Skip to main content

Pasta Shapes and the Best Sauces to Pair with Them

Know your bucatini from your ditalini? Find the perfect pasta for your sauces, soups, and salads with our guide to pasta types. Because shape matters.
 

Pasta Shapes from Orzo to Pappardelle

Pasta Shapes  | Photo by Meredith

Angel Hair
The long, delicate strands of angel hair pasta (a.k.a. capellini) are best served in light or creamy sauces. The thin strands can go M.I.A. in chunky, meaty sauces.

 

Bow Tie Pasta
Use bow tie pasta to dress up any dish that calls for small pasta shapes, such as penne or shells. Also known as farfalle. 

Bucatini
These long, hollow spaghetti-like tubes (a.k.a. perciatelli) are unusual and fun! Try them in casseroles or Asian stir-fries, or tossed with a fresh tomato sauce.

 

Ditalini
Medium-sized, very short tubes with smooth sides. Like most short pasta shapes, ditali are excellent used in soups, pasta salads, and to stand up to chunky sauces.

Egg Noodles
These noodles add heartiness to soups, stews and casseroles.

Egg Noodles Recipes

 

Fettuccine
An egg pasta cut into long, narrow ribbons. It is often served with cream sauces, as in the classic Fettuccine Alfredo. You can use fettuccine in any recipe that calls for linguine or spaghetti.

 

Fusilli
This long, thick, spiral-shaped pasta adds an unexpected twist to any recipe that calls for spaghetti.

1282511 Awesome Pasta Salad Photo by The Sporadic Cook

Gemelli
A short, spiral pasta, versatile gemelli works well in hearty sauces, baked dishes, and lighter vegetable pasta dishes.

 

Gnocchi
These chewy little pasta dumplings--traditionally made from potatoes--are usually boiled and served with rich sauces. Tomato-based or herb and butter sauces also work well.

 

Lasagna
The name for this long, wide noodle is also the name for the dish. Lasagna (the noodle) can be both flat or with curly edges. Lasagna (the dish) is amazing.

World's Best Lasagna

Photo by TheWickedNoodle

Linguine
These long, flat noodles are slightly thicker than spaghetti. The classic Italian restaurant pairing is clam sauce, but you can use in any dish that calls for spaghetti.

 

Macaroni
A small, tube-shape pasta, macaroni is terrific in creamy casseroles (like macaroni and cheese) or salads (like macaroni salad). Why? Because the creamy sauce flows into the cooked tubes, giving you flavor in every bite.

Manicotti
These large-tube shaped noodles are usually filled with cheese or meat filling and baked. The surface of the pasta can be either smooth or ridged.

 

Orecchiette
A small, bowl-shaped pasta usually combined with vegetables and oil rather than hearty sauces. The tiny indentations in the pasta will catch tasty bits of veggies.

 

Orzo
A tiny, rice-like pasta thats used to add heartiness to soups and salads.

Parmesan Garlic Orzo

Parmesan Garlic Orzo | Photo by KGora

Penne
A two-inch long, tube-shaped pasta that is cut diagonally at both ends. Great with chunky meat or vegetable sauces, as bits of the meat or veggies will slide into the pasta tubes. Also sometimes called mostaccioli.

 

Radiatore
Short, squat, ruffled pasta similar to rotini. They look like radiators, hence the name. Like other sturdy pasta shapes, radiatore stand out in hearty sauces or tossed with veggies in a pasta salad.

 

Ravioli
Little square pillows of dough, packed with finely ground or chopped fillings--from cheese to meat to pureed veggies. Serve ravioli with sauce, in soups, or just drizzled with olive oil.

 

Rigatoni
Short, grooved, tube-shaped "riggies" can be used in pretty much any setting, from sauces to salads to baked casseroles.

Rigatoni alla Genovese

Rigatoni alla Genovese | Photo by Chef John

Rotelle
Shaped like wagon wheels (and also sometimes called by that name) these small, round pastas are fun for the kiddos. Use them to liven up goulash or mac and cheese.

 

Rotini
These kid-friendly pastas looked like smooshed corkscrews. Often used for pasta salad since bits of vegetables will cling to the grooves in the rotini.

 

Shells
Shell pasta comes in many different sizes. Stuff large shells with cheese and bake, like you would with manicotti, use medium-sized shells in casseroles and with meat sauces, and use the smallest shells in soups and stews. Also known as conchiglie and cavatelli.

Stuffed Shells I

Photo by LYNNINMA

Spaghetti
The classic long, thin, cylindrical tubes you know and love. Spaghetti is just thick enough so it doesn't get lost in that hearty family meat sauce recipe, but thin enough to serve with cream sauce, or even with just a light dressing of olive oil and garlic.

 

Tagliatelle
A long, flat, thin noodle, similar to fettuccine. The classical pairing is with meat sauces, but you can use with light sauces as well.

 

Tortellini
Stuffed rings of pasta you can eat with sauce, put in soup, or just drizzle with olive oil. Sometimes sold in different colors, with the addition of beets, tomatoes, or other dyeing agents.

Italian Sausage Soup with Tortellini

Photo by Allrecipes

Vermicelli
These long strands of pasta are thinner than spaghetti but thicker than angel hair. You can use just as you would either of those. Also known as spaghettini.

 

Ziti
A slender, tube-shaped pasta, ziti stands up to hearty sauces and is great in baked pasta dishes.

Baked Ziti I

Baked Ziti I | Photo by cookin'mama


Check out our collection of Pasta and Noodles Recipes.


Related:

About Allrecipes Staff

Your friends in the kitchen with expert answers to all your burning food questions. Because we’ve been there, done that.