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.