Which Pasta Shape to Use When: A Comprehensive Guide

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

Rigatoni

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

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

Fusilli

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.

Spaghetti

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.

Bucatini

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.

Farfalle

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

Pappardelle

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.

Orecchiette

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.

Fettuccine

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

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