Here’s Your Guide To Italian Pasta Shapes And Their Perfect Sauce Pairings
Pasta shapes can be confusing. Which sauce goes best with which pasta shape? What’s the difference between pappardelle and tagliatelle? If you’ve ever felt unsure about what exactly you’re ordering, you’ve come to the right place. Before making or ordering any pasta dish, you should know what’s what. There’s a reason one pasta might work better with a meat sauce and one might work better with a garlic and butter sauce. We’ve got the low-down on each type of pasta and the sauce to follow.
What Is It? In the world of tubular pasta, cannelloni is like the grandma pasta. These large tubes of pasta are usually stuffed with some kind of meat or cheese mixture.
Sauce: You’ll want to use something like a light tomato sauce with cannelloni since it’s so hefty on its own. All you need is a layer of tomato sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and you’ll be good to go.
What Is It? Tagliatelle are long, thin ribbons that resemble fettuccine, but come lightly narrower. You’ll find them sold either in tiny coiled nests or straight strands.
Sauce: The best sauce for the job is usually a rich meat sauce, specifically Bolognese.
What Is It? These babies are stuffed with meat or cheese and then rolled and formed into small ring-like shapes. Tortellini are pretty much the jewelry of the pasta world.
What Is It? If you want to be extra full after eating a bowl of pasta, go with rigatoni. Rigatoni are ribbed, tube-shaped and will vary in length and diameter. They’re larger than penne and ziti and can have a slight curve to them.
Sauce: Rigatoni are sturdy enough to take on all of the thick, creamy and hearty sauces. You could go with anything from rigatoni with sausage and fennel to rigatoni with winter squash and kale to rigatoni with pork, ricotta and lemon. A hearty bolognese will also do the trick.
What Is It? Bucatini are the ultimate pasta shape. The pasta is thick and spaghetti-like with a hole running through the center. You can twirl bucatini around your fork with the benefits of tube-shaped pasta.
Sauce: Pair bucatini with hearty buttery sauces like this butter-roasted tomato sauce or this pancetta and green pea sauce. Bucatini can also stand up to an olive-caper sauce. You’ll never go wrong with a fresh pesto sauce.
What Is It? When you’re in the market for pasta that looks like something you’d tie a present with, get yourself a package of pappardelle. These large, broad and flat noodles are pretty much a wide version of fettuccini and a fatter version of tagliatelle. You’ll see different kinds of pappardelle out there. The fresh kind may have fluted edges while dried egg pappardelle tends to have straight sides.
Sauce: Similar to its skinnier cousin tagliatelle, pappardelle works best with rich and meaty sauces or hearty earthy sauces with mushrooms. You might see something like pappardelle with mushrooms and prosciutto, pappardelle with mushrooms, ricotta and walnuts or pappardelle with a red wine and meat ragù.
What Is It? Orzo is the rice of the pasta world. It’s tiny and shaped similarly to rice, but it’s not nearly as tough as rice. Don’t go cooking a box of orzo like you would a box of rice. At the end of the day, it’s made with flour so you should treat it just like you would any pasta and cook it al dente.
Sauce: When it comes to a sauce for orzo, you can treat it like you would risotto. Your best bet is to make a light and buttery sauce. Something with a little lemon juice and some sea salt. You could sprinkle a little olive oil and parmesan and call it a day. Orzo also works well when it’s cold, like in this orzo salad with chickpeas, tomatoes, fresh mint and a red wine vinaigrette.
What Is It? Think of fusilli like your soup’s best friend. Fusilli comes in the shape of a corkscrew and comes in a variety of different lengths.
Sauce: Whether you’re making a soup like chicken noodle, rustic tomato or pasta e fagioli, fusilli is the best pasta for the job. The corkscrew shape catches ingredients so you can have the perfect bite. You can also go with a light sauce like this fresh pomodoro.
What Is It? Orecchiette are like mini saucers. Their name comes from their ear-like shape.
Sauce: You can use whatever sauce you want with orecchiette. They’re sturdy enough to handle a meat sauce and small enough to go with a light buttery sauce. The ear-shaped pasta acts like a little bowl and carries all the cheese and sauce into your mouth. Try orecchiette with caramelized cauliflower, shallots and herbed breadcrumbs or orecchiette with sausage, corn and chiles.
What Is It? Farfalle is a fancy name for bow-tie pasta. They look like little butterflies with ends that are trimmed to have a ruffled look.
Sauce: With its ribbon-like pleats, you could pair farfalle with pretty much any sauce. Whether it’s shrimp farfalle with an arugula pesto or prosciutto and pea farfalle with a creamy garlic and parmesan sauce, you can’t go wrong with this bow-tie pasta.
What Is It? If fusilli, elbow macaroni and rigatoni had a baby, it’d be cavatappi. The corkscrew-shaped tubular pasta also has ridges, which are perfect for soaking up a sauce.
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