A Quick Guide to Popular Pasta Shapes and When to Use Them

Pasta is perhaps one of the most foods to come out of Italy. In fact, you’ll often find an entire fresh products aisle in a supermarket or an online grocery category that is solely dedicated to pasta!

Made with simple ingredients, usually durum wheat flour mixed with water or eggs, pasta can be transformed into various culinary masterpieces. To help you create a pasta masterpiece of your own, here’s a quick guide to some of the most popular pasta shapes and when it’s best to use them.


Spaghetti is probably the most popular kind of pasta, especially outside of Italy. Long, thin, and solid, spaghetti is perfect when paired with loose sauces instead of thick and creamy ones. In the case of the Roman creation, cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper), there’s no sauce involved at all.

Linguini and Fettuccine

Linguini is like spaghetti, but flat instead of rounded in shape. This flat shape makes linguini a great vehicle for seafood or light and simple cream sauces, along with pesto and olive oil. Linguini, which literally means “little tongues,” is the slightly narrower cousin of fettuccine, which means “small ribbons.” Fettuccine is perhaps best known as the partner of Alfredo sauce, but you can also pair it with almost any kind of creamy sauce.


Pappardelle pasta comes in the form of a wide ribbon. As such, it’s ideal for heavy, meaty sauces. This is because the wide and flat noodles trap the sauce and meat between them, almost like lasagna. Do you love a hearty bolognese sauce? Serve it on top of pappardelle and don’t forget to sprinkle lots of Parmesan!

Angel Hair

Angel hair pasta is the thinnest of all pasta, which means it cooks very quickly. This delicate pasta is best paired with delicate sauces or a simple dressing made with oil and butter.


Farfalle is a big hit with children because of its cute, interesting shape. Also called bow tie pasta, farfalle is the Italian word for “butterfly.” Chunky, meaty sauces cling to the crinkly “wings” of this pasta. Farfalle is also a popular main ingredient in cold pasta salads.


Penne translates as “quills” or “feathers.” This tube-shaped pasta is usually two inches long and cut at an angle on its ends, which resembles the nib of a feather quill. Penne pasta also has ridges or ribs, which help thick sauces cling to the noodles. Moreover, because they’re hollow, bits of meat or vegetables can get into the insides. This allows you to get the perfect pasta-to-sauce ratio.  


Rigatoni is the shorter cousin of penne, with straight instead of angled edges. Like penne, rigatoni pasta is best paired with chunky and meaty sauces. However, because of its smaller size, it’s also a great ingredient for pasta salads.


Also known as shell pasta, conchiglie (and its brother orecchiette or “ears”) is well-known for its cup-like shape. Therefore, it’s the perfect choice for heavy, meaty sauces. You can either pour the sauce on top of the pasta or opt to bake them together instead. Smaller conchiglie pasta can also be added to soups and stews.


The tiny, tube-shaped macaroni is known all over the world thanks to the delicious comfort food that is mac ‘n’ cheese. Aside from cheesy baked mac, macaroni is also used in pasta salads, as well as in soups like minestrone.


Ravioli are sheets of pasta, folded over a stuffing, then pinched closed to create a pouch. The pasta sheet is traditionally square, but circular and semi-circular ravioli are also popular. There are even fun shapes like hearts! The stuffing can also be made of anything, like vegetables, meat, seafood, or cheese, and the dish is then topped with a sauce or dressing. Ravioli can also be included in soups. Unlike other kinds of pasta where you might be tempted to eat a lot, “less is more” is the secret with ravioli since it’s quite a filling dish.

There are many more kinds and shapes of pasta you can choose from, such as bucatini, fusilli, gnocchi, lasagna, tagliatelle, and ziti. This variety opens up a lot more opportunities to experiment and try different sauces and recipes. Get a pack or two of fresh pasta from your favourite supermarket today and start creating delicious pasta dishes today.

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