31 Types of Pasta and Their Uses

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Kaye Modified: June 14, 2023
31 Types of Pasta and Their Uses

Did you know that there are about 350 different types of pasta noodles in existence? There may be a lot, but in this article, we’re breaking down the most famous varieties, including how to use each one to make the best pasta dishes!

We all know that pasta is an integral part of Italian cuisine. Although its origins are a bit muddy, there’s no denying that Italians have made it their own ever since it was popularized in the Mediterranean. Different types of pasta have been developed since then, made primarily of semolina flour and water. 

When cooking pasta meals, you can use either dried (pasta secca) or fresh (pasta fresca) noodles. But whichever type you choose, we’re sure that you’ll never have to settle for the same dish ever again – not with this list on hand! The world of pasta is vast and colorful, so continue reading to learn more about it.

Different Types of Pasta According to Shape

Infographic on the different types of pasta according to shape

The different types of Italian pasta can be categorized into six groups according to their varying shapes. This is the most common way of organizing them, as their structure often determines how they will be used, like which types of pasta sauce will work best with them. Most of the time, pasta shapes and names are correlated as well.

Here, we have some of the most well-known types of pasta shapes classified as either Long, Ribbon, Tubular, Shaped, Stuffed, or Small. 

Long Pasta

These are the types of pasta noodles that are thin and long. They are quite straightforward to use since they’re ideal for most run-of-the-mill pasta dishes. So if you’re leaning towards the classic dish that’s simply tossed in sauce, you’ll benefit from getting to know each one of these.  

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Spaghetti needs no introduction. It’s the most popular pasta variety in the world, after all! Each spaghetti noodle has just the right thickness for smothering with different types of pasta sauces. From olive oil-based to creamy renditions, you can have it all! And of course, who could forget the classic spaghetti dinner with meatballs?  

Cooking time: 9 to 12 minutes

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Capelli d’Angelo

Not really a fan of heavy pasta dishes? If that’s the case, then angel hair is one of the best types of pasta to pick. Consider it like thin spaghetti that’s much more delicate. You can’t go wrong with angel hair noodles and either chicken, shrimp, or veggies in an oil-based sauce. It’s an excellent ingredient for making soup, too! 

Cooking time: 2 to 4 minutes

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Torn between the two types of pasta we just mentioned? Fret not, because capellini is the perfect middle-ground between spaghetti and angel hair pasta. It’s thin enough for light oil-based sauces, but still a bit thicker than angel hair for that extra chew. Classic sauces like marinara would also taste heavenly with this! 

Cooking time: 2 to 4 minutes

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Dried fedelini noodles
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Fedelini pasta is Italian for “little faithful ones.” Like most pasta varieties in this section, this one tastes best when smothered with sauce. It’s only a bit thinner than the famous spaghetti, so it can hold up well to all types of pasta sauces. Besides that, you can also throw together Italian soups and even pies with this ingredient.    

Cooking time: 5 to 7 minutes

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This pasta variety resembles thick spaghetti noodles with a hollowed center. Picture a long straw that’s made of pasta – that’s exactly what bucatini is like! This extra compartment leaves more room for the flavorful sauces to seep into. A simple loose sauce can take this ingredient to the next level. 

Cooking time: 9 to 13 minutes

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Ribbon Pasta

These long and flat noodles generally have better structural integrity compared to long pastas. They also have a larger surface area for absorbing tasty sauces. That’s the reason why these are better to use for creamy dishes like alfredo and carbonara, as well as heavy meals with meat sauce.

Fettuccine Alfredo Pasta, Carrabba's Copycat Pasta
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Starting off with one of the most common varieties, we present you with the fettuccine. It’s quite narrow compared to most types of ribbon pasta, but that doesn’t make it any less perfect to use for creamy dishes. Got a spaghetti dish in mind for your next meal? You can pretty much use this as a substitute for the noodle as well! 

Cooking time: 7 to 10 minutes 

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Have a hankering for wider types of pasta? Make way, because tagliatelle is definitely up your alley! This pasta variety is broader than the fettuccine, so it has more space to hold your yummy sauce blends. Rich and meaty ragus, like the popular bolognese, also won’t drown it out. So whether you’re cooking up light vegan dishes or heavy meals for meat lovers, this pasta type is an excellent choice.     

Cooking time: 7 to 10 minutes

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Linguini Aglio Olio
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Linguine is like the flattened version of the ol’ reliable spaghetti. Compared to the fettuccine, this is much narrower. Think of it as a happy-medium between the two. Hence, you can practically use this noodle type to whip up any traditional spaghetti or fettuccine dish. From fresh pesto meals to creamy seafood dishes, the world is your oyster! 

Cooking time: 6 to 9 minutes

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The name of this ribbon pasta comes from the Italian word pappare which means “to gobble up” or “eat with joy”, and it’s easy to see why. Each pappardelle noodle is almost an inch wide, so it’s capable of absorbing more sumptuous sauces than most types of pasta. That’s the reason why we also love using it for stews and pot roasts.

