Types of Pasta

Selina

Selina

Published: 24 Dec 2020

Modified: 29 Jul 2021

variety of pasta

There are more than 350 different types of pasta. And almost four times as many pasta names! Some pasta varieties are unique to certain regions of Italy and not widely known. Many are similar in variations of size, surface texture, production method, or of slight difference in ingredients of its dough. However, even more are differing names depending on the native language from region to region. 

Of course, we don’t want to just know pasta names and pasta fun facts. We want to know which pasta to use to make the various types of pasta dishes to impress family and guests.

different types of pasta
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Since the type of pasta shape usually determines which sauces or cooking method is ideal, we have categorized more than 35 types of pasta according to their shapes. We have also included recommendations on the types of sauces that would pair well with the pasta in each category, and the time needed to boil the different types of pasta noodles.

Whether you prefer your pasta done al dente for a firmer bite, or softer for an easier chew, feel free to get creative with your pasta dish. Likewise, whether you’re heading out for pasta at a restaurant, or home-cooking an Italian feast, we hope that this curated list of Italian noodle types will kickstart your exploration of the world of pasta!

Table of Contents

Types Of Pasta Infographics

types of pasta infographics

Long And Skinny Pasta

Long and skinny types of pasta go well with tomato-based sauces like marinara, and cream sauces like alfredo. If you find those sauces too heavy, try an oil-based recipe — perhaps the classic Aglio e Olio with seafood?

Spaghetti

Italian spaghetti in meat sauce
Image from Adobe Stock

Pronunciation: spah-GEH-tee
Pasta cooking time: 8 to 12 minutes

We’re sure you know this one.

Spaghetti is a staple food in traditional Italian cuisine and probably the most known pasta in the world. These are thin, cylindrical and solid rods of pasta that are approximately 30 cm long, and made of semolina, flour and water.

President Thomas Jefferson was the first person to have introduced this pasta noodle to America in 1789. Despite so, it was only during World War II when American soldiers discovered the taste of European cuisine, came home echoing the delights of spaghetti and thus, kickstarting its availability and demand in the American market.

Also, did you know that National Spaghetti Day falls on 4th January?

Linguine

Linguine - flat type of pasta
Image from Adobe Stock

Pronunciation: lin-GWEE-nee
Pasta cooking time: 9 to 13 minutes

Linguine is traditionally served with seafood sauce, clams, shrimps, and even salmon. Very similar to spaghetti, this type of pasta is a little flatter and wider. Its shape earned it the name ‘little tongues’, the literal translation of its Italian name. Consequently, the extra surface area of linguine pairs perfectly with lighter textured cream base sauces too.

One of our favorite ways to indulge in this luxurious Italian noodle is this Butternut Squash Linguine recipe. Yum!

Vermicelli

Vermicelli pasta
Image from Adobe Stock

Pronunciation: ver-mih-CHEH-lee
Pasta cooking time: 5 to 7 minutes

Vermicelli literally translates to ‘little worms’ due to its long and thin appearance. This Italian pasta is thinner than spaghetti in the US. On the contrary, in Italy, vermicelli is actually a thicker pasta noodle than spaghetti.

Vermicelli is not the same as rice vermicelli. They are two different noodles that feature in different cuisines. Vermicelli is made from maida flour, while rice vermicelli is made from rice flour. Thus, it is more fragile and more easily digestible than vermicelli.

Vermicelli pasta goes well in soups and broths, as well as the sauces recommended.

Angel Hair

Angel hair pasta
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Pasta cooking time: 2 to 6 minutes

Angel hair, or also known as capelli d’angelo in Italian, is one of the types of spaghetti, but in very fine strands. Its slightly thicker alternative is the capellini (pronounced as cah-peh-LEE-nee), which is approximately 0.84 mm thick, while the angel hair pasta is about 0.78 mm thick.

Try serving this delicate pasta in broth for a hearty meal. It is also common to serve angel hair pasta in simple, light sauces, served with vegetables and light seafood such as scallops.

Fideos

Fideos pasta
Image from Adobe Stock

Pronunciation: fee-DAY-ohs

If you think that all pasta originates from Italy, think again.

