Ultimate AZ Guide to 49 Different Pasta Types and How to Use Them

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

The range of dried pasta types at the store can be bewildering. Do you want corkscrews, stovepipes, or little ears tonight? Perhaps a big dish of priest stranglers (that’d be “strozzapreti” in Italian).

There are reasons pasta exists in so many forms. It’s partly regional (Italian cities big and small always seem to have a specialty pasta). But it’s also practical — certain types of pasta better suit certain sauces. The workhorse pastas, like farfalle, work well with a wide variety of sauces.

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The general rule is that delicate noodles (including fresh pasta) are for delicate sauces, while heartier noodles are for heartier sauces. But, like wine pairing, it’s not always that simple. Here’s a guide to help you sort it all out. And if you can’t tell your radiatore from your penne, we’ve got pictures.

We’ve cross-referenced this visual guide by pasta or by sauce and included some suggestions for specific recipes you can try. So dig in and mangia!

Pasta types: Pictures, uses, and descriptions

Acini de pepe

Acini di pepe are “little peppercorns,” named for their tiny ball shape. They’re reminiscent of Israeli couscous, and you’ll find them floating in dishes such as Italian wedding soup.

Annelli/annellini

Annelli are little rings. It’s best to eat these round pieces by the spoonful.

Bucatini
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Bucatini is a long, pipe-shaped pasta with a hole in the center that’s just wide enough to soak up a few saucy juices. Check out our recipe for bucatini all’amatriciana alla Robert Sietsema for some inspo.

Calamari

These pasta bands are named for their squid-like shape. They work best with other shapely ingredients and sauces that have a bit of substance.

Campanelle

Campanelle are bells that are the perfect size for pocketing little nubs of cheese, veggies, or meat. Check out our recipe for heirloom tomato-basil pasta with olives and feta with campanelle.

Capellini (aka angel hair)

Light and ethereal, these wispy strands do well with lighter, thinner sauces. Check out our recipes for angel hair pasta with green garlic cream sauce and angel hair pasta with spicy vodka sauce.

Casarecce
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Casarecce literally means “homemade,” owing to the pasta’s loose, free-form shape. Their crevices are great for soaking up sauce.

Cavatelli

“Cavare” means “to scoop” in Italian — appropriate for the hot-dog-bun-style crevices in cavatelli. They’re a signature shape in the southern Italian region of Puglia.

Conchiglie

Named for their conch-shell-like appearance, these tubes can hold ample amounts of liquid. Check out our recipe for pasta with arugula pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, and pine nuts with conchiglie.

Ditalini

These “tiny fingers” are a classic choice for soups like pasta e fagioli, although they’re also great for soaking up cheese and sauce in baked dishes. Check out our pasta e fagioli recipe with ditalini.

Farfalle
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You may know them as bow ties, but these all-purpose shapes are actually named for fluttering butterflies. Check out our recipe for bow tie pasta with corn, thyme, and Parmesan.

Fregula

A Sardinian specialty, these grain-like bits add a chewy bite to soups and more. They’re usually toasted, which gives them a brown color. Check out our recipe for soup of fregula with baby clams (fregula kin arsellas).

Fusilli

Fusilli is a short “spun” pasta with twisted surfaces that provide a chute for sauce to slide down. Check out our recipes for spinach pesto fusilli and fusilli with parsley, walnut, and black olive pesto.

Fusilli col buco

Also known as fusilli bucati, these long corkscrew spirals have a tiny hole inside each strand. Pasta impresarios originally made this shape by wrapping bucatini around knitting needles.

Fusilli napoletani
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Fusilli napoletani look like tightly twirled ribbons, although they have just enough space at their center to hold a range of sauces.

Gemelli

Gemelli are “twins,” named for their double-helix-shaped strands. Check out our recipe for dill, chickpea, and feta pasta salad with gemelli.

Gigli

Similar to campanelle, gigli are a little bit tighter and frillier, resembling the lilies they’re named for (not that regrettable J. Lo movie from the early 2000s).

Jumbo shells

An oversized variation on conchiglie, these egg-size pieces are great for filling with cheese, chopped veggies, and more. Check out our Swiss chard stuffed shells recipe.

Lasagna
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These flat sheets are well known for their most common use: baked into saucy, belly-filling recipes. Check out our recipes for lasagna alla Bolognese, butternut squash lasagna, pesto and pea lasagna, and vegan lasagna.

Lumaconi

Named after snails, these large roly-poly shapes are big enough to stuff with cheese and veggies.

Manicotti

These large tubes are a favorite shape for stuffing with ricotta or ground meat.

Paccheri

These smooth, thumb-size tubes have their origins in Naples. They’re suited for tossing in tomato-based sauces, but you can also find them stuffed in some recipes.

Pastina
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The tiniest pasta of them all! You can eat pastina almost like a porridge or add it to soups.

Penne rigate

These penne noodles have a bumpy surface that allows them to pick up sauce better than their smooth counterparts. Check out our recipe for fresh tomato sauce with penne.

Radiatore

These short, frilled shapes may look like deep-sea creatures, but they can catch chunks of tomato or cheese between each wing.

Rigatoni

Named for their ridged lines, rigatoni are most commonly found in Sicily. They’re sturdy enough to take on thicker and chunkier sauces. Check out our recipe for creamy rigatoni with chicken and mushrooms.

Rotelle
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Rotelle are wheels. (They even have spokes.) These quarter-size circles can be used in a variety of ways, such as in mac and cheese and soups.

Rotini

Rotini are barely discernible from fusilli, but they do have a slightly tighter spiral and a shorter overall length. Check out our recipe for pasta with broccoli, crispy prosciutto, and toasted breadcrumbs.

Sfoglia

These are broad sheets of pasta — the kind you can make simply by passing dough through a pasta roller. You can use them to make stuffed cannelloni.

Spaghetti

The legendary classic — these long, rounded noodles are perfect for twirling around a fork. Check out our recipes for spaghetti and meatballs and slow cooker spaghetti Bolognese.

Spaghetti alla chitarra
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Associated with the central Italian region of Abruzzo, these long strands have a square shape that is created by running pasta sheets through the guitar-like instrument that gives them their name.

Spaghettini

Thinner than regular spaghetti, these wiry pieces are best suited for lighter sauces.

Stelline

Oh, my stars! These twinkling shapes will have you seeking out constellations in your soup.

Strozzapreti

Pasta pros make these twists by tightly coiling flat strips of pasta. The origin of their name (“priest stranglers”) is debated. Some say the pasta is so named because gluttonous priests would choke themselves on it.

Tagliarini
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Similar in width to fettuccine, these long, flat strands are often served in butter sauce.

Trenette

Associated with the northwestern Italian region of Liguria, these linguine-like threads are usually served with pesto or simple sauces.

Trofie

Trofie are formed from tapered twists of dough. They’re most closely associated with Genoa, where you can often find them mixed with pesto.

Tubettini
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Smaller than ditalini, these tubular pieces are associated with minestrone soup. Check out our minestrone recipe.

Different types of pasta: By sauce

Baked pasta

Recipe: Easy baked macaroni and cheese

These shapes work best in baked casseroles such as winter greens lasagna or baked radicchio and mozzarella pasta:

  • bucatini
  • ditalini
  • fusilli
  • fusilli col buco
  • fusilli napoletani
  • gemelli
  • gigli
  • jumbo shells
  • lasagna
  • lumaconi
  • macaroni
  • manicotti
  • orzo
  • penne lisce
  • penne rigate
  • radiatore
  • riccioli
  • rigatoni
  • rotelle
  • rotini
  • sfoglia
  • spaghetti
  • spaghetti alla chitarra
  • spaghettini
  • trenette
  • tubettini
  • ziti
Butter/oil

Recipe: Basic garlicky spaghetti

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These pastas are best with delicate butter- and oil-based sauces, such as sage browned butter or aglio e olio:

  • campanelle
  • capellini
  • farfalle
  • fettuccine
  • fusilli
  • fusilli col buco
  • fusilli napoletani
  • gemelli
  • gigli
  • linguine
  • macaroni
  • malloreddus
  • penne rigate
  • spaghetti
  • spaghetti alla chitarra
  • spaghettini
  • tagliarini
  • ziti
Cream/cheese

Recipe: Fettuccine Alfredo

Use more delicate sauces, such as cacio e pepe or green garlic cream sauce, with the thinner noodles on this list, and a robust sauce, such as one made with Robiola Bosina cheese, for the more substantial noodles:

  • campanelle
  • capellini (aka angel hair)
  • casarecce
  • cavatelli
  • conchiglie
  • farfalle
  • fettuccine
  • fusilli
  • fusilli col buco
  • fusilli napoletani
  • gemelli
  • jumbo shells
  • lasagna
  • linguine
  • macaroni
  • penne lisce (aka mostaccioli)
  • penne rigate
  • rigatoni
  • rotelle
  • rotini
  • spaghetti
  • spaghetti alla chitarra
  • spaghettini
  • tagliarini
  • ziti
Meat

Recipe: Pasta with roasted chicken, raisins, pine nuts, and parsley

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Pair these pastas with chunky meat sauces such as wild boar ragu or ragu alla Bolognese:

  • campanelle
  • casarecce
  • cavatelli
  • conchiglie
  • farfalle
  • fettuccine
  • fusilli
  • fusilli col buco
  • fusilli napoletani
  • gemelli
  • gigli
  • jumbo shells
  • lasagna
  • linguine
  • lumaconi
  • macaroni
  • malloreddus
  • manicotti
  • orecchiette
  • pappardelle
  • penne lisce (aka mostaccioli)
  • rigatoni
  • rotelle
  • rotini
  • sfoglia
  • spaghetti
  • spaghetti alla chitarra
  • spaghettini
  • strozzapreti
  • ziti
Pasta salad

Recipe: Antipasto pasta salad

Match the smaller pastas on this list with recipes that use finely chopped ingredients, such as this couscous salad with zucchini and pine nuts, in which you can substitute pasta such as acini di pepe or fregula for the couscous. The larger pastas will hold up well in other pasta salad recipes that call for coarsely chopped ingredients:

    anelli/ anellini
  • campanelle
  • cavatelli
  • cavaturi
  • conchiglie
  • ditalini
  • farfalle
  • fusilli
  • fusilli col buco
  • fusilli napoletani
  • gemelli
  • macaroni
  • orecchiette
  • orzo
  • penne rigate
  • riccioli
  • rotelle
  • rotini
  • ziti
Pesto

Recipe: Basil-parsley pesto

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Try these shapes in anything from a watercress-walnut dip or arugula pesto, sun- dried tomatoes, and pine nuts to parsley, walnut, and black olive pesto:

  • bavette
  • capellini
  • casarecce
  • conchiglie
  • fettuccine
  • farfalle
  • fusilli
  • fusilli col buco
  • fusilli napoletani
  • gemelli
  • linguine
  • orecchiette
  • trofie
Seafood

Recipe: Shrimp, lemon, and herb kamut spaghetti

These shapes are ideal for scooping up pieces of seafood. Try them with this San Marzano red clam sauce or clams and chorizo:

  • bavette
  • calamari
  • capellini
  • casarecce
  • farfalle
  • fettuccine
  • linguine
  • spaghetti
  • spaghetti alla chitarra
  • spaghettini
Soup

Recipe: Easy chicken noodle soup from a leftover roasted chicken

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Brothy soups are even better with a handful of pasta thrown in. Try these in minestrone or pasta e fagioli or as a substitute for the rice in this chicken soup:

  • acini di pepe
  • anelli/ anellini
  • capellini
  • cavatelli
  • ditalini
  • farfalle
  • fregula
  • fusilli
  • fusilli col buco
  • fusilli napoletani
  • gemelli
  • orzo
  • pastina
  • rotelle
  • stelline
  • tubettini
Tomato sauce

Recipe: Angel hair pasta with spicy vodka sauce

The more delicate noodles pair well with simple sauces, such as a basic tomato sauce or raw tomato sauce (marinate tomatoes and garlic in oil for a few minutes, and then toss with cooked pasta and torn basil). The more substantial noodles hold up nicely when prepared all’amatriciana or paired with caramelized tomatoes and sausage:

  • bavette
  • bucatini
  • calamari
  • capellini
  • casarecce
  • conchiglie
  • farfalle
  • fettuccine
  • fregula
  • fusilli
  • fusilli col buco
  • fusilli napoletani
  • gigli
  • jumbo shells
  • lasagna
  • linguine
  • lumaconi
  • macaroni
  • malloreddus
  • manicotti
  • orecchiette
  • paccheri
  • penne lisce
  • penne rigate
  • radiatore
  • riccioli
  • rigatoni
  • rotelle
  • rotini
  • sfoglia
  • spaghetti
  • spaghetti alla chitarra
  • spaghettini
  • trenette
  • ziti
Vegetables

Recipe: Kale and mushroom stroganoff

Try these pastas with an assortment of vegetable sauces, from eggplant-pepper tomato sauce to beet greens and feta or broccoli, prosciutto, and toasted breadcrumbs:

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