Your Ultimate Guide to Pasta Shapes: what they are and what to do with them

Do you know your farfalle from your rigatoni or do you like to play it safe with a ravioli and a penne?

This handy guide will teach you what the different shapes are and what they're best used for.

Fettucine [fet-oo-chi-nee]

This is the one that looks like thin ribbons or strips. This pasta is much thicker than spaghetti so pairs really well with a thick creamy sauce.

Ravioli [ra-vee-o-lee]

These are pretty well known and look like little pillows or parcels. The filling is usually the hero here so it's best to cover in a light sauce if you're going to use one or even just a dash of olive oil.

Farfalle [far-fa-lay]

Alan Partridge called these 'little Action Man bow-ties' and I'm not going to try and improve on that description. Farfalle actually means 'butterfly' in Italian, which is nice. This shape works particularly well with a cold summer pasta or a chunky hot sauce.

Penne [pe-nay]

Penne literally means quills or feathers. This shape is like a ridged tube, cut off at an angle and is great for a dish where your sauce is the hero as you get great coverage.

Rigatoni [rig-a-tony]

This is very similar to the penne but it is usually larger and has a flat end rather than being angled. It's used in a very similar way to the penne too with a great sauce coverage.

Tortellini [tor-tell-e-nee]

These small bites are similar to ravioli in that they're often filled with meat or cheese. The major difference in appearance is that it's made by pinching both ends in towards the middle (a bit like a croissant). The shape of tortellini means that it actually holds a sauce really well so is perfect for a tomato-based soup.

Cannelloni [can-a-low-nee]

This is part of the lasagne family and come in the form of long tubes. Traditionally, these tubes would be filled with cheese and meat and covered in a thick tomato sauce.

Gemelli [ge-may-lee]

This pasta shape is less commonly known and actually translates to mean 'twins' because it's made from two pieces of pasta dough twisted together like a helix. This shape is great for holding onto a sauce like a pesto.

Vermicelli [ver-me-che-lee]

This has an unfortunate translation to mean 'bunch of worms' and is like a thing stringy spaghetti. This is lighter than a spaghetti so tends to pair well with shellfish or fish.

Lasagna [la-sa-nya]

Everyone knows this one, right? Well, just in case, this is a sheet pasta classically built into layers of meat in tomato sauce, cheese and béchamel sauce.

Linguine [lin-gwee-nee]

This is smaller than fettucine and looks like a long flat noodle. Linguine is often served with lighter sauces and seafood.

Fusilli [few-si-lee]

This pasta is very commonly used in the UK and looks like a short spiral. Here's a pasta that loves a chunky or meaty sauce because these little bites can hold many a treat in its nooks and crannies.

Rotini [ro-tee-nee]

It's easiest to describe rotini as more tightly-bound fusilli. This pasta is commonly used as part of a cold pasta salad.

Orecchiette [or-ay-chi-et-ay]

This literally translates to mean 'little ears' and is the best way to describe the shape of these pasta shells. The concave shape means that it's a great carrier of vegetables or meat in the dish.


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