Fideos are a kind of pasta with Spanish roots and are thin like angel hair pasta. Fideos are packaged in short pieces or long strands but the former is preferred. However, fideos are cooked differently compared to Italian pasta. They are first toasted in olive oil and cooked right in the sauce to soak up the flavors.

The most popular fideo dish is the Sopa de Fideo, a stock-base noodle soup that is part of the Spanish, Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisines.

Long Ribbon Pasta

Generally, the wider the ribbon pasta the heavier the sauce you should use. Wide ribbons pair well with rich and chunky meat sauces, while the thinner flat noodles are better paired with simple cream sauces like Alfredo, and with delicate proteins like eggs and seafood.

Fettuccine

Italian rolled fresh fettuccine pasta
Image from Adobe Stock

Pronunciation: fay-tuh-CHEE-nee
Pasta cooking time: 8 to 13 minutes

One of Italy’s favorite ribbon pastas, fettuccine has a flat surface and is about 6 to 8 mm wide, and made of semolina dough. The addition of eggs in the dough gives fettuccine a richer taste and texture than spaghetti. Because of the richness, it pairs well with either meat sauces or sauces that have butter, cheese or cream.

Unlike spaghetti that has a certain blandness, pasta noodles made of egg dough do not require the adding of herbs like capers, garlic, and olives to bring out the taste of the dish.

Tagliatelle

Tagliatelle pasta with mushrooms
Image from Adobe Stock

Pronunciation: tah-lyah-TELL-eh
Pasta cooking time: 7 to 10 minutes

Tagliatelle looks similar to fettuccine and is also made of egg dough. In fact, based on Italian cookbook author Giuliano Bugialli, the two pastas are really one same Italian noodle. He then goes on to explain that the difference is only in name or regional variance. But even then, the taste is similar and one would hardly be able to tell the difference.

Personally, we do think that there is a difference in terms of consistency. Tagliatelle has a slightly thicker bite than that of fettuccine’s. However, if you are having difficulty finding tagliatelle to prepare with the classic black truffle cream sauce (al Tartufo), we wouldn’t get too hung up on trying to get our hands on one variation over the other.

Pappardelle

Pappardelle with meat Sauce
Image from Adobe Stock

Pronunciation: pa-par-DAY-lay
Pasta cooking time: 7 to 10 minutes

Popular in the Tuscan region of Italy, Pappardelle is flat, wide strips of egg pasta that holds chunky meat sauces well. Since wide ribbons are more absorbent and sturdy, it is the ideal pasta to serve with thick sauces like ragu and bolognese. In terms of width, it is between tagliatelle and lasagna, with the latter having the widest surface. Made with egg-based dough, these types of Italian pasta have a richer and fluffier texture.

Run boiled pasta under cold water or briefly toss them with oil. It prevents broad-width pasta from sticking to each after being drained.

Lasagna

Traditional lasagna
Image from Adobe Stock

Pronunciation: luh-ZAHN-yuh
Pasta cooking time: 11 to 15 minutes

You’ve got to know lasagne as it is one of the most quintessential pasta dishes when it comes to Italian cuisine.

With hardly other ideal ways of preparing other than to bake, lasagna refers to one sheet of the 90 mm wide ribbon pasta, while lasagne refers to the dish that is made of many layers of the noodle, with cheese and a meat sauce.

Psst! The key to successfully serving lasagne is to let it rest for 15 to 30 minutes before cutting into the mouth-watering creation. If it is too hot, there will be spews everywhere! According to Chef Will Cox, this time window allows it to set up and ensure that each wedge holds its shape.

Mafalda

Mafalda pasta
Image from Adobe Stock

Pronunciation: ma-FALL-duh
Pasta cooking time: 9 to 12 minutes

Also known as reginette, mafalde or mafaldine, this ribbon pasta is flat and usually 13 mm wide, with wavy edges on both sides. Malfada is traditionally served in bolognese sauce. You can also use this noodle in cream sauce and other tomato based sauces. Due to its wavy edges, the pasta is sometimes cut into shorter pieces for easier eating.

Another fun fact for you pasta aficionado — Mafalda was named in honor of Princess Mafalda Maria Elisabetta Anna Romana di Savoia. Thus its alternative name, Reginette, means ‘little queens’ when translated from Italian. There is actually quite a sad story about Princess Mafalda that you may want to check out.

