11 Pasta Shapes We Love (& the Sauces to Pair Them With)

There are as many pasta shapes as there are people in Italy. Just kidding, but there are a lot. To complicate matters more, every shape has its ideal sauce and, on the flip side, some sauces don't dare touch certain shapes.

Does pesto go with orecchiette? Does ragu go with spaghetti? Really, it's the pasta shapes' rules and we're just cooking by them.

To help us translate, we're featuring artist Adriana Gallo's pasta shape illustrations, along with recipes and short explanations for each type.

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Get to know these 11 shapes a little better.

Photo by Adriana Gallo

Penne (pen-neh)

What it is: Short, wide, tubular pasta with diagonally-cut ends. Penne rigate are the same, but with ridges.

What it means: Derived from the Latin word penna, meaning quill, the shape of penne resembles the end of a fountain pen.

Ideal sauce: Its shape allows penne to hold sauce well. Whether it's butter-based or tomato-y, it sneaks and settles into the hollow insides.

Photo by Adriana Gallo

Paccheri (pac-care-e)

What it is: A very large tubular pasta.

What it means: Pacca means "to slap," which refers to the sound the pasta makes when it's mixed with the sauce and hits the sides of the pot.

Ideal sauce: Their smooth exterior makes paccheri ideal for tomato- and olive oil-based sauces. Its size is also good for stuffing, as in a timbale.

Photo by Adriana Gallo

Rigatoni (re-gah-tone-e)

What it is: A tubular, slightly curved, ridged pasta.

What it means: From the Italian word rigato, meaning "scored" or "streaked."

Ideal sauce: Like penne, rigatoni's hollowness allows it to collect sauce well. And, since it's more hollow than penne, it can stand up to something with a bit of body, like Bolognese or chunkier, chopped tomatoes.

Photo by Adriana Gallo

Orzo (or-zoh)

What it is: Rice-shaped pieces of pasta. In other words, it's pasta's version of rice.

What it means: In Italian, "orzo" refers both to barley and the pasta shape (also sometimes called risoni).

Ideal sauce: Orzo readily absorbs flavors, making it ideal for soups and pasta salads, and as a stand-in for rice in risotto (keep in mind the you'll want add all the stock and water at once and cook until the pasta is al dente and the broth is thick and creamy).

Photo by Adriana Gallo

Campanelle (camp-on-el-lay)

What it is: Conical-shaped, with a ruffled edge.

What it means: In Italian, campanelle means "bells."

Ideal sauce: Campanelle's curves hold a lot of sauce and can withstand heavier, dairy-based dressings, like béchamel or yogurt. Cheese, vegetables, and meat will cling to the grooves.

Photo by Adriana Gallo

Spaghetti (spa-get-tee)

What it is: Long, thin, and cylindrical.

What it means: Spaghetti is a derivative of the Italian word spago, meaning "string" or "twine."

Ideal sauce: Thick sauces don't cling well to smooth spaghetti, making it a fit for stuff a bit lighter, like pesto, cacio e pepe, and lotsa olive oil.

Photo by Adriana Gallo

Fusilli (foo-zee-lee)

What it is: Short and corkscrew-shaped.

What it means: Fusilli comes from the word fuso, meaning "melted." The pasta is not literally melted, but the pieces were traditionally formed by using a small rod to wind each one into a spiral.

Ideal sauce: The shape makes it ideal for oil-based sauces that can, more or less, slide down the noodle.

Photo by Adriana Gallo

Conchiglie (con-keel-yay)

What it is: Conch shell-shaped.

What it means: In Italian, conchiglia means "seashell."

Ideal sauce: Because of the hollow shape, conchiglie can hold a lot of sauce, cheese, pesto, cream, and vegetables, making it ideal for something like baked pasta.

Photo by Adriana Gallo

Orechiette (oh-reck-ee-et-tay)

What it is: Small and round, with a concave center.

What it means: Orechiette literally translates to "little ears."

Ideal sauce: The cup-esque centers catch breadcrumbs, nubs of cheese, bits of pancetta, and small vegetables, like peas or broccoli.

Photo by Adriana Gallo

Calamaretti (cal-ah-mar-eh-tee)

What it is: Short, fat rings.

What it means: The smaller version of calamarata pasta, calamaretti resembles rings of calamari (squid).

Ideal sauce: Because it's a sturdy pasta, it can hold up to a heavy sauce, like ragu, or one that's generous with the cream. It also makes for a good seafood pasta, for obvious (whimsical) reasons.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • 70&holding
  • EL
  • miraviglia
  • Cristina Sciarra
    Cristina Sciarra
I fall in love with every sandwich I ever meet.


70&holding January 26, 2018
At the end of each month I make, Butt End pasta sauce. Empty out the veggie drawer, chop, saute, season, EVOO, wine and homemade stock. I use the veggies down to the nub. When peeling veggies/fruits I save the peel for...Cream of Veggie Soup, or veggie stock. Make the most of what you have, have fun!!raf
EL April 8, 2016
My favorite is gemelli (but not popular enough for this). And what about buitoni?
miraviglia April 6, 2016
fuso means spindle like for the yarn
Cristina S. April 6, 2016
Can you make a poster/print out of these illustrations, please?