A Guide to the Pasta Shapes of Italy

When we say Italy, we think “pasta”, and we know we aren’t the only ones. The famous Italian pasta dishes have a well-deserved reputation, but did you know just how many different types of pasta there are? It’s not just all about spaghetti or tagliatelle – there are tens of types of pasta waiting for you to discover them. Italian cuisine delivers again and allows us to choose from a wide variety of pasta of all shapes and sizes. We will now go over the most interesting types of pasta and describe their uses. How many of the different types of pasta did you even know to exist?


Spaghetti bolognese is by far one of the most famous Italian pasta dishes, but let us talk about the pasta itself. Typically, spaghetti pasta is made from water and hard wheat. It’s elongated and thin, however, there is also the spaghetti spezzati, which isn’t nearly as long. Spaghetti pasta in Italian cuisine is typically served with tomato sauce and minced meat; this is the spaghetti bolognese, which we’ve mentioned earlier. There are, however, many different ways to serve spaghetti such as carbonara, Aglio e olio, and many others. Remember not to overcook your pasta though – spaghetti should be served al dente! 


The farfalle is one of the prettiest-looking types of pasta. Shaped like a butterfly, these pasta pieces will entertain both your eyes and your taste buds. It’s also often used as a basis for the most famous Italian pasta dishes. While it’s not the most famous pasta in Italian cuisine, it’s worth noting that it’s always made from the highest quality wheat. While cooking Farfalle, you should be very gentle and careful, though. It is easy to overcook, much like spaghetti, however it is also possible that the pieces of farfalle stay hard in the center, while soggy and overcooked on the outside. If cooked properly, however, farfalle is a perfect choice, no matter what type of dish you’re preparing.


This type of pasta you should most likely recognize by now, especially if you tried mac n cheese. It’s extra small, so it can also be used when preparing salads or casseroles. Basically, this type of pasta will fit in well with basically any kind of dish. You can mix it with chicken, fish, fried vegetables, and more!


Cavatappi may be actually better known as the “double elbow pasta.” It’s quite popular in the US, and, aside from the elbow pasta, it is THE pasta of choice when preparing mac n cheese! It’s easily coated with sauces and extremely satisfying to chew on. If you’ve never tried the cavatappi type of pasta before, we recommend you use it for your next dish. Satisfaction guaranteed.


Penne is also a very popular type of pasta in Italian cuisine, and it’s often used to prepare a wide variety of dishes; when it comes to the most famous Italian pasta dishes, hardly any is more well-known than penne all arrabbiata. That dish, in particular, consists of the penne pasta and some really spicy tomato sauce, but, of course, you can prepare whatever you want. Penne can also be served with chicken, for example, or with the cheese and spinach sauce. Also, a moment ago we’ve talked about mac n cheese. Did you know that penne may actually be a really decent substitute if you can’t purchase the cavatappi or elbows pasta?


At first glance, the bucatini pasta may easily be mistaken for spaghetti. It is, however, something completely different. If you look closely, you’ll see that it is more round than spaghetti and that there’s also a small hole through the middle. What’s the use of this hole, you may ask? Well, you see, while cooked in a sauce (or soup), bucatini is actually absorbing some, granting you an even better taste. Compared to the spaghetti pasta, bucatini is also thicker. The most popular dish making use of this type of pasta is most likely the Bucatini all amatriciana. 


Among the different types of pasta, ravioli/tortellini differs from the ones we’ve talked about so far in one significant way – it is actually made with fillings! There are a lot of them, actually. Pay attention the next time you go shopping – you are sure to find some ravioli with meat filling, tortellini with mushrooms, and many, many other different options. Both ravioli and tortellini are usually consumed near the Christmas period; however, you can easily find them in stores throughout the year, even in the summer months. If you are preparing some ravioli or, even better, tortellini, we suggest also making some broth – this combination is incredibly tasty.


Do you want a pasta that is really wide? Try pappardelle! When it comes to the best types of Italian pasta, pappardelle is quite likely the widest one. This type of pasta is perfect when meshed with some deep, rich, meat-based sauces. We recommend the ragu and bolognese sauces. However, if you wish to do so, make sure to prepare some custom ones as well! It will also be a good idea to combine pappardelle pasta with some seafood, like prawns or crabs, as well as some mushrooms. 


High-quality lasagne pasta is recognized not only by its overall shape but also by its decorative, ruffled edges. In the most basic recipe, you only need some ricotta cheese and meat sauces to make a tasty lasagne dish, but feel free to experiment! There are various recipes for delicious lasagna – you can use some spinach or even fish. Also, if you think cooking the pasta will be too hard for you, you can always buy precooked and dehydrated, no-boil lasagne pasta sheets!


At first, you can confuse this type of pasta with the more popular penne. Take a closer look, however, and you will notice some quite clear differences. First of all, it’s less narrow and slightly stumpier. Contrary to the aforementioned penne, it’s also shaped with ridges in its texture. Of course, these two types of pasta do also share similarities! In both cases, for example, the gaping centers will hold down the sauce, making the well-cooked pasta almost melt in your mouth. For starters, we recommend you make some rigatoni with some butternut squash sauce.


Conchiglie is a type of small pasta, famous for resembling a shell. It’s the tastiest when prepared with tomato sauce and meatballs. However, if you want to create a vegan dish, how about mixing conchiglie with some turnip greens instead? This type of pasta is most famous in Apulia. If you find it to your liking, we suggest you also try the orecchiette pasta – it serves a similar purpose in Italian cuisine, but its shape resembles an ear instead.

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