Mafalda is less commonly sold in grocery stores compared to most of the different types of pasta on this list. However, you may still find them at specialty stores or online.

Mini Shape Pasta

These little Italian pasta go best in soups, stews, pasta salads or baked in casseroles. They are easy to eat and are the least messy — ideal for young children and the elderly. You can even mix some of these little pasta types for an attractive and wholesome pasta meal. It is recommended to avoid serving them with chunky meat and vegetables. Cut or chop those other ingredients to a similar size for better consistency of the dish.

Risoni

Risoni - commonly known as orzo
Image from Adobe Stock

Pronunciation: ri-ZOH-nee

Risoni, also known as orzo, are small, grain-shaped pasta. They are white, but can be colored by saffron, chilies, and black beans.

There are a variety of ways to serve risoni. It can be served in soups and stews or as part of salads. They are also an alternative to rice in a pilaf, or baked in a casserole. In Italy, it is often boiled in soups like minestrone, or boiled and lightly fried to serve a similar dish to risotto.

Acini di Pepe

Acini di Pepe - Dry round pasta
Image from Adobe Stock

Pronunciation: ah-CHEE-nee dee PAY-pay
Pasta cooking time: 4 to 9 minutes

Translated to ‘peppercorns’ from Italian, acini di pepe are tiny bead-shaped pasta, and are perfect to serve in most soups. Ideally served in lighter broth base soups, these tiny little pasta can also be used to serve pasta salads.

Anelli and Anellini

Anelli and Anellini
Image from Adobe Stock

Pronunciation: ah-NELL-lee
Pasta cooking time: 7 to 10 minutes

Both anelli and anellini are small, ring-shaped pasta, with the latter the smaller alternative of the two. Anelli is also famous as the main pasta ingredient in SpaghettiOs, a bowl of tomato-based soup, introduced by the Campbell Soup Company.

However, anellini is not as commonly found in our local grocery stores. You may find them in larger hypermarkets or Italian market stores. Alternatively, you can order them online.

Ditalini

Ditalini - Italian raw pasta
Image from Adobe Stock

Pronunciation: dee-tah-LEE-nee
Pasta cooking time: 8 to 10 minutes

Commonly used throughout Sicily, ditalini is a small tubular pasta that can be made either with a smooth or ridged surface. It is often used in soups due to its size and ability to fit enough and well on a spoon. It is used to prepare a common Sicilian dish, Pasta E Fagioli, known as the pasta and bean soup. In some areas in Italy, ditalini is also known as the salad macaroni.

Farfalle

Farfalle tricolore uncooked
Image from Adobe Stock

Pronunciation: far-FAHL-ley
Pasta cooking time: 8 to 15 minutes

The butterfly-shaped (farfalle is “butterfly” when translated from Italian) pasta with zig-zag trimmings on both borders, farfalle is also commonly referred to as the bow-tie pasta. The larger version is the farfalloni, while the smaller version is the farfalline.

This pretty Italian pasta goes well with salads and soups. It is commonly featured in recipes with cream sauces too. Farfalle is made of whole-wheat flour. Some are colored with beetroot, spinach and cuttlefish ink. Note that the taste of colored farfalle changes with the additional ingredient.

Radiatori

Raw Pasta Radiatori
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Pronunciation: rah-dyah-TOH-rey
Pasta cooking time: 9 to 13 minutes

Modelled after an old industrial heating fixture, this small and unique looking pasta was invented during a time between World War I and World War II. Short and ridged with hollows created, radiatori traps enough sauce for a good mouthful of tasty pasta.

Twist Pasta

The curves and grooves of these spiral pasta hold sauces really well. You can go with almost any sauce whether it’s chunky meat sauces, heavy cream sauces, or smooth sauces like pesto. Preferred baked or tossed in sauce, pasta with twists are extremely versatile and works with most cooking methods.

Fusilli

Fusilli-vs-Rotini
Difference between fusilli and rotini — ThoseFoods.com

Pronunciation: foo-ZEE-lee
Pasta cooking time: 10 to 13 minutes

The flawless twists in fusilli create the extra grooves that catch extra sauce and dressings, making a mouthful of this common pasta a favorite amongst many. Since it does not require twirling, it is also ideal for children to enjoy without creating a mess. Though sturdy, it is more ‘springy’ than rotini — the corkscrew-shaped pasta that is more widely used in the US.

