food

Produce explained: 10 pasta shapes you should know

Last Updated: June 11, 2021

Written by Nicole Lam

It seems almost impossible that we haven’t touched on pasta in all our chronicles of Produce Explained. Oh, so many shapes that your head will spin. No more reaching over for just the spaghetti, it’s time to explore all the pasta-bilities with linguine, orecchiette, and pappardelle can bring you.

It seems almost impossible that we haven’t touched on pasta in all our chronicles of Produce Explained. Oh, so many shapes that your head will spin. No more reaching over for just the spaghetti, it’s time to explore all the pasta-bilities with linguine, orecchiette, and pappardelle can bring you.

You know me, like a strong-armed Italian nonna, I would love to ply you with absolutely all the knowledge about each wonderful fold and curl, but alas, we are limited. Plus, my editor would not be too pleased editing a 5K article. So, to keep things accessible, I have narrowed down the types of pasta you can find in the supermarket. Yes, reach for the organic stuff—it usually tastes much better.

1. Spaghetti 

What it is:

As basic as a white T-shirt, spaghetti is just as versatile and an ever-useful pantry staple.

What makes it unique:

This long cylindrical pasta is made with durum wheat and water and one of the most common Italian staples. You can find these fresh or dried, depending on the sauce you want to pair your spaghetti with.

What it’s used for:

Like a white t-shirt, spaghetti is pasta that goes with nearly everything. Have this with a tomato-based sauce, cream or even with clams and you’re golden. Of course, if we are going for something that never goes out of style then a plate of spicy and garlicky aglio olio would have to do.

You can buy spaghetti here

2. Tagliatelle/Fettuccine 

Hand holding a box of tagitelle

What it is:

Rightfully, tagliatelle and fettuccine should have their own entries, but since one of the most searched questions is ‘tagliatelle vs fettuccine’, we should clear the air.

What makes it unique:

These two ribbons are quite similar but with tagliatelle being a little wider than fettuccine. These two types of noodles originated from two different regions of Italy.

What it’s used for:

Fettuccine is popular in Rome and Tuscany, where you pair well with ragù or a meat sauce. On the other hand, tagliatelle is popular in the region of Bologna and classically served with, you’ve guessed it, bolognese sauce.

I’d like to think of these two as the Italian version of our mee pok, and you’d be surprised how delicious it is with a spicy, tangy sauce. Otherwise, a fettuccine alfredo is a creamy, indulgent dish that will always impress.

You can buy tagliatelle here and fettucine here

3. Linguine

Hand holding box of linguine

What it is:

A favourite pasta shape of mine, linguine, is not a flat pasta by any means but slightly curved.

What makes it unique: 

Meaning ‘little tongues’ in Italian, linguine matches spaghetti in its versatility. A little leg up from your spaghetti and something with a little less pedestrian than your average spaghetti.

What it’s used for:

Linguine is traditionally used for pesto but would do very well in clam sauces and white wine sauces. So the next time you want to make seafood pasta, go for linguine instead.

You can buy linguine here

4. Pappardelle

What it is:

Pappardelle is one of the widest noodles you can find along the pasta aisle. These wide ribbons sometimes come in various colours, depending on what is added to the dough. All the prettier, I’d say.

What makes it unique: 

Given how wide this pasta is, pappardelle is a sturdy and hearty pasta. I’d encourage you to get this freshly made or make this yourself if you can.

What it’s used for: 

Given pappardelle’s robustness, these strands are best paired with a ragù or heavier sauces that allow both the pasta and sauce to shine through. You can even fry off pappardelle scraps if you want a quick snack.

You can buy pappardelle here

5. Angel-hair

What it is:

Now, we go from one of the widest pasta to one of the thinnest—the angel-hair. A somewhat controversial kind of pasta where even Lebron James has tweeted his incredible disdain for it.

What makes it unique: 

A delicate pasta with a diameter between 0.78 and 0.88 millimetres, it will cook in half the time compared to your regular pasta. Given how thin these noodles are, traditional sauces will only seek to drown it out.

What it’s used for: 

Like its name, angel-hair pasta is not suited for the rugged ragù or unctuous cream sauce. Instead, use angel-hair pasta with a light hand, where less is indeed more. A heady drizzle of truffle oil should do the trick, or a light toss with garlic and fresh herbs will make this pasta all the more divine.

You can buy angel-hair here

6. Farfalle 

Hand holding a box of farfelle

What it is:

Meaning ‘butterfly’ in Italian, farfalle resembles little bows and pasta originating from Northern Italy.

What makes it unique:

Of course, one of the most defining features of farfalle is the little bows that give the pasta the name. Found in the Northern parts of Italy, farfalle has a history that dates back to the 16-century.

What it’s used for:

Besides being absolutely adorable, farfalle can be used in a variety of meat or cream sauces. Even better if you would like to use them in pasta salad to impress.

You can buy farfalle here

7. Orecchiette

What it is:

You have to love how the name orecchiette rolls off the tongue. The name ‘orecchiette’ means ‘little ears’ in Italian, and indeed they do.

What makes it unique:

These little concave curves from the region of Apulia in Southern Italy are best at catching light sauces. Those ridges on the outside of each piece of orecchiette are made by dragging the dough across the board.

What it’s used for:

These ‘ears’ are traditionally served as orecchiette alle cime di rapa, a simple dish with said pasta and broccoli rabe. Either way, it’s a good pasta to have in your pocket.

You can buy orecchiette here

8. Conchiglie

Different Pasta Shapes 6

What it is:

Conchiglie, if you haven’t already guessed, is seashell-shaped pasta.

What makes it unique:

Another fun shape that I love to cook, these seashells are what makes pasta shapes so fun. What’s more, is that these seashells even come in a variety of colours and sizes. I mean, what more fun than having giant seashells for dinner?

What it’s used for:

Usually made with plain durum wheat, conchiglie is excellent at catching thick sauces and even better as a baked pasta.

You can buy conchiglie here

9. Penne 

Hand holding box of penne

What it is:

Another typical shape that needs no introduction, penne, has found its way to every pasta joint on the planet—a rather gentle introduction to tubular pasta shapes before we get too serious.

What makes it unique:

You’ll notice penne comes in two variations; penne lisce that are smooth tubes, and penne rigate with ridges on them—a little different, but good penne all the same.

What it’s used for:

Given its particular shape and thickness, penne is best for sauces such as pesto, marinara, or arrabbiata.

You can buy penne here

10. Gnocchi

What it is:

Resembling a little nub of pasta, gnocchi is one of the varieties of stuffed pasta you’ll come across.

What makes it unique:

You might not see gnocchi on the supermarket aisles very often, but when you do see it on the menu at an Italian restaurant, I’d say order it. Gnocchi is a tender, pillowy pasta that’s made with potato, flour, and egg. Sometimes, you’ll find gnocchi made with other ingredients such as spinach and pumpkin.

What it’s used for:

A kind of dumpling pasta, gnocchi is best served in a fragrant sage and brown butter sauce or simply tossed in olive oil and salt.

You can buy gnocchi here

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