Common Pasta Shapes

Part of the Italian Cooking For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Pastas come in an amazing variety of shapes. Certain Italian dishes call for specific pasta shapes because they compliment the sauce. This list gives a brief description of the most common pasta shapes:

  • Agnolotti: Filled fresh pasta shaped like half moons.

  • Bucatini: Long, fat strands that look like spaghetti but are hollow.

  • Capelli d'angelo: Long and extremely thin. Name translates as "angel's hair."

  • Cappellini: Slightly thicker than angel hair pasta but still very thin, long strands.

  • Conchiglie: Shell-shaped pasta that comes in a variety of sizes. Oversized shells, called conchiglioni, are often stuffed and baked.

  • Ditali: Tiny tubes often used in soup. Name translates as "thimbles."

  • Farfalle: Bow-tie-shaped pasta. Name translates as "butterflies."

  • Fettuccine: Long, flat strands of egg noodles.

  • Fusilli: Corkscrew shape that comes in varying lengths.

  • Lasagne: Long, wide sheets of pasta that are layered with sauce and cheese and baked.

  • Linguine: Long, thin ribbons. Similar to spaghetti except strands have flat sides as well as rounded ones.

  • Orecchiette: Small bowl-shaped pasta. Name translates as "little ears."

  • Orzo: Shaped like extra-long grains of rice. Often used in soup.

  • Pappardelle: Long, flat noodle that is two to three times as wide as fettuccine. Often cut into shorter pieces for easier eating.

  • Pastina: Any of the tiny pasta added to soup, including ditalini (little thimbles), perline (little pearls), and stelline (little stars).

  • Penne: Medium-length tubes with ends cut on an angle. Can be ridged. Name translates as "quills."

  • Ravioli: Stuffed pasta shaped like square pillows. Edges are often ruffled.

  • Rigatoni: Fat, squat tubes with grooved exterior.

  • Rotelle: Small wheels.

  • Ruote: Wheels.

  • Spaghetti: Long, thin strands. Name comes from the word "spago," meaning string or cord.

  • Tagliatelle: Long, flat strands that are slightly wider than fettuccine.

  • Taglierini: Similar to tagliatelle but cut narrower.

  • Tortellini: Stuffed pasta shaped like fat rings. Often used in soups.

  • Trenette: Long-strand pasta shape that is similar to linguine.

  • Vermicelli: Long, very thin strands that are thinner than spaghetti. Name translates as "little worms."

  • Ziti: Narrow tubes of medium length. Similar to penne except ends are not cut on an angle.

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