29 Pasta Shapes and Types – Common Pasta Shapes and Names

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Pasta is a food we can’t get enough of. It comes in many shapes and types, which makes things interesting. Some forms of pasta are long and others are short; some are stuffed and others are hollow. While almost all shapes and types of pasta can be used for a light weekday dinner, some are better suited to different types of recipes. Thinner pasta pairs well with lighter ingredients. like fresh tomatoes wider and thicker pasta is good with heartier sauces like classic fettuccine alfredo.

At Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen, our food editors have developed thousands of pasta recipes. They range from healthy pasta recipes to cozy lasagna. Here common shapes and types of pasta you should know – most often paired with a recipe that emphasizes the best way to use it. In addition, we shared some fun facts about how certain forms of pasta were created and got their names thanks to information from pasta company Barilla.

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This long pasta shape is one of the thinnest and works well when mixed with a thin sauce, oil, or dressing. It is also called capellini, which directly translates to “little hair” and in this case means fine hair.

Get the recipe for Cool Chicken Noodle Salad »

This long pasta is best known for its signature hollow shape. bukoWhat means hole in Italian – something from which you can sip, as if through a straw. This is good for recipes that require rotation and minimal fork poking, such as hearty meatball sauces.

Get the recipe for Mozzarella Stuffed Turkey Meatballs »

Named for its resemblance to bluebells, this shape is the best at capturing small ingredients like corn and peas so you can get a full bite of your favorite recipe in every scoop.

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Cavatappi are like longer and curled elbows. They are relatively thick with ribs, making them handy for carrying sauces and toppings. They are great for pasta salads served warm or cold.

Get the Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Pasta Recipe »

These “thimbles” are perfect for soup. They are small enough to be eaten with a spoon and large enough to fit large cuts of vegetables and beans.

Get the Classic Minestrone Recipe »

The name comes from the Italian word for “butterflies”. This shape is short and flat with small pockets that hold a small amount of sauce and bits of ingredients to add flavor, but not too much.

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These long, flat noodles are best layered in casseroles with sauce, cheese, minced meat, or vegetables. Their ridges help hold different types of ingredients. The wide and flat varieties that do not require boiling are similar to the shape originally made by the Romans, according to Barilla; they make the lasagna easier to prepare, although the results are not as bold as we would like.

Get the Recipe for Lasagna with Meat Sauce »

These noodles are thin but wider than spaghetti and are suitable for recipes that require a little more substance. They take a bit more effort to chew than thinner noodles, so they pair well with larger sauces.

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These tiny stars are best eaten in broth. When served on their own, they retain liquid and have an almost creamy consistency, especially when combined with butter. According to Barilla, they tend to introduce the child to the world of pasta in Italy.

Get the Galactic Noodle Soup Recipe »

We love how the shells are often nested into each other when cooked – a bit like orecchiette. They go great with sauce, baked or paired with minced meat. Barilla says the large shells are inspired by shellfish near Naples and Genoa.

Get the Recipe for Baked Pesto Shells and Herbs »

A classic that needs no explanation. It is long and thin like spagiItalian word for cord length, according to Barilla, who also claims it’s the most popular form in Italy. It is very versatile and is best suited for swirling and soft-filled foods that can be easily picked up with a fork.

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Tagliatelle is wider than linguine and fettuccine, but thinner than pappardelle. Its width allows for proper rotation and scooping of larger ingredients at the same time.

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Some might think this stuffed pasta is miniature ravioli, but it has a spicier flavor thanks to its pinched ring shape. It can be used in soups, warm pasta dishes, or cold pasta salads.

Get the Recipe for Chilled Romesco Tortellini »

Ziti is similar to penne, but without the ridges and angular edges. We find that they are softer than penne, but still able to withstand fillings. According to Barilla, they are traditionally served at weddings in Naples. Zita means bride.

Get Easy Peasy Shrimp Ziti Recipe »

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