Can you name the different types of Italian pasta and the right sauce pairing correctly? Put your knowledge to the test with this saucy guide.
Did you know there are potentially over 350 different pasta shapes? Of course, a lot of those are variations of the same thing, just larger or smaller. But that still means there are a ton of different Italian pasta types.
So, what type of Italian pasta goes with which sauce? You probably didn’t know that what you use for the sauce could make a difference, but it does!
We’re here to help you make the best Italian pasta sauce pairing for your meals. Keep reading this saucy guide to learn everything you could ever want about pasta and pasta sauce!
What Type of Italian Pasta Should I Use?
First, it’s important to understand that there are two recipes to make Italian pasta. Most of what you’ll be reading about here is made with three ingredients — salt, water, and flour. But some “Sunday Feast” pasta is made with just egg and flour, so named because it can take a little longer.
Second, if you can, fresh pasta is always going to be more delicious. And it doesn’t even have to take very long! Check out this recipe for pasta dough.
Italian pasta is normally made with coarser wheat flour (not the 00 flour most North Americans use). Consider picking up a 1 or semolina flour for the more authentic hearty texture.
We’re going over the most popular types of pasta, so let’s start with some of the most recognizable noodle-style pasta. How many do you recognize?
You’re probably more familiar with “angel hair,” and capellini is just the Italian name for this super-thin “thin hair” pasta. Capellini is best used with light oil or cream sauces and frequently paired with seafood.
A clam sauce with oregano or a parsley creme are excellent options.
Ah, the classic! But spaghetti doesn’t have to be boring. Meatballs can come in all shapes and sizes to spice things up.
If you’re really looking to experiment, go crazy with things like spaghetti pie or tacos!
Bucatini is a fun one you may not have heard of but can truly up your spaghetti and meatballs game. Bucatini is just a little larger than spaghetti but has a thin hole through the middle. This really soaks up the sauce and makes it ideal for many types of sauces.
The most famous recipe to try is bucatini all’amatricana. This sumptuous meal involves a spicy tomato sauce and pancetta. Yum!
Flatter and a little larger than spaghetti, you probably already know what to do with this pasta. Fettuccine Alfredo is a classic, as are any heavy cream sauces. Try combining the Alfredo sauce with a little tomato to get a heavenly Rosa alternative.
Another famous one, you’re probably tired of linguine. But do you have any idea what linguine can do for a white wine sauce? Clams, mussels, shrimp — they all find a happy home with linguine.
This is the most famous of the very wide pasta types. It means something to do with childish joy. There’s certainly nothing more fun than slurping these down with a slow-cooked red-meat ragu.
Make sure you have the perfect wine to complement your meal. Check out our list of the best Pinot Noir wines on the market!
This is very similar to pappardelle but has wavy edges. Named after the Princess of Savoy, you can expect regal fish sauces and gamey meats to serve as the perfect pairing.
Princess Mafalda’s story is fascinating and well worth the naming of a pasta type.
Pici is a type of pasta you will find in restaurants all over Italy, but for some reason rarely outside of it. Its hand-rolling inconsistent sizing makes seemingly everything taste homemade.
It can be eaten with just about any sauce, but we tend to prefer it with a light truffle oil sauce. The hearty, chewy texture pairs perfectly with light sauces.
This pasta is specifically made with a bigoli press. It tends to be bought in a nest and can be made with duck eggs. Traditionally, they were made with buckwheat as opposed to regular wheat flour.
Bigoli goes well with fowl, such as chicken or duck, and red sauce or ragu.
There are so many different shapes of short pasta. Let’s go over the best ones!
There are many different types of macaroni, but they’re pretty similar. Macaroni is a short tube pasta that can be straight, elbow, or corkscrew in shape. This type of Italian pasta goes best in casseroles or soups like pasta and beans.
These two kinds of pasta are different but frequently confused. Rotini has outward-facing grooves while Fusilli has inward-facing. Both are some of the most versatile pasta types you can use.
They can handle light herb sauces as well as hold on to thick cream sauces.
Butterfly pasta as we know it can come in a few different shapes. The classic farfalle “bow-tie” and tripolini are the most popular. Tripolini almost has baskets instead of the “wings.”
Light vegetable sauces or oil-based ones are the way to go with these two.
Shells are perfect for scooping up the sauce and come in a variety of sizes. They’re one of the most fun types of pasta, as they frequently come in different colors and even flavors. Give the black squid ink a try for a weirdly minty chocolate flavor.
Cream sauces are the usual way to go!
Longer than macaroni with a hole through the middle, penne is best served with heavy sauces. Try penne alla vodka for a sharp and cheesy combination that’s hard to beat!
When you have something this delicious for dinner, you simply have to follow it up with a good dessert. And what better than a pastry? Check out our list of pastries to try!
Clearly, we’ve moved on to some different kinds of pasta you might never have heard of (but are well worth the experiment!). Orecchiette are supposed to look like ears. Their lines and ridges tend to latch on to light cream sauces without scooping up too much.
Shaped like wheels, these are frequently added to soups instead of the more common macaroni in order to spice things up. Small, it’s best for a zesty herb pasta salad or soup.
They’re named after and look like little bells. Combining ruffles and a cup shape, they’re excellent at catching sauce. Try it with a creamy mushroom sauce or a light nut and ricotta for something different in your recipe dictionary.
Stuffed pastas are some of the most delicious. With so many different stuffings, it’s hard to go wrong.
The most recognizable of this category, square in shape they can be almost any size. They can be filled with meat or cheese, and it’s best to try a sauce like garlic butter since it can go a long way.
These are shaped like rings and can also be stuffed with either meat or cheese. They go best with light sauces or in soups.
These look just like wrapped caramels, even down to the fun colors. Caramelle can be stuffed with cheese or things like sweet potato. Light marinara or cheese sauces are the perfect complements.
You might not even realize some of these are pasta! Let’s quickly go over them.
Orzo looks a lot like a grain or a type of rice. In actuality, it’s pasta!
It goes best in soups, or it can be used to make a pasta salad. Good quality is more important for this type of Italian pasta, as it’s generally the star of the show over the light sauces.
While they do come in different shapes and sizes, this type of pasta is used for baked dishes like Lasagna. Flat and large, they can hold up layers of cheese, meat, and sauce.
For something different, give a vegetable lasagna a try with a white cream sauce.
While it’s still considered pasta, gnocchi isn’t made of the typical ingredients we discussed earlier. Gnocci is normally made with potato, although it can also be made with different types of squash.
The best sauces for gnocchi are typically soft cheese sauces or herb-based ones. Spinach and Parmesan is an easy beginner sauce to get you started.
Have you found the best type of Italian pasta for your dish?
Now that you know all of the different kinds of pasta how about giving some of these a try yourself? Make sure you have the best cookware to get started. Remember, we’ve got all the reviews!