Which pasta for which recipe? Pasta comes in so many shapes – the number of possible pairings can almost seem endless. While there’s no “one right way,” here are some smart and savory suggestions for pairing pasta:
long, thin pasta – spaghetti, angel hair, capellini, vermicelli
Round strands coil sumptuously with smooth sauces – especially tomato with herbs that cling to the strands as it’s twirled around a fork. Elegant thin varieties complement brothy soups while thicker lengths partner well with heavier sauces.
long, flat pasta – linguine, fettuccine
Ribbon-like strands – from wide to narrow – were the first pasta shapes created since they were easily cut by hand from flat sheets of pasta dough. This shape is very versatile and is suitable for a wide range of sauces from seafood, such as clam sauce, to hearty meat sauces like Bolognese and carbonara, as well as creamy sauces like Alfredo.
spiral or twist pasta – rotini, fusilli, cavatappi
Perfect for both simple and more refined sauces, these shapes are frequently used in pasta salads with oil-based dressing or pesto. Their crevices are ideal for collecting vegetables, herbs and spices.
fancy-shaped pasta – shells, farfalle (bow tie), campanelle
These open-fringed, elegant varieties are ideal for serving with dairy-based sauces like béchamel, chunky meat ragus or even tomato-cream sauces like vodka sauce.
hollow-center pasta – elbows, penne, rigatoni, mostaccioli
These thicker-shaped pastas pair well with full-flavored sauces. Served hot, their contours are made to hold hearty meat sauces and sauces with chunky ingredients like peas or capers. Ridges, known as rigate, and angular-cut ends offer intriguing texture when served cold in pasta salads.
miniature pasta – orzo, stelline, alphabets, acini di pepe
Delicate, compact shapes just right for scooping onto a spoon. These tiniest of shapes are used in soups and broth dishes.
stuffed pasta – manicotti, jumbo shells
Filled with cheese, spinach, vegetables or meat, large hollow pasta shapes partner well with tomato or cream sauce in baked casseroles.