If you’re a pasta-cooking newbie, the variety of pasta shapes can be overwhelming. Here’s a breakdown of the basics:


With its long tubular shape and ribboned edges, this pasta is especially sturdy and perfect for catching sauce. Use it in hearty winter dishes and baked specialties.


Penne is essentially a smaller version of rigatoni. This makes it a good fit for lighter, tomato-based sauces such as vodka or marinara.


This curvy pasta is a great choice for pasta salads and chunky vegetable sauces. It’s often paired with delicate cream sauces as well, since the shape can catch the dense texture.


Often an all-time favorite, you might think spaghetti can go with just about anything. While that may be true, lighter red sauces and oil-and-garlic combinations are your best bet.


Less well-known in the pasta world, this tubular pasta is a great choice for the winter season. Its thick shape makes it a perfect pair for rustic sauces with meat or ham.


More commonly known as the “bowtie”, this pasta is a delicious match for seafood- or cream-based sauces.


Using a sauce with heavy meats, like lamb or duck? Pappardelle is the winner here. Since it’s super thick, it can handle even the heaviest ingredients.


This kid-friendly pasta translates into “little ear” in Italian. It makes for a great substitute for macaroni in mac & cheese. Plus, it pairs well with drier sauces with broccoli rabe and sausage.


Much like pappardelle, this wide and fat fits well with creamier, heartier sauces. The most popular is Fettucine Alfredo.