A Guide to the Italian Pasta Shapes
Our guide to the most popular pasta shapes prepared in traditional Italian homes and restaurants
There are approximately 350 different types of pasta and about four times that many names for them. This is because some types may have different names according to the region.
Starting from most popular spaghetti, rounded tortellini to tube-shaped penne each variety pairs well with other kind of sauces.
Here is our guide to the most common pasta shapes that can be found throughout Italy.
The most common Italian pasta shapes
Agnolotti is a type of pasta typical of the Piedmont region of Italy. They are made with small pieces of flattened pasta dough, folded over a filling of roasted meat or vegetables.
This long thick pasta is originally made with buckwheat flour but today is made with whole wheat or 00 flour, duck eggs, water, butter and salt. It looks like a thick spaghetti which is quite rough on the outside.
This straw-like pasta is shaped like thick spaghetti but with a hole in the centre. They are ideal for any kind of sauce or it can be baked in casseroles.
Campanelle pasta looks like a small cone with ruffled edge. It is also sometimes referred to as gigli or riccioli. This pasta is served with a thick sauce or in a casserole. In Tuscany they are called gigli (lilies).
Casarecce pasta is shaped like a very narrow, twisted and rolled tube. It can be used in a variety of casserole dishes.
Cavatappi is Italian word for corkscrew. This kind of pasta goes well with both simple or sophisticated sauces. It is ideal for pasta salads.
Cavatelli ("little hollows") are small pasta shells from eggless semolina dough that look like miniature hot dog buns. Cavatelli pairs well with meat, cream, seafood or vegetable sauces.
Conchiglie known as shells, are usually sold in the plain durum wheat variety and also coloured with tomato extract, squid ink or spinach extract. Large shells are best when stuffed with mix of cheese, meat and vegetables.
Ditalini - Ditaloni
These kind of pasta originate from Calabria region. Ditalini are pretty small and mostly used in soups while ditaloni are bigger and goes well in salads, pasta bakes and with a number of pasta sauces.
Farfalle (butterflies) are know as bow ties pasta. Thick enouhg for a variety of sauces or a perfect addition to a number of salads. Farfalle comes in different sizes: small ones called farfalline and larger ones farfallone.
Fettuccine meaning little ribbons is a type of pasta popular in Roman and Tuscan dishes. It is flat thick pasta made of egg and flour. It is often eaten with ragu.
Fusilli are long, thick, corkscrew shaped pasta. This pasta goes well with any sauce and are very popular in Italian dishes.
Garganelli are short egg pasta which originates from Romagna region. This kind of pasta is usually served with bolognese sauce or ragu alla salsiccia (ragu with sausage). Also a lot of garganelli recipes include ham or pancetta.
Gemelli derives from the Italian word for twins and is a simple shape of two strands of pasta twisted together. Gemelli pasta is a perfect choice for a pasta salad or paired with light tomato sauce.
This wide flat-shaped pasta is one of the oldest types of pasta. They are ideal for baked dishes where they are layered with ragu and bechamel sauce.
Malloreddus are typical pasta from the island of Sardinia. They are also called gnocchetti sardi. They goes well with a variety of sauces but the most known is "malloreddus alla campidanese" - a delicious fennel sausage, saffron and tomato sauce.
If you head to the south of Italy you will find orecchiette (or little ears). The typical way to eat orecchiette in Puglia is with broccoli rabe. Orecchiette goes well with any vegetable sauce.
Penne is pasta from the south of Italy in the region of Campania. The smaller version is called pennette and larger pennioni. This pasta can be smooth or ridged (penne rigate). It pairs ideal with heavy sauces like arrabiata (spicy tomato sauce).
Pici pasta is made with a simple dough of flour and water that is cut into strips and then hand-rolled. This pasta pairs well with a variety of pairings, from smooth tomato sauce to meat ragu. It originates from Tuscany.
Ravioli are square round pillows of pasta that have a filling made from meat, cheese or vegetables. Ravioli can be served with red tomato sauce or butter, oil and cream.
This pasta is in a form of tube with different lenghts. They are larger than penne and zitti and goes well with any kind of sauce.
The name of this pasta means wheels. They are good for salads, casseroles and stir-fry dishes. They goes well in soups.
The most popular pasta shape in the world are spaghetti. They are ideal choice for any sauce. The most popular dishes are spaghetti carbonara, bolognese and spaghetti aglio olio e peperoncino.
The name for these short twists translates as priest strangler.
Tagliatelle are traditional type of pasta from Emilia Romagna and Marche regions of Italy. It looks like long flat ribbons that are similar in shape to fettuccine. Tagliatelle can be served with a variety of sauces although the most common is with Bolognese sauce.
Tortellini is a ring-shaped pasta typically stuffed with meat, cheese or vegetables. The most famous dish with this pasta are tortellini en brodo typical for Emilia-Romagna region. Tortelloni are the larger version of this pasta.
Trofie pasta is a short twisted pasta from the region of Liguria. This kind of pasta is usually made with durum wheat flour, salt and water. Trofie pasta is usually best choice for pesto sauces such as pesto Genovese.
Vermicelli pasta is similar to spaghetti but slightly thicker than it. In Italy, this is one of the oldest forms of pasta originating from Campania. In Southern Italy (Campania, Puglia, Basilicata and Calabria) there are many recipes for this kind of pasta.
Ziti pasta comes from Sicily. This hollowed pasta can be smooth or ridged which makes it the perfect for a thick sauce. They are great baked with sauce and cheese.
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