Cooking time: 7 to 10 minutes

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What pasta could be more perfect than the lasagna? After all, it’s always a delight to dig into hearty baked casserole dishes like yummy gluten-free lasagna. This noodle is flat and usually around 2 to 3 inches wide, so it’s ideal for stacking with meat sauces and good-melting cheese.  

Cooking time: 11 to 13 minutes.

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Pasta dish made with sagnarelli
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Sagnarelli is a short ribbon pasta with fluted edges. Thanks to its bumpy texture, it’s capable of gripping all kinds of sauces. From a light white wine mixture to thick cream-based sauces, there are plenty of dishes to cook up with this type of pasta. You might enjoy it in hearty soups as well. 

Tubular Pasta

Next, we have tube-shaped pasta noodles. These types of pasta are usually chewy and hollow in the middle, best for soups, salads, and baked casseroles.

Cream of Chicken Mac and Cheese Casserole Recipe, homemade mac and cheese dish using cream of chicken soup and shredded cheeses
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Macaroni is one of the most versatile types of pasta out there. After all, you can make a lot more dishes with it besides mac and cheese. So for your next grocery run, you might want to grab a pack of this elbow-shaped noodle, and explore what else it has to offer. Take note that macaroni can either be ridged or smooth, short or regular-sized. All of these variations can be transformed into the most filling baked pasta casserole, soup, pasta salad, and more! 

Cooking time: 9 to 12 minutes 

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Pasta penne is another popular variety. It’s like a short hollow tube with diagonally-cut ends, resembling the tip of a quill or pen which it’s named after. Like the macaroni, it can either be smooth (lisce) or ridged (rigate), but the latter is more common. Use it to conjure up the most memorable meaty casseroles and salads of your dreams!  

Cooking time: 10 to 12 minutes

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A Sicilian wedding staple, ziti pasta takes its name from a local Italian word which can either mean “bride” or “groom.” But regardless of the occasion, you’re more than welcome to try out this pasta variety for yourself! It’s around the same size and shape as the penne, sans the pointy ends. Ziti noodles are more like hollow cylinders of pasta, best enjoyed in casseroles or plainly tossed in light sauces. 

Cooking time: 9 to 12 minutes

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Cavatappi is quite literally the corkscrew pasta. It’s named after the said tool because of its unique helical shape. You know what that means: more pockets for sauces, meat chunks, and other niblets! Have it with your choice of sauce; or make a filling salad or casserole dish using cavatappi as the main ingredient. 

Cooking time: 9 to 10 minutes

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Rigatoni A La Vodka With Chicken And Asparagus
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Rigatoni is a tube pasta with straight-cut edges and a ridged exterior. It looks quite similar to the ziti variety from Sicily, but with a larger diameter. All things considered, this thick and chewy pasta noodle has all the trappings of a perfect casserole ingredient. You can also doll it up with a simple heavy sauce of your choice to make a no-fuss meal. 

Cooking time: 10 to 13 minutes

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Most of the time, names of pasta reflect the noodles’ appearance. Cannelloni, which means “big reeds”, is a good example. It is, after all, a large tube-shaped pasta that resembles the said plant’s stalks. Smooth or ridged, it’s often stuffed with meat, vegetable, and cheese fillings. It is then baked casserole-style, usually with tomato sauce or a hearty meat sauce, and more cheese on top. 

Cooking time: 7 to 10 minutes

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Shaped Pasta

This group is composed of different pasta shapes that are fun and unique. These are usually quite firm and chewy compared to other pasta varieties, making them ideal for creamy and meaty types of pasta sauce. They’re also great to use for baked casseroles, salads, and then some

creamy beef pasta shells
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Conchiglie is a shell-shaped pasta that you should definitely try at least once! Its smaller version is called conchigliette, while the larger ones are called conchiglioni. Regardless of the size, you’ll be able to whip up the most impressive dishes with this special noodle. From a standard pasta dish to stuffed shells and salads, the possibilities are endless! 

 Cooking time: 10 to 12 minutes

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Buttery Garlic Bow Tie Pasta Recipe
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Also known as bow tie pasta, farfalle is a fun-shaped noodle that even kids are bound to love. True to its name, it does resemble a miniature bow tie because of its pleated center. It shines the brightest in salads, but you can simply toss it in any kind of sauce and call it a day. 

Cooking time: 8 to 10 minutes

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fusilli with meat sauce recipe
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Fusilli is a kind of twisted pasta. This noodle is short and eye-catching to say the least. Kids and adults alike will surely enjoy munching down on any light or heavy pasta dish if this is used as the main ingredient.You can even toss these twist noodles with dressings and veggies to make the tastiest cold pasta salads that you can think of. 

Cooking time: 10 to 12 minutes

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Like the fusilli, rotini is another kind of swirly and twirly pasta. However, rotini noodles are slightly different because they are extruded into a helical shape, whereas fusilli noodles are only twisted. That said, these two types of pasta are pretty much interchangeable. So if you have rotini in your pantry, you can also use it for a myriad of pasta recipes that call for fusilli, and more! From pasta salad to casseroles, this variety is a top choice. 

