- Pasta is one of the most famous and beloved cuisines of all time.
- There are over 50 distinct types of pasta, and even more when you add in all the different size variants.
- We’ve compiled a list of the 56 major types of pasta, and some suggestions as to what to pair them with.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Picture this: You’re at an Italian restaurant, ready to eat your favourite food (pasta), but you take a look at the menu and realise … you’ve never heard of any of these pastas. Garganelli, fazzoletti, passatelli – whatever happened to a good old mac and cheese?
To help prevent any pasta confusion in your future, we’ve compiled a visual guide to almost every type of pasta, from anelli to ziti.
Spaghetti translates to “little strings” in Italian. It’s perhaps the most famous and beloved pasta worldwide.
There are several variations of spaghetti, including spaghetti alla chitarra, spaghettini, and spaghettoni.
Linguine means “little tongues.” It’s wider and flatter than spaghetti.
Other names and variations include bavettine, bavette fini, radichini, trenette, and linguettine. Linguine is typically served with pesto.
Fettuccine translates to “little ribbons.” It’s flatter than linguine.
Fettuccine has multiple variations and other names, like lasagnette, fettucce, ramicce, and sagne.
The most famous fettuccine dish is fettuccine Alfredo, which comes with a heavy cream sauce.
Tagliatelle’s name originates from the Italian verb “tagliare,” which means to cut. It’s similar to fettuccine, but is generally a bit narrower.
Tagliatelle is “excellent for capturing every drop of sauce,” and can be served with “meat or Bolognese sauces, as well as garnished with options such as nuts, cheese, tomato and basil,” according to Barilla.
Scialatielli is essentially tagliatelle that’s cut into shorter pieces.
Scialatielli was only invented in the ’60s by a chef called Enrico Cosentino, making it one of the most recent types of pasta created.
Pappardelle’s fun name comes from the verb “pappare,” which means to “eat with childish joy and pleasure.”
Pappardelle is the largest of the ribbon-shaped pastas, and according to Barilla works best in a “thick rabbit ragu, but equally [as well in] a slow-cooked meat of any kind.”
Mafaldine is another flat pasta, with wavy edges. It was named after Princess Mafalda of Savoy.
It’s also known as reginette, which means “little queens” – due to its connection to Princess Mafalda.
According to Taste Atlas, mafaldine is good with “game sauces, ragú Napoletano, fish sauces made from seafood or shellfish, and white sauces made from soft cheeses with the addition of ginger, horseradish, or saffron.”
There’s a similar pasta called tripoline, that’s only ridged on one side.
Capellini, aka angel hair pasta, translates to “thin hair.” It’s a thin form of spaghetti.
Capellini pairs well with “simple light tomato sauces, broths, consommés, and soups, or in light dairy sauces like parsley crème,” Barilla’s website states.
Barbina translates to “little beards” in Italian, and is even thinner than capellini.
Barbina, or barbine, is commonly sold in this coiled nest-like structure. It’s served with a light broth or light sauce.
Bucatini is another spaghetti-like pasta, though it has a hole in the middle. The word translates to “hollow straws.”
Bucatini differs from spaghetti in that it’s hollow, like a thinner, longer penne-style noodle. The most beloved bucatini dish is bucatini all’amatriciana, named for the Italian town of Amatrice. The key ingredient is guanciale, cured pork cheek.
There’s another type of pasta, perciatelli, that is virtually identical to bucatini.
Bigoli gets its name from how it’s made — with a pasta press called a bigolaro.
Bigoli is thicker than spaghetti, and softer too. It’s sometimes made with duck eggs.
The word pici derives from “appiciare,” which means “to stick.” It’s basically fat, hand-rolled spaghetti.
What makes pici special is that every piece is different – no two pieces of pici are the same length or thickness, due to its handmade nature. It can be eaten with almost anything.
Maccheroni alla molinara translates to “the miller’s wife’s pasta.”
Maccheroni alla molinara is another very long, hand-rolled, thick type of noodle – but it gets shaped into loops. In fact, the Washington Post reports that the pieces are originally 5 feet long before they’re put together.
Vermicelli means “little worms” and is longer and thinner than spaghetti.
Vermicelli has been adopted by many other cultures’ cuisines, like Vietnamese food.
But, in regards to pasta, Pasta Fits recommends topping it “with any sauce,” or using it in a salad or stir fry.
Ravioli is the most famous of the “stuffed pastas.” It can be filled with meat or cheese.
The two pieces of pasta are often sealed with a fork, giving the pieces ridges.
Tortellini is small and ring-shaped, and is stuffed with meat or cheese.
Tortellini also resemble navels, which gives them the nickname of belly buttons. They’re essentially interchangeable with tortelli (larger) or tortelloni (only filled with cheese or vegetables).
Another similarly shaped variety is cappelletti, which means “little hats.” They are also usually filled with cheese.
