Choosing the Right Pasta Shape for Your Delicious Dish

Sauce and pasta shapes at

When we were little, it was all about the fun shape of the pasta. Favorites might have included the pinwheels or various cartoon shapes derived from the macaroni and cheese box.

While pasta shapes are still just as fun to pick out as adults, there should be a method to the madness. Certain shapes pair better with some dishes than others, and when you’ve chosen the right shape, your dish often looks better.

As a general rule of thumb, thin and delicate pastas like angel hair or spaghetti should be paired with light sauces. On the other hand, thicker pastas like fettuccine work best with heavier and creamier sauces. However, there are more than 40 different pasta shapes available, so it can be difficult to pair a shape with the right sauce. Here’s a general outline of some of the most popular shapes and forms which pasta can take:

The ABC’s Of Pasta Shapes

Strand Pasta | CHEFS MixStrand Pasta

The following strand pastas pair best with lighter sauces or oil-and-garlic combinations:

  • Spaghetti: Common round-rod pasta
  • Capellini dangelo: Thinnest round-rod pasta, also known as angel hair
  • Spaghettini: Thin spaghetti
  • Capellini: Thicker than angel hair, but thinner than vermicelli
  • Vermicelli: Thicker than capellini

If you’re searching for a new recipe to try out, look no further than Spaghetti with Pancetta, Peas and Mint. It’s filled with fresh ingredients and is super easy to whip up in no time!

Tubular Pasta

The following tubular varieties pair best with chunkier sauces, like tomato or Bolognese, that can get into the crevices of the pasta:

  • Tubular Pasta | CHEFS MixCannelloni: Large tubes that are stuffed
  • Cavatappi: Corkscrew-shaped macaroni
  • Chifferi: Short and wide macaroni
  • Fagiolini: Short and narrow tubes
  • Manicotti: Large ridged tubes that are stuffed
  • Penne: Medium-length tubes with ridges and cut diagonally at both ends
  • Mezze Penne: A shorter version of penne pasta
  • Mostaccioli: Similar to penne but doesn’t have ridges
  • Rigatoni: Large and slightly curved tubes
  • Ziti: Long and narrow tubes

If you enjoy a little kick in your pasta dish, check out this Rigatoni with Spicy Tomato Sauce recipe.

Uniquely Shaped Pasta

The following shapes, similar to the tubular pastas, also work well with chunkier sauces:

  • Shaped Pasta | CHEFS MixCapunti: Short, convex ovals similar to open and empty pea pods
  • Farfalle: Bow tie or butterfly shaped
  • Fiorentine: Grooved cut tubes
  • Gnocchi: Round dumplings often made with flour and potato
  • Orecchiette: Bowl or ear-shaped
  • Rotelle: Pinwheel or wagon wheel-shaped
  • Rotini: Two-edged spiral, tightly wound – like a spring
  • Trofie: Thin, twisted pasta

Broccoli Rabe with Orecchiette is a perfect recipe to try out if you’re looking to incorporate fun-shaped pasta into your meal.

Ribbon Pasta

Ribbon Pasta | CHEFS MixThe following ribbon-like pasta pair best with thicker, heartier sauces:

  • Fettuccine: A ribbon of pasta approximately 6.5 millimeters wide
  • Lasagne: Very wide noodles with fluted edges
  • Linguine: Flattened spaghetti
  • Pappardelle: Thick, flat ribbons
  • Sagnarelli: Rectangular ribbons with fluted edges
  • Tagliatelle: Ribbons slightly thinner than fettuccine

If you’re looking for a delicious recipe to try out with these ribbon pasta shapes, we wholeheartedly recommend this Summer Vegetable Lasagna recipe – perfect for a fresh dinner to enjoy with family and friends!

Micro Pasta

Micro Pasta | CHEFS MixThe following micro pastas work well in pasta salads or soups:

  • Anelli: Small rings of pasta
  • Conchigliette: Small, shell-shaped noodles
  • Corallini: Small and short tubes
  • Farfalline: Small bow tie shapes
  • Orzo: Similar to rice
  • Stortini: Smaller version of elbow macaroni
  • Trachana: Granular, irregular-shaped pasta of Greek origin

Try this Pasta with Bacon, Fennel and Parmesan Cheese recipe that uses orzo and is packed with flavor.

Stuffed Pasta

Stuffed Pasta | CHEFS MixA thicker, creamier sauce works best for these varieties of pasta:

  • Cannelloni: Oven-cooked stuffed rolls
  • Mezzelune: Semi-circular pockets
  • Pierogi: Dumplings stuffed with meat, vegetables, cheese or fruit
  • Ravioli: Square pasta pockets often stuffed with ground meat, cheese or vegetables
  • Tortellini: Ring-shaped and stuffed with mixtures of meat and/or cheese
  • Tortelloni: A larger version of Tortellini

Whip up a mouth-watering creation with Tom’s Tortellini with Garlic & Basil recipe. It’s a healthy meal you can make quickly.

Keep In Mind…

Whichever shape you choose for your dish, it’s vital to make sure the pasta comes out looking and tasting perfect! Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when cooking up a storm:

Follow directions. This may seem like an obvious hint, but it’s crucial to not over or under cook your pasta. Follow the time directions on the packaging right down to the minute and strain the pasta immediately after that timer goes off.

Skip the rinsing. It might make sense to rinse the pasta when it’s done cooking, but this washes away much of the nutrients and taste.

Mix the sauce with the pasta before serving. While some choose to pour the sauce directly onto the pasta on the plate, the dish won’t come out tasting the same. Instead, mix the sauce in with the pasta in the pan or pot first. This way, the hot pasta really absorbs the flavors of the sauce.

Looking for some delicious pasta recipes? Visit recipe section for Pasta Recipes.

For these and more pasta tools, visit

For more on Pasta, visit our other posts:

Your Turn: What’s your go-to Pasta shape?

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