Cooking time: 10 to 13 minutes

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rotelle pasta with tomato sauce and cheese
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The name of this pasta means “little wheels” in Italy. However in the US, you might find it labeled as “wagon wheels.” If you’ve already put the pieces together, rotelle pasta noodles are indeed wheel-shaped. There’s truly nothing quite like this pasta variety, but you can basically use it as you would a regular shaped noodle! Pasta salads, casseroles, soups, and other kinds of pasta dishes with heavy sauces are perfect examples of what you can make with this ingredient. 

Cooking time: 9 to 12 minutes

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summer cavatelli with corn tomatoes and zucchini
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Out of all the pasta types, cavatelli is among the easiest to make from scratch. That’s because you don’t need special tools to make this eggless shell-shaped pasta. Serve it as a vegetarian dish with a traditional pairing of garlic and broccoli. Besides that, it also works well in seafood and meat dishes. And thanks to its special form, this chewy noodle can also handle thick sauces like marinara and cream.

Cooking time: 13 to 16 minutes

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Stuffed Pasta

These Italian pasta types are always freshly-made using pasta sheets and fillings. Stuffed pasta noodles come in different shapes and sizes, with a wide array of filling options. By themselves, stuffed pastas are already packed with flavor, so it’s best to cook them in light or delicate-tasting types of pasta sauces. However, they are also great to use in other pasta dishes like soups and casseroles.

Chicken, Herb and Cheese Ravioli Recipe, Italian ricotta filled ravioli pasta recipe with tomato cream sauce
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You can’t leave ravioli out of this definitive list of pasta types! Technically speaking, the famed ravioli is a square-shaped pasta that can either be stuffed with cheese, meat, and/or veggies in the middle. Pop a bunch of it in a broth or sauce of your choice, and you’ve got yourself a hearty meal. It’s a bonus that this filled pasta works well with anything from butter sauces, cream sauces, tomato sauces, and even meat broths.

Cooking time: 4 to 9 minutes

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The caramelle is a type of pasta that’s shaped like candy, hence its name. To be more specific, the semolina dough is wrapped around the filling like a candy wrapper that’s twisted on both ends. Despite its shape, this pasta variety doesn’t taste sweet at all. In fact, the filling is usually made with ricotta cheese and/or vegetables. A simple drizzle of light sauce can do wonders for this special pasta type

Cooking time: 2 to 3 minutes

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Beef with Cheese Tortellini (Olive Garden Copycat)
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Tortellini is another well-known stuffed pasta. This ring-shaped variety can either be filled with anything from cured meats like prosciutto and mortadella to vegetables like carrots and snap peas. Cooked in either a light broth or a creamy sauce, you can truly explore a plethora of flavors using this ingredient.

Cooking time: 4 to 9 minutes

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Agnolotti is a square-shaped pasta that some might confuse with ravioli. Don’t get it twisted, though. While ravioli consists of two pieces of pasta dough pressed together, this variety consists of only one that’s folded over and around the filling. 

Each piece of agnolotti is packed with rich flavor from either roasted meats, vegetables, cheeses, or a combination of the said ingredients. All things considered, it tastes divine when tossed with your choice of creamy sauce or light vinaigrette

Cooking time: 4 to 7 minutes

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Small Pasta

This pasta group is composed of short and small pasta noodles which are typically used in soups, stews, and salads.

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Acini di Pepe

The name acini di pepe means “seeds of peppers”. This isn’t surprising at all, since this pasta does indeed look like small seed-like beads. Some even say it resembles couscous. And thanks to its unique shape, it’s better to use this ingredient for dishes that won’t drown it out. Case in point, the most popular recipes to make with it are usually light soups and salads.

Cooking time: 4 to 6 minutes

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instant pot turkey meatball and ditalini soup
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Ditali translates to “thimbles,” and its smaller version is aptly called ditalini which means “little thimbles.” This is a very short, tube-shaped pasta that you’d often find in soup dishes. The larger version can hold up to heavier broths and sauces, so you can also use it for dishes like casseroles and such. Meanwhile, the smaller pasta noodles are better for lighter soups overall. 

Cooking time: 9 to 11 minutes (Ditali), 8 to 10 minutes (Ditalini)

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The name orzo literally translates to the word “barley.” This makes sense, because this pasta variety has a grain-like shape. You can even say that it looks similar to rice! Like the seed-shaped acini di pepe pasta, you’d best benefit from cooking this ingredient in light soups and salads.   

Cooking time: 7 to 10 minutes

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Homemade Noodle Soup with Chicken
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Last but definitely not least, we have stelle. No list of types of pasta is complete without this star-shaped noodle. It has a smaller version called stelline or stellitine. Regardless of the size though, this particular variety is excellent to use for different types of pasta dishes like soups and salads.    

Cooking time: 6 to 9 minutes

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Kaye is a writer and a recent oat milk convert. With a background in Language Studies, she has founded a deep appreciation of cultures, traditions, and the power of words. In her spare time, she enjoys testing some of the trendiest and most accessible recipes on the internet.