Rotini

Uncooked rotini pasta
Image from Adobe Stock

Pronunciation: roh-TEE-nee
Pasta cooking time: 8 to 12 minutes

More tightly wound, larger, and definitely more sturdy than fusilli. Rotini can come tri-colored, flavored in beet, spinach and tomato. It holds more sauce than fusilli and is perfect with chunkier meat sauces too.

Fusilli is pasta that is twirled around a rod, pressed, and rolled into a corkscrew shape. Whereas, rotini is extruded into its helical shape and is more sturdy than fusilli.

Gemelli

Gemelli Italian Pasta
Image from Adobe Stock

Pronunciation: jay-MEL-lee
Pasta cooking time: 8 to 10 minutes

Translated to “twins” from Italian, gemelli looks like two rods of pasta being spiraled together but in fact, they are really made with the twisting of just one ‘s-shaped’ pasta. It is commonly used in casseroles and pasta salads and is best served with light and smoother pesto sauces.

Campanelle

Campanelle pasta
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Pronunciation: cam-PA-neh-ley
Pasta cooking time: 7 to 10 minutes

One of the lesser known Italian pasta here in the US, campanelle is rolled into a cone shape, with ruffled edges that looks like a small, blooming flower. With its hollow center, this unique looking pasta holds sauces well, gives a sauce-oozing bite when chewed. It is an ideal pasta to go with cream or pesto sauces. Throw in some zucchini and mushroom for a tasteful pasta meal!

Casarecce

Casarecce pasta
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Pronunciation: cah-sah-rech-ee
Pasta cooking time: 10 to 12 minutes

Casarecce is made with an ‘s-shaped’ pasta with a slight twist. However, its scroll shape creates two hollow cylindrical wedges in casarecce pasta that tucks pasta oils and meat sauces well too.

Cavatappi

Cavatappi - durum wheat semolina pasta
Image from Adobe Stock

Pronunciation: cah-vah-TOP-pee
Pasta cooking time: 9 to 10 minutes

Commonly baked with tomatoes, basil, cheese, eggplant, and Italian sausage, cavatappi is a tubular, corkscrew-shaped pasta. Its surface can be smooth or with ridges. Think juicy, luscious, mouth-watering, and sauce gushing — Cavatappi is truly one of the all-in-one pasta with a twist that contains as much sauce as one could hope for. Pick the ridged variety to maximize sauce holding.

Shell Pasta

Shell pasta types go well in soups and with salads but they do best when served in heavy cream sauces or in chunky meat sauces. They are a delight to savor as their shape gives them a hollow pocket that trap sauces well. Give it a try and you’ll know what we mean!

Conchiglie

Conchiglie
Image from Adobe Stock

Pronunciation: con-KEEL-yay
Pasta cooking time: 10 to 12 minutes

Conchiglie is a type of pasta that looks like seashells and is an ideal pasta for both soup or meat sauce dishes. Due to its conch shell shape, just a few pieces on a spoon is enough for a tasteful bite as this small pasta holds sauces well.

This shell pasta can also be found in two other sizes, with conchiglioni being the largest, and conchigliette the smallest. Choose conchiglioni if you are craving for pasta in chunky meat sauces.

Pipe Rigate

Pipe Rigate with Cheese pasta
Image from Adobe Stock

Pronunciation: pee-pee ree-gaa-teh
Pasta cooking time: 9 to 11 minutes

If you are an elbow macaroni fan, you will want to explore using pipe rigate for your next pasta craving! Made with one end slightly closed and smaller than the other, this shell pasta holds on to thick and chunky meat sauces even better than your usual macaroni go-to.

Cavatelli

Cavatelli
Image from Adobe Stock

Pronunciation: cah-vah-TELL-lee
Pasta cooking time: 6 to 8 minutes

Cavatelli are small shell-shaped, eggless semolina pasta that resembles hot dog buns. It is also a good alternative to conchiglie.

