes to adding some carbs to your favourite pasta salads, give it a go!

Penne

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Penne has become quite a popular choice of pasta around the world, although in authentic dishes in Italy it seems to be overlooked! Maybe they no something we don't? The penne we're all used to can appear slightly ridged which is great for holding some small pouches of sauce to juice up our tastebuds. There isn't particularly a special dish that's made solely for penne, instead this small pasta tube is usually paired with some meaty sauces like ragus. If you head to your local Italian restaurant you'll probably see Penne in an arrabiata.

Gnocchi

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Gnocchi is perhaps the most different variant of pasta to feature on this list as its actually made with cooked potato. In fact, although its used like a pasta it technically isn't a pasta at all! Depending on how you source your gnocchi should alter how it is you decide to cook it! Some people like to boil their gnocchi whereas others like to sear them to create a crispy outer layer to the potato dumplings. Either way, they are most popular in a creamy tomato dish and in some cases are used to accompany a meaty dish!

Cannelloni

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Cannelloni seem to be very similar to lasagne sheets but they're rolled up instead of lay flat out on a dish. But you already know that! Typically they get stuffed with a number of fillings; they usually contain some form of meat within the cylinders, although this isn't a neccessity. Different areas of Italy tend to have different variations of a cannelloni dish, some prefer meat ragu (similar to a bolognese... kind of) whereas others might instead go for a creamier white sauce like a bechamel. You can try a bit of anything basically!

Conchiglie

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You might have also heard this pasta under the name of shell pasta as a result of its shape. The dough with which this pasta is made tends to be harder which allows them to maintain their shell-like shape. The open side of the pasta is great for holding a small amount of sauce, or depending on what it is you've put on top of it some meat. Some people even purposely put their meats or ragus (or both) inside the shells and then bake it in order to spice up their meal a little bit! They are also great in salads too!

Linguine

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Linguine, like Fettuccine is popular when served with Alfredo and this might have something to do with them coming from the same little family of long stranded noodles. You can usually tell the difference between linguine and the other long pastas as they appear flattened! Linguine is actually used in a wide range of dishes, most often ones with a lighter, thinner sauce. Its perhaps most well known for being served with seafoods, especially in coastal areas of Italy where it often comes with seafood like: clams, mussels, prawns, crayfish and lobster.

Tortellini

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Tortellini is a filled pasta that was originally invented to celebrate big moments in Italian history. Traditionally you would only see these parcels filled with a mixture of chicken, pork and parmigiano reggiano, these days you can actually find a whole range of ingredients within the tortellini. In fact, tortellini is actually most popular when you don't cover them in sauces and allow them to cook in a broth, this is because you don't want the sauce to overpower what you hope will be great flavours within the pasta.

Capellini

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This pasta looks a lot like spaghetti, but it tends to be slightly thinner than a traditional spaghetti strand. You might have heard of this before under a different name, angel hair pasta. Thanks to them being much thinner they are often bunched in to nests and cook much quicker than their other long stemmed counterparts. In fact, they are probably closer to an asian noodle than they are a spaghetti and that's why they are often served in broths which are eaten by young kids and can be eaten hot or cold!

Cavatappi

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Cavatappi is one of a number of spiral pastas we'll be discussing throughout this list and it's most similar to the traditional macaroni. Typically you'd be looking to use this kind of pasta in the exact same way as you would macaroni, and who knows, you might end up taking it to the next level. These kinds of pastas are great thanks to the centre of the pasta being able to be filled with any of the sauces on the dish. You might even want to try it in something healthy like a pasta salad (if that's up your street!).

Tagliatelle

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Tagliatelle can be quite difficult to perfect and that's because it is almost exactly the same as other long-stranded pasta variants like fettuccine and pappardelle (which we'll see during this list). This is a popular egg-based pasta that is great for holding on to thick sauces. In fact, although growing up in the US you'll probably have only eaten spaghetti Bolognese, over in Italy, an authentic Italian Bolognese is usually paired with tagliatelle. This is likely due to their greater ability to withstand greater pressure from all that ragu.

Ravioli

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Ravioli is perhaps the most popular of the parcel pastas that are available around the world and, in Italy, it's a very popular choice of dish to have around festive celebrations. As you probably know, ravioli is a small sheet of egg pasta that gets filled with meats, veg and cheeses (whatever floats your boat) and then sealed to look like a little present. They are often paired with a number of tomato based sauces like ragus, although in certain parts of Italy you might even find them in cream sauces or just a garlic butter!

Bucatini

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You might think you're looking at a traditional spaghetti here, but if you pay attention to the small details you'll actually see these strands of spaghetti have been hollowed out. This is Bucatini. You can probably understand how good this can make a dish as not only will sauce cover the spaghetti, it will also fill the hole that runs through it! It's no surprise that you can use this kind of pasta in any dish you'd use Spaghetti but its most famous use comes in a dish that is rounded out with some pork cheek.

Farfalle

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Farfalle is most well known for its unique shape, in fact its name comes from the Italian word for butterflies, farfalla. Supposedly it was originally meant to be a filled pasta but the pasta makers made an error during the process and accidentally made farfalle. Most people tend to use this pasta with a creamy tomato sauce, maybe one featuring some mascarpone as well as dishes which are associated with a bechamel sauce. Like many of the pastas on this list it is also popularly used in pasta salads!

Rigatoni

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Rigatoni is somewhat similar to penne but comes as a larger hollowed tube of pasta. They are great when it comes to very saucy dishes, and are popular thanks to the ability for sauces and meats to become stuck within the hollowed out centre. Although it can be great just covered in sauce, authentic Italian dishes tend to come out the best when they are baked in a tomato based sauce and then smothered in cheese! The big structure of a rigatoni is great for this as it can withstand being bakes for long periods without any issues.

Ditalini

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Ditalini is purposely made smaller as it wasn't made with the intention to smother it in sauces like you would with most pastas. Ditalini is similar in shape to macaroni although its cut before you get that famous curl! Therefore it's actually used more often in pasta soups as they are small enough to just fit on a spoon and aren't particularly able to hold much sauce on or within the hole. Try and find a recipe for a dish known as Pasta e Fagioli which is the most common dish you'll find Ditalini in.

Caramelle

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You can probably see why this pasta was given the name it was, they are shaped almost exactly like little caramel sweets you might find in multipacks at your local stores! They are similar to a pasta like ravioli or tortellini as they are actually filled with a range of ingredients to add flavour to them. Once they are filled with the desired ingredients the ends of each pasta are twisted. Typically they are filled with a lighter ingredient like cheese or sometimes vegetable puree's and in some instances colour is added to the pasta dough using veg like beetroot!

Colonne Pompeii

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You might think you're just looking at a plate of fusilli here, and you aren't completely miles away from the fact. Colonne Pompeii is made exactly the same way as the fusilli but it's just cut longer, similarly to how cavatappi is cut longer than macaroni! You'll be able to find these in some stores here in the US but you might have better luck using professional pasta makers. You want to try this pasta in a number of ways as it can be used like a fusilli or like a longer noodle like a linguine. Why not try something new!

Macaroni

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Macaroni is one of the most popular pastas, not just in the US but also all around the world. This is most probably down to the fact its part of one of the most popular dishes out there in Mac and Cheese. In fact, as you might already know, there are a number of restaurants (many independent ones) that actually solely focus on macaroni as the main feature of the menu! You probably won't want to steer to far from making mac and cheese with this pasta as it just really is a food match made in heaven for our tastebuds!

Gemelli

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Gemelli is another pasta variation that isn't particularly well known but has a pretty unique appearance. It essentially looks like two thick (ish) strings of pasta have been wrapped around one another to create one megapasta. It has become extremely popular in recent years since they can be extremely versatile when it comes to different pasta dishes. The small hole is great for holding sauces and its most often used in tomato and cream based sauces. This doesn't mean it doesn't fit well in salads or in pesto!

Rotelle

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Rotelle is another of the pasta variants that have been given a very unique shape and as you might expect is a popular choice when it comes to making dishes for younger children. Rotelle simply means 'little wheels' and is actually one of the only pastas on this list that isn't authentically Italian. Rotelle can be different to other pastas as it is often made using quinoa, although its purpose doesn't really change. They're great for holding sauces and are usually paired with either a tomato or cream based sauce.

Fileja

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Fileja (the pasta on the right above) is one of the weirdest shapes of pasta you'll come across, most popular in the south of Italy. You'll struggle to find a dried version of this pasta as it has to be eaten fresh; you should be able to find some step by step instructions online if you fancy yourself as an artisan pasta maker! Essentially these ropes of pasta are rolled into sticks and most usually served in a chunky tomato sauce or with a ragu. If you really want to spice your dish up then you might want to think about adding some 'Nduja sausage.

Orecchiette

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This is another pasta variant that is instantly recognisable for its unique shape, it has become slightly more popular over here in the US recently although you might have to go hunting for it. This has become known as one of the most difficult pastas to perfect and so you're likely to have to find an artisan pasta maker to secure yourself anything remotely authentic. The rough side of the pasta can be great for holding sauces although typically its served with green veg like brocolli and oils for a simplistic dish.

Gigli

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Gigli is also known by campanelle in Italy which translates to bellflowers in relation to the shape the pasta shows off when finished. Gigli is another pasta that can taste quite eggy thanks to the use of eggs in its creation process and it can be a great tool to catch sauces thanks to the hole that features at the top of the 'bell'. Gigli is most popular in Tuscany so it would be rude not to suggest a meal popular over there where it is paired with a venison ragu. And like most egg based pastas it matches perfectly with a cream based sauce.

Pastina

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I suppose that this is cheating just a little bit as pastina is more a collection of smaller pastas than it is its own variety. They are particularly popular amongst children thanks to the fact that pastina can actually be shaped in to any form a pasta maker can manage to create. As with other pastinas like Orzo (which we're about to get on to) they can be used in a number of broths or soups in order to fill them out a little. One other surprising way that pastinas have been used in Italy are as salad toppers and simply tossed in parmesan.

Orzo

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If you've never seen orzo before you might be mistaken for thinking that you're looking at some very thick grains of rice; it's most often known as a type of pastina that gets used in pasta soups or casseroles more often than not. Perhaps the most popular dish is a chicken and orzo soup but that doesn't mean people haven't found other ways to utilise them. Orzo salads have become popular and they've even been used as a rice substitute in dished like pilafs. Why don't you try filling out your next casserole with some orzo?

Pappardelle

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Pappardelle is pretty much exactly the same as a tagliatelle, the only difference is that they are cut in to slightly wider ribbons. These wider ribbons are known to be great in order to pair them with a weighty meat ragu; due to them being able to hold a greater amount of the ragu. The pasta is most popular in Italy during the seasons where game meat hunting is most popular, therefore most authentic dishes like to pair the pappardelle with meats like wild boar or rabbit. Don't worry if these aren't available though, it'll be great with easier to secure meats like pork and beef.

Testaroli

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Testaroli is actually believed to be one of the oldest varieties of pasta to still exist around the world. And it's actually one of the more unique pastas you can get your hands on, as they are made from a batter instead of a dough. They are made in similar fashion to a pancake before they are cut in to diamond shapes. You actually bake this pasta too! You don't tend to see this dish mixed with sauces regularly seen in pasta dishes, instead most people like to pair their testaroli with a green pesto instead.