Caramelle is stuffed and shaped to look like a piece of candy.
That’s where its name comes from too – those caramel candies that all grandparents seem to have. It also comes in plenty of fun colours.
Passatelli is made from leftover pasta scraps, like breadcrumbs. It’s typically served in “brodo,” or broth.
The full list of ingredients is “a mixture of bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, eggs, nutmeg and lemon zest.”
The most famous type of macaroni in the US is elbow-shaped, but it comes in various shapes. Classic macaroni is a straight, tube-like shape.
Cavatappi is a type of macaroni, but instead the noodles are twisted like their namesake, the corkscrew.
Cavatappi is typically used in pasta salad. It’s called cellentani.
The longer version is called strozzapreti, which means “strangle the priest.”
Creste di galli gets its name from its shape — it looks like the crest on a rooster.
Creste di galli also kind of resembles a mohawk, and “possesses ultimate sauce-retention due to it’s tubular shape and ruffled edge,” according to Pastosa.
There’s a similar four-sided variant called quadrefiore.
Busiate is a type of long macaroni. Its name comes from the Sicilian word “busa,” which means reed.
Busiate can be prepared by twirling the pasta around a long pin, like a knitting needle, or by wrapping it around a twig.
The most common dish made with busiante is pesto alla trapanese, an antipasto made with red tomato pesto.
Trofie is the best pasta for pesto.
Maybe it’s because it comes from the same region of Italy as basil pesto Genovese, the most well known of all pesto sauces, or maybe it’s because the pesto gets caught in the spirals.
Fusilli is a corkscrew-shaped pasta, but it has a much tighter spiral.
Fusilli noodles also resemble springs. The name comes from the word “fuso,” or spindle. Fusilli is perfect in cold pasta salads.
Another variation is the radiatori, which looks like a squished fusilli with a ridge along one side.
Rotini is frequently mislabeled as fusilli in the US, but the two are different. Rotini has external-facing grooves. It means “twists.”
Rotini is perfect for “light tomato sauces (with or without finely diced vegetables), dairy-based sauces, or oil-based sauces,” according to Barilla. It also works well in pasta salad.
Gemelli, or “twins,” is a single S-shaped piece of pasta twisted into a spiral.
It differs from rotini and fusilli in that it looks like a double helix or double corkscrew, though it’s still one piece. Barilla also recommends gemelli for pasta salad.
Farfalle, or bow tie pasta as it’s known in the US, means “butterfly.” Do you see the resemblance?
Barilla recommends putting farfalle in “light sauces with vegetables or fish, dairy-based sauces, simple oil-based sauces, or in pasta salads.”
It’s also known by the names fiochetti, fiocconi, farfalloni, galla genovese, strichetti, and nocchette.
Tripolini are similar to farfalle, but have deeper “baskets” at the ends.
Tripolini is similar to canestrini, which means “little baskets.” Its baskets make an “excellent scoop for sauces, especially types of fish and meat ragù in larger sizes, and in smaller ones the texture is delightful in soups and broths.”
Conchiglie means shells, which is the name used by Americans.
There’s a smaller variety called cicioneddos.
Cavatelli, or “little hollows,” look similar to hot dog buns.
Cavatelli is frequently paired with broccoli rabe, or just garlic and broccoli – or you can add ricotta to the dough.
Campanelle, which loosely means “bell flowers” or “little bells,” is a cone-shaped pasta with a ruffled edge.
The hollow centre is perfect for catching sauce.
Ditali, which translates to “thimbles,” has many names, like tubettini or magghietti.
Typically, ditalini are as tall as they are wide, and are used commonly throughout Sicily. Frequently, pasta e fagioli, a type of soup made with pasta and beans, is prepared with ditalini.
Gnocchi are dumpling-shaped, and are made with potatoes.
Gnocchi is characterised by the ridges on top, which are made with a fork.
Penne is a hollow type of pasta, named for its pen-like shape.
Penne can be spotted due to its diagonal holds at each end. Penne is also recommended for heavier sauces and dishes, including the famous penne alla vodka.
Trenne is similar to penne, except its is more triangular.
Ziti is similar to penne, but has a straight cut at the end, and is normally chopped up before serving.
Rigatoni’s name comes from the Italian word “rigato” which means ridged, or lined. Rigatoni is typically larger than ziti or penne.
Rigatoni is also cut straight, unlike the diagonal of penne. Rigatoni’s ridges make it easier for sauces and cheese to cling on compared to smoother pastas, like ziti.
A classic rigatoni dish is baked rigatoni.
Tortiglioni is similar to rigatoni, but the grooves spiral around the pasta, instead of straight down.
The name comes from the Latin verb “torquere,” which means “to twist.”
Pastina, which literally means “little pasta,” is the smallest type of pasta available. It comes in different shapes like stelline, pictured below.
Other varities include corallini, grattini, tempestine, and others. Pastina is normally a component of Italian soups.
Acini di pepe — which translates to “grains of pepper” — is a small bead-like type of pasta.
Acini di pepe is used in soups, due to its small size. It resembles couscous.
Orzo, also known as risoni, is Italian for “barley,” though the pieces are rice-shaped and sized.
Orzo can be made into a pilaf, baked, served alone, or as part of a soup like minestrone, or salad.
Orecchiette gets its name from its shape — orecchiette means “little ears.”
Orecchiette have a small dip in middle, making them resemble small ears.
A common dish cooked with orecchiette is orecchiette alle cime di rapa, which is just the pasta and broccoli rabe (aka rapini). Some cookbooks suggest that orecchiete is perfect for vegetable sauces, while others pair them with pork or capers.
A similarly shaped pasta is cencioni, which is a bit bigger and flatter – it resembles a petal.
Lasagne is, of course, used in lasagna. It’s just flat sheets of pasta.
Lasagna is made by layering lasagne noodles and different foods, like spinach, beef, tomato sauce, onions, cheese – really anything you can think of.
Lasagne is also one of the oldest pastas in the world, and can be traced back to the ancient Greeks.
Fazzoletti, which means “handkerchief,” is thinner than lasagne.
It also normally has wavy ridges at its ends, unlike lasagne.According to the New York Times, fazzoletti can be served “with nothing more than butter and Parmesan, or a drizzle of garlic-infused olive oil.”
Casarecce look like almost-closed tubes. They’re perfect for baked dishes.
Malloreddus means “fat little calves.” It contains saffron and looks similar to casarecce, except with ridges.
“Made from a semolina dough normally coloured with a little saffron, these tiny dumplings have an elongated, elegant conch shape that is ridged on the outside to catch sauce,” writes the Geometry of Pasta.
Garganelli is also called maccheroni al pettine. It’s a ridged form of pasta that looks like a wrap.
“Typical garganelli pasta recipes include serving it with meat ragu, normally Bolognese or alla salsiccia (with sausage),” writes the Pasta Project.
Garganelli get their name from the word esophagus in Italian, “garganel” – their tube-like shape is similar.
Fileja is a Calabrese pasta that looks similar to casarecce, but it’s hard to find outside of Calabria.
Fileja looks like an elongated screw, and is “the best Southern Italian pasta for heavy or spicy sauces,” according to the Pasta Project. It’s one of the few types of pasta that’s traditionally made without eggs.
Cannelloni, or manicotti, is a large and hollow shell typically stuffed with meat or cheese.
Cannelloni and manicotti have a slight difference – cannelloni is smooth, while manicotti has ridges.
Pipe rigate looks like a snail shell. It’s characterised by its two separate ends — one is open wide, the other is almost fully closed.
According to Pasta Fits, it “pairs nicely with chunky, cream- or oil-based sauces.”
Rotelle is known to Americans by another name, wagon wheels. Rotelle means “little wheels.”
Barilla calls rotelle the “perfect choice for pasta salad,” and also suggests pairing rotelle with “light tomato sauces (with or without finely diced vegetables), dairy-based sauces, or oil-based sauces.”
There is a flower-shaped alternative called fiori which – of course – means flower.
Anelli, which means “little rings,” is frequently found in canned soups.
According to Pasta Fits, “Anelli lovers can celebrate December 11, which is National Noodle Ring Day.” Pasta Fits also says Americans freqeuntly find anelli in canned soups, but it is also found in the Italian dish called timballo, which also has meat and cheese.
Calamarata is another ring-shaped pasta that’s named for its resemblance to squid, or calamari.
Due to its namesake, it’s sometimes dyed black with squid ink, and is frequently served with seafood.
Foglie d’ulivo means “olive leaves” — see the resemblance?
Agricola del Sole writes that it “pairs nicely with any sauce, both red and white.”
Corzetti is a coin-shaped pasta that comes complete with a stamp.
“They are cut into discs and embossed on both sides using a pair of cylindrical fruit-wood stamps, hand-carved with a delicate pattern, normally a family coat of arms,” writes Geometry of Pasta.
Lorighittas are known for their distinct braided shape.
According to Food Republic, lorighittas are “named after the Sardinian word for the iron rings used to hitch horses.”
Caccavelle is pasta that’s essentially meant to be a bowl.
Yes, those huge structures are made of pasta – it’s an edible pasta bowl, and is also known as the largest pasta in the world.
- Read more:
- I just ate at Buca di Beppo for the first time after never eating pasta growing up. Here’s what I thought.
- A Michelin-star chef reveals the Italian dishes you should stop ordering, and what you should try instead
- I only drank water out of pasta straws for a week, and restaurants should be using them as an alternative to plastic
- 7 chefs revealed their favourite jarred pasta sauces