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

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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.

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

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.

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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.

Penne with Creamed Greens and Pancetta

Penne with Creamed Greens and Pancetta by Amanda Hesser

Al Forno's Penne with Tomato, Cream, and Five Cheeses

Al Forno's Penne with Tomato, Cream, and Five Cheeses by Genius Recipes

Penne with Herb Butter and Peas

Penne with Herb Butter and Peas by Merrill Stubbs

Craig Claiborne's Pasta con Asparagi

Craig Claiborne's Pasta con Asparagi by Genius Recipes

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.

Paccheri with Swordfish Ragu

Paccheri with Swordfish Ragu by Josh Cohen

Timpano

Timpano by Camille Becerra

Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter by Genius Recipes

Pasta alla Norma (Eggplant and Tomato Pasta)

Pasta alla Norma (Eggplant and Tomato Pasta) by Emiko

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.

Spaghetti alla Sylvia Thompson

Spaghetti alla Sylvia Thompson by luvcookbooks

Mezzi Rigatoni with Broccoli Pesto and Smoked Mozzarella

Mezzi Rigatoni with Broccoli Pesto and Smoked Mozzarella by Josh Cohen

Rigatoni with Fennel and Veal Sausage

Rigatoni with Fennel and Veal Sausage by Cristina Sciarra

Vegan Lentil Bolognese with Cashew Parmesan

Vegan Lentil Bolognese with Cashew Parmesan by Gena Hamshaw

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).

Orzo Salad with Scallions, Hazelnuts, and Golden Raisins

Orzo Salad with Scallions, Hazelnuts, and Golden Raisins by Cristina Sciarra

Chicken Orzo Soup

Chicken Orzo Soup by Brussels Sprouts for Breakfast

Lemon-Dill Orzo Pasta Salad with Cucumbers, Olives, and Feta

Lemon-Dill Orzo Pasta Salad with Cucumbers, Olives, and F... by Sarah Fioritto

Leek Risotto

Leek Risotto by nicolecooks

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.

Vernal Greens Pasta with Seared Scallops

Vernal Greens Pasta with Seared Scallops by hardlikearmour

Pasta with Spring Vegetables, Bathed in Cream

Pasta with Spring Vegetables, Bathed in Cream by Marian Bull

Diane Kochilas' Pasta with Yogurt and Caramelized Onions

Diane Kochilas' Pasta with Yogurt and Caramelized Onions by Genius Recipes

Ragù di Carne (Meat Sauce)

Ragù di Carne (Meat Sauce) by Maureen Fant

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.

Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe by Sara Jenkins

Pasta with Creamy Basil-Almond-Ricotta Sauce

Pasta with Creamy Basil-Almond-Ricotta Sauce by Posie Harwood

Edward Giobbi's Spaghetti alla Foriana

Edward Giobbi's Spaghetti alla Foriana by Genius Recipes

Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara by Brette Warshaw

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.

Simple Vegan Pesto

Simple Vegan Pesto by Gena Hamshaw

How to Make Pasta Salad without a Recipe

How to Make Pasta Salad without a Recipe by Marian Bull

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The Splendid Table's Pasta with Two Broccolis and Raisin-Pine Nut Sauce

The Splendid Table's Pasta with Two Broccolis and Raisin-... by Genius Recipes

Pasta Puttanesca

Pasta Puttanesca by Snafu06

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.

Pasta with Tomatoes, Corn, Squash, and Ricotta

Pasta with Tomatoes, Corn, Squash, and Ricotta by Merrill Stubbs

Baked Pasta with Chicken Sausage

Baked Pasta with Chicken Sausage by Merrill Stubbs

Pasta Al Forno with Pumpkin and Pancetta

Pasta Al Forno with Pumpkin and Pancetta by Merrill Stubbs

Miso Mac and Cheese

Miso Mac and Cheese by Posie Harwood

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.

Orecchiette with Cauliflower, Breadcrumbs, Pancetta, and Pepitas

Orecchiette with Cauliflower, Breadcrumbs, Pancetta, and ... by cheese1227

Macaroni Peas

Macaroni Peas by Nicholas Day

Broccoli Aglio e Olio with Gremolata Breadcrumbs

Broccoli Aglio e Olio with Gremolata Breadcrumbs by healthierkitchen

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage by Jenifer Mangione Vogt

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.

Creamy Mushroom Pasta

Creamy Mushroom Pasta by Kendra Vaculin

Bucatini Pasta with Pork Ragu

Bucatini Pasta with Pork Ragu by Jenya | BlueGalley

Pasta with Broccolini Pesto and Crème Fraîche

Pasta with Broccolini Pesto and Crème Fraîche by Phyllis Grant

Andy Ward & Jenny Rosenstrach's Pork Shoulder Ragu

Andy Ward & Jenny Rosenstrach's Pork Shