All the Types of Pasta Defined

| October 31, 2012

different types of pasta Can you tell farfalle from fusilli? If not, learn the most common types of pasta. Most names refer to the shape but at least one refers to the dough. You can then show off your knowledge at a local Italian restaurant found using DexKnows listings.

Long Pastas

Spaghetti — This thin, round pasta measures about 10 inches long and gets tossed with sauce, typically tomato, as well as meat and sometimes seafood. Spaghetti translates from Italian to “little twines.”

Angel Hair — Think of this as spaghetti’s skinnier cousin. You will find it on restaurant menus with thinner sauces, such as those with an olive oil base.

Capellini — Even thinner than angel hair, its name translates to English as “thin hairs.”

Vermicelli — Thicker than spaghetti, it translates from Italian to “little worms” and shows up in many cuisines. Expect to see it at Italian and Vietnamese restaurants.

Fettuccine — Spaghetti’s fatter relative, this ribbon-cut pasta measures about 1/4-inch wide and tosses well with thicker and creamier sauces, such as Alfredo. Fettuccine translates from Italian to “little ribbons.”

Linguine — This spaghetti-length, flat pasta measures 1/8-inch wide and does well with tomato and olive oil sauces. Linguine translates from Italian to “little tongues.”

Tubular Pastas

Penne — These tubes measure 2 to 4 inches and come with or without ridges. Ridges hold better the chunkier sauces, such as Penne a la Vodka, a common sight on the menu at Italian restaurants. Penne translates from Italian to “pens.”

Ziti — This type of pasta also varies in size, starting at 2 inches long, and it holds up better in baked dishes than penne. Ziti translates from Italian to “bridegrooms.”

Rigatoni — Slightly smaller than both penne and ziti, this pasta measures 1 1/2-inches long and 3/4-inch in diameter. It also has ridges (rigato means “ridges” in Italian) and works well in tossed and baked dishes.

Elbow Macaroni — If you order macaroni and cheese at a restaurant, it comes with this type of short, fat, C-shaped tubular pasta. Chefs also use macaroni in salads and soups. The Italian name refers to the type of dough used as opposed to the shape, as with others on this list.

Shell Pastas

Regular Shells — These small pastas come shaped like a seashell, trapping sauces well for baked dishes. They do not have ridges.

Jumbo Shells — These are just like their smaller cousins, but they have ridges to grab sauces on both the inside and out. They also get stuffed with cheese and baked.

Spiral Pastas

Fusilli — This spiral-shaped pasta comes in a variety of colors and welcomes an assortment of pasta sauces. Fusilli translates from Italian to “rifle,” as in the spiral-grooved shape of a rifle barrel.

Rotini — This is the shorter cousin to fusilli.

More Pastas

Farfalle — Shaped like little bow ties, thanks to a pinch in the middle, they toss well with sauce, whether alone or in a salad. Farfalle translates from Italian to “butterflies.”

Gnocchi — These round-shaped pastas often have potato as an ingredient. Gnocchi translates from the Italian to “lumps.”

Lasagna — Another pasta that gives the dish its name on restaurant menus, lasagna noodles are wide and often have fluted edges.

Dozens of different types of pastas exist, but you can easily get by if you learn the names above. If a pasta type stumps you while looking at a menu, simply ask the restaurant server for a better description. When you are ready to reach out and explore the wonderful world of pasta, use the DexKnows listings to find local restaurants that may serve up something new for you to try.

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Category: Food & Dining, Italian

About the Author ()

Pamela Mitchell spent more than 15 years at daily newspapers such as the Hartford Courant and Houston Chronicle before becoming a full-time freelancer. She now writes about a variety of topics, from dining and entertainment to pets and travel.