The pasta name comes from the Italian verb ‘cavare’, which means ‘to carve’ or ‘hollow out’. Although no actual carving was necessary to make cavatelli, its shape, obtained by rolling a stick dough with one finger, creates a hollow belly that holds content within well. It is terrific to serve in soups or with cream, meat, seafood or vegetable sauces.

Originating from the Puglia regions in Italy, there are now many varying types of cavatelli throughout the country. They vary in sizes, some ridged and some without, and one with the addition of ricotta cheese to the pasta dough.

Tube Pasta

Tubular pasta types are versatile and can come in a variety of lengths. They are great at trapping oils, sauces, and soups. Most will even hold on to little bits of meat and vegetables. Depending on its size, some tube pasta can also be used with stuffings. Try preparing one of the below tube pasta with a hearty vegetable sauce, ragu, or meat sauce like bolognese.

Penne

Penne lisce vs penne rigate

Pronunciation: PEH-neh
Pasta cooking time: 10 to 13 minutes

Penne is a versatile Italian pasta that can be used in many different pasta recipes. It is excellent whether served in sauces or oils, salads, soups or baked.

The short cylindrical-shaped pasta have a hollow center that is great for withholding ragu or thick sauces. Its shape, inspired by a quill, has an angled edge on both ends of the pasta. Undoubtedly, these pen-like angled tips are also why bits of meat and vegetables can be easily ‘collected’ too.

There are two types of penne — Penne ‘lisce’ and penne ‘rigate’, with lisce having a smooth surface and the rigate having grooves. Clearly, the grooves in penne rigate will trap sauces better on the pasta as compared to its smoother alternative.

Penne are quite hard, especially in their dried forms. Therefore, these tubular pasta require a longer time in the boil.

Elbow macaroni

Elbow Macaroni
What does macaroni have to do with the Greek goddess of death?

Pronunciation: mac-uh-ROW-nee
Pasta cooking time: 9 to 12 minutes

In the US, especially in North America, we often associate the term ‘macaroni’ to the elbow macaroni. In fact, macaroni refers to all dry pasta that is short and shaped like narrow tubes. Different speeds of extrusion on both ends of the pasta create the varying curve of the macaroni.

But here’s the interesting pasta fact many of us mac-n-cheese fans never knew. According to widely-agreed history, the product and the term ‘macaroni’ was derived from an ancient Greek word, Macaria, which means “Goddess of a Blessed Death”. It comes from the word makares, or, makaria; which refers to a meal, consisting of a barley broth, served at traditional Greek funerals.

Though debated, this fun solemn fact about macaroni has truly changed how we look at our bowl of mac-n-cheese.

Rigatoni

Rigatoni
Image from Adobe Stock

Pronunciation: rig-uh-TOE-nee
Pasta cooking time: 14 to 15 minutes

Rigatoni comes in various lengths and diameters but is usually bigger than penne and ziti. Sometimes with slight curves, this tubular pasta type has ridges running down their length. Unlike penne, both openings of rigatoni do not have angled tips.

Like many pasta types with grooves, rigatoni is a favorite amongst most in the central and south of Italy, and particularly in Sicily. The ridges give it a better ability to hold on to sauces and grated cheese, and the larger hollow space allows it to trap meat or vegetable sauce, and especially ragu.

However, if you prefer a smaller alternative to rigatoni, there is a penne-size version that is referred to as rigatoncini.

Tortiglioni

Tortiglioni al ragù
Image from Adobe Stock

Pronunciation: tohr-tee-LYOH-nee
Pasta cooking time: 9 to 11 minutes

Tortiglioni originated in Naples and is a favorite amongst natives. Similar to rigatoni, the tortiglioni is a tube-shaped pasta created with grooves that are deeper, and slightly twisted. It is also larger than the former.

Tortiglioni goes well in ragu sauces. Side ingredients can afford to be biggish meat chunks or vegetables like whole mushrooms and artichokes.

Bucatini

Bucatini - Italian Straw Pasta - Tube pasta type
Image from Adobe Stock

Pronunciation: boo-kah-TEE-nee
Pasta cooking time: 9 to 13 minutes

One of the top favorites when it comes to pasta types — Bucatini pasta holds sauces like a boss!

