It’s National Pasta Day! Who doesn’t love pasta? It tastes great, looks great, and can be made a countless number of ways. Grab a pot, fill it up, and make your favorite pasta dish! For pasta enthusiasts, a noodle is not just a noodle. Here’s some information to distinguish one type from the next…
Spaghetti is known the world over. Substantial and satisfying, it is the standard for pasta. Thinner spaghetti is spaghettini, which means little twine. Still thinner is vermicelli, little worms. Capellini, thinner yet, is little hairs. The finest of all, coiled capellini d’angelo — angel hair — is used in soups, in light seafood dishes and with finely cut ingredients.
Bucatini is pierced, a thick hollow spaghetti. Fusilli lunghi is long curled spaghetti, and fusilli bucato is both waved and pierced. Ziti and zitoni are long pasta tubes. This long tubular pasta is also called bridegroom’s pasta.
Spaghetti alla chitarra is thin square-sided spaghetti made from pasta that includes egg to give it sturdiness. It is cut on a frame of wires. The pasta sheet is laid across and the frame is then “strummed” to cut the pasta. Therefore, it is called guitar-style. Ciriole is a similar but thicker pasta.
Fettuccine are ribbons and very popular pasta. They are often served with rich and creamy sauces. Tagliatelle are thinner ribbons, and the name means little cuts. They might be served with a rich ragu. Lasagna is wider than fettuccine and often has fluted edges.
Pappardelle are thick, flat egg noodles served with a meat sauce, especially one including game. Linguine are little tongues. They famously go with clams but are also served with rich tomato sauces. Mafalde are rectangular ribbons that have been cut short. They are named after heroic Princess Mafalda of Savoy.
Short and shaped pasta
Cannelloni are tubes made to be stuffed and baked. The name means small canes. Manicotti are for stuffing, too. They are ridged, and their name means little muffs. Rigatoni are ridged, slightly curved tubes. The name means lined ones, and they are an ideal shape for catching full-flavored sauces.
Cavatappi are corkscrews. From southern Italy, their charming open spiral is very versatile. Fusilli are also coiled but more tightly than cavatappi. A triple-coiled spiral gives them the name little spindles. Gemelli means twins. Their form is a double-twisted tight spiral.
Penne are tubes with diagonally cut ends. The name means pens, in the sense of old-fashioned quill pens. Penne rigate are ridged pens. Both shapes cling to sauce well.
Clever pasta shapes
Conchiglie are shells. Conchiglioni are large shells that are often stuffed. Farfalle are butterflies, though some call them bow ties. They go with lighter or creamy sauces. Lumacone are snails, deep round shells that are often stuffed as well.
Intricate fiori are very abstract flowers. Rotelle are little wheels. Lanterne are gracefully curved and ridged. The name means lanterns, though the resemblance might be hard to see. Radiatore truly look like old car radiators and are shaped to catch and hold the hearty sauces served with them.
Stuffed pasta shapes
Ravioli need no explanation. A round ravioli with a fluted edge, though, is called a girasole, a sunflower. A square of pasta gathered up around a filing is a sacchette, or purse.
Mezzaluna are half moons, small turnover pasta shapes. Tortellini are small stuffed pasta pillows shaped in a ring and are usually served in broth. Tortelloni are somewhat larger.
Small pasta: pastina
Orzo, a pasta shaped like rice, actually means barley. Funghini are small mushroom shapes, and Acini de pepe are peppercorns. All these shapes are often served in broth.
Stelline, also served in soup, are small pierced stars. They are often a child’s first pasta.
In general, long shapes are bathed in sauces, short shapes are baked or go in thick soups, and small shapes go in broth. There are many exceptions to these rules, though, and many more shapes and styles of pasta, every one worth tasting.