The big world of delicious pasta is teeming with distinctive varieties, differing in shape, history and gastronomical purpose. Beyond spaghetti or the comforting and familiar ravioli, a whole other realm of pasta shapes exists — many of which won’t show up on your average menu. Nevertheless, you can use this guide to help recognize even some of the most obscure pasta shapes and their purposes.
Linguine, for example, is pasta from Italy’s Liguria region, created to be paired with seafood or pesto, while bucatini, a shape resembling spaghetti with a hollow center, is ideal for holding sauces as in bucatini all’amatriciana or cacio e pepe.
To illustrate the varied history of pasta, consider strozzapreti, whose name comes from the Italian word meaning “priest strangler.” The name refers to a pasta shape that resembles a rolled towel. Don’t worry; the “towel” isn’t necessarily the murder weapon here. Instead, the etymology suggests that the pasta was so good that the even a holy man would eat it so gluttonously that he would likely choke on it!
The following is a collection of 36 different Italian pasta shapes. How many of these could you recognize on a menu?
Agnolotti come from Piedmont, where they are usually filled with braised meat. They are formed into rectangles like ravioli or into half-moon shapes. Agnolotti are traditionally served in a simple beef broth, but any light sauce works well. In the following recipe, use agnalotti in place of the ravioli.
Like spaghetti, bucatini pasta is long and thin, but it has a narrow hole down the center. It is thicker and reminiscent of a straw; a quality that makes it excellent for holding sauces.
Calamarata is a thick, ringed pasta that looks like rings of calamari (hence the name); it is also often dyed black with squid ink. Anelli is a smaller yet similar representation of this ring-shaped pasta.
Meaning “bells” in Italian, campanelle resemble small cones with ruffled edges. They are often served with lean proteins, vegetables, or sauces of any base and make a mean pasta salad.
A cylindrical pasta, cannelloni is a filled noodle that is baked and covered in sauce. It is nearly identical to manicotti. To make your own, cook lasagna noodles and use them to roll up the lasagna filling of your choosing. Spread some sauce on the bottom of a baking pan, arrange the filled lasagna noodles snugly in the pan, and top with more sauce and cheese, then bake.
Capellini, better known as angel hair, is the thinnest and most delicate of the string pastas. Its long, skinny strands are best paired with light sauces, but it also goes well in salads or can be broken in half and added to soups.
Casarecce pasta is a very narrow, twisted, and rolled tube, almost resembling a scroll. This pasta is best served with chunky sauce and can be used in a variety of casserole dishes, as well. Try swapping it for penne or ziti in baked ziti.
Hollow, corkscrew-shaped cavatappi are excellent when paired with thick and cheesy sauces.
These are the different pasta types in the world.