Resembling a straw, bucatini is like a thick spaghetti with a 3 mm hole (in diameter) that runs through the Italian pasta noodle. Common throughout Lazio and particularly in Rome, bucatini is ideal to use in rich pasta sauces like a creamy garlic butter sauce.

Another common sauce used with this pasta is Amatriciana, a meat and tomato-based sauce. It also happens to be one of the favorites in present-day Rome.

Manicotti

Ricotta and Spinach Manicotti with Basil
Image from Adobe Stock

Pronunciation: man-uh-COT-tee

You’ll want to buy manicotti when you’re craving for a ravioli but want to make your own, without the mess. This tube pasta comes as large, empty, ridged shells of about 40 mm long and about 25 mm in diameter.

Literally translated to ‘little sleeves’, it is generally prepared uncooked, to stuff fillings made of ricotta cheese, chopped spinach, and sometimes with minced meat. Topped with a cheese or tomato based sauce, it is then left to bake in an oven.

An alternative pasta would be the cannelloni that does not have the slanted end of the manicotti, and with a smooth exterior surface.

Check out this delightful manicotti with spinach and cheese recipe. It’s heavenly goodness from the kitchen!

Tubini

Tubini pasta

Pronunciation: too-BEE-nee

Not as commonly used as the other types of pasta on our list, tubini is a medium-sized tube pasta with a smooth surface. However, it is an alternative if you want a tube pasta but don’t like the chunkiness of the rigatoni or length of the bucatini.

Because of its size and sturdiness, it goes well with meat sauces or salads. An ideal way to serve tubini is to stir-fry or bake. On the whole, this Italian short pasta is quite a versatile one.

Filled Pasta

It is preferable to buy fresh filled pasta over the preserved options. Since these pasta are filled with other ingredients, it is recommended to serve these dumpling-type pasta in light butter or oil sauces. Alternatively, you may also serve filled pasta in soup or broth.

Tortellini

tortellini and venus goddess
Images from Adobe Stock

Pronunciation: tore-tuh-LEE-nee
Pasta cooking time: 4 to 9 minutes

Tortellini is filled pasta traditionally stuffed with a blend of meat made of pork loin, prosciutto, mortadella, parmesan cheese, egg and nutmeg, and served in chicken broth.

This very recipe dates back to as early as 1570. It was then referred to as Torteletti. Only from writings in the mid-17th century shows the change in the pasta name to what we know today as Tortellini.

Disputed between Bologna and Modena on the origins of tortellini, there are many legends that try to soothe the debate on the origins of the stuffed pasta.

One popular legend reveals that Venus, the Greek goddess of love, had stayed in an inn located between the two disputing cities. The innkeeper had peeped at her through a keyhole. However, all that he could see was her navel. He had later created a pasta to its shape and named it ombelico di Venere, which means ‘Venus’ navel’, commonly used to refer to tortellini.

If you’re looking for a good excuse to savor this mouth-watering and calorie-explosive pasta, you’ll be glad to know that there is a National Tortellini Day in the US every year, on 13 February!

Tortelloni

Spinach Tortelloni
Image from Adobe Stock

Pronunciation: tore-tuh-LOW-nee

With a similar shape, tortelloni comes in a larger size than tortellini — 5g versus 2g per pasta. Tortelloni’s meat-based stuffings differs slightly. Its fillings also include ricotta and spinach.

Tortelloni is first boiled in water to cook. After which, it will be stir-fried with butter and sage, and finally served dry.

Ravioli

Homemade spinach and ricotta ravioli

Pronunciation: ra-vee-OH-lee
Pasta cooking time: 4 to 9 minute

With even earlier mentions in the 14th century, ravioli is another favorite with two thin pasta sheets holding fillings within, and forming a pillow-like shape. Originated in Italy, they are usually square, although you may also find circular, or semi-circular ones.

Fillings are different from region to region. Meat and cheese are common ingredients. Others make theirs vegetarian. The Italian tradition is to serve vegetarian ravioli, especially on Fridays as Catholics abstain from meat as an act of penance.

Each pasta has its unique purpose.

You don’t have to memorize every pasta type on the market. Familiarizing yourself with just one commonly found traditional pasta in each category will guarantee you’ll make a better pairing decision for your next pasta meal.