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30 Types Of Pasta And The Sauces To Pair Them With

Imagine the pastabilities.

Headshot of Felicia LaLomiaBy Felicia LaLomia
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Pasta is pretty amazing. With just a few ingredients—flour, water, and salt—a simple dough can be formed to create over 600 different types of pasta. There are long noodles, short tubes, flat sheets, little grains, and on and on. And each of these pasta shapes serves a different purpose. The ridges on one type are good for catching tomato sauce; another's bulk will stand up to a creamy three-cheese sauce; and another might be the star of the show with a simple butter and herb sauce.

We consulted some pasta experts (the best job in the world) to get the low-down on all the common types of pasta and the sauces they pair best with. Matthew Adler is a partner and executive chef at old-school Italian restaurant Caruso's Grocery in Washington D.C. "The texture of whatever the sauce you're serving should be congruent with the pasta itself," he explained. Dino Borri, Global VP of Eataly, echoed that sentiment, saying that the pasta shape and sauce pairing can depend on where you are in Italy. "Not just every region, but every little town, every little area changes the way to make the sauce and the shape of pasta," he said.

It's also important to note that pasta sauce pairings are not one size fits all. Penne doesn't always have to dressed in vodka sauce. Fettuccine doesn't need to be covered in Alfredo sauce. Check out the list below to expand your pasta world, so the next time you're at the store, you might think twice about reaching for that box of penne and try something new.



close up of handmade agnolotti
John Rizzo//Getty Images

"It's a fresh pasta with a meat filling," Borri said of this stuffed pasta. "You can do them with extra virgin olive oil or butter with some cheese on top. Or with a reduced meat sauce."


Angel Hair

angel hair primavera

Like its name suggests, angel hair is very long, thin, and delicate. Because of that, it only takes a few minutes to cook and should be lightly dressed with oils, butter, or a thin tomato sauce.



Baker by Nature

Bucatini is a very bulky noodle. So thick in fact, there's a small hole that runs through the noodle. "We serve our ragú with bucatini because it's a thicker pasta, and the grind on the meat is a little bit coarser," Adler said. The weight of bucatini can stand up to most chunkier, heavier sauces.

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homemade italian cascatelli pasta with tomato sauce
bhofack2//Getty Images

The word cascatelli comes from the Italian word for waterfalls. The shape is the brainchild of The Sporkful podcast host Dan Pashman. He set out to create the perfect pasta shape, combining saucability, forkability, and tooth-sinkability. The ruffles make a trough for the sauce, the long shape makes it easy to fork, and the complicated texture makes it fun to eat.



dish, food, cuisine, macaroni and cheese, macaroni, ingredient, comfort food, pasta, cavatappi, italian food,
Parker Feierbach

Cavatappi are less like a corkscrew and more like a tubular curl with ridges. All that built-in texture makes them great for just about any sauce—creamy, chunky, tomato-y, or oil-based.



homemade cavatelli
Andrew Bui

At first glance, cavatelli kinda look like fat, little worms. The texture is pillowy, soft, and tender. They are often served with broccoli and sausage, but also play well with red sauce and herb butter sauces.

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ditalini pasta
Cooking Classy

Ditalini are super short tubes, most often used as a base in salads, or to add bulk into soups.



lemon primavera bowtie pasta recipe
Judy Kim

Would it surprise you to learn that farfalle means butterfly? This fluttery pasta shape, also known as bowtie, is made from durum wheat flour, so it's very sturdy, making it great with baked dishes, creamy sauces, and salads.



fettuccine alfredo
Kat Teutsch; Prop styling by Gerri Williams

This flat, ribbon noodle is most known for pairing with Alfredo sauce. The thick, creamy mixture perfectly clings to the fettuccine, making it a great partner for any smooth and/or creamy sauces.

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cuisine, fusilli, food, dish, ingredient, rotini, pesto, vegetarian food, produce, plant,
Park Feierbach

Fusilli, otherwise known as corkscrew, has lots of layers to catch sauce. It goes seamlessly with basil pesto or other smooth sauces.



bowl of gemelli pasta and cheese topped with breadcrumbs and chives in a white bowl with a black rim on a dark wood background
Joel Goldberg

This pasta shape is made from a string of pasta twisted together to form a two-strand braid. It's just as versatile as penne, but a little less popular, meaning it's an easy way to impress dinner party guests. Think pesto, cream sauces, soups, casseroles, and more.



cacio e pepe gnocchi

Gnocchi is the most pillow-like of all the pillowy pastas. The soft and tender dumpling is made from boiled potato and flour, making it filling but so delicious. It can be used in soups, like this Olive Garden chicken gnocchi soup, in cream sauces, like this cacio e pepe, or in any tomato or butter sauces.

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classic lasagna delish

That's not a typo. The long sheets of pasta you use to make the cheesy, saucy, meaty baked dish are called lasagne. The dish itself is called lasagna.



shrimp linguine horizontal
Parker Feierbach

On most restaurant menus, you'll find linguine, a flat noodle with slightly less width than fettuccine, paired with seafood dishes. There's the traditional linguine with clams, but you'll also see it served with shrimp, calamari, scallops, and other shellfish. It also goes well with cream-based sauces.



macaroni and cheese
Getty Images

Macaroni is the noodle of your childhood. It's a slightly curvy, short and small tube used in tons of macaroni salad and mac and cheese recipes.

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Parker Feierbach

Manicotti are giant tubes with big ridges meant to be stuffed with cheese, dressed with sauce, and baked in the oven.



orecchiette with broccoli rabe 
Parker Feierbach

Originating from the Italian word orecchie, meaning little ears, this cute shape is pretty hard to make by hand. Traditionally, it is paired with green vegetables like broccoli rabe, but the little dimple makes a great sauce holder, too.



orzo pasta with arugula

Orzo is considered a pastina, or little pasta. The small grain-like shape is great in soups, salads, or meat sauces.

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pasta with eggplant, tomato sauce and burrata
Eugene Mymrin//Getty Images

Think of paccheri as a bigger, smoother rigatoni. It's great with chunky meat and fish sauces. "There is a huge hole inside, and every piece of fish gets inside," Borri said. "Every time that you bite the pasta, you have some fish as well."



pappardelle bolognese
Erik Bernstein

Pappardelle is an egg-based pasta, and it's more delicate and slightly wider than tagliatelle. The name comes from the Italian word for gobble up, pappare. Try it with meat sauces and ragús, like this bolognese.

Headshot of Felicia LaLomia
Felicia LaLomia
Food & Culture Editor
Felicia LaLomia is the Food & Culture Editor for Delish. When she isn’t covering food news or writing features about delicious trends in the culinary world, she’s searching for her next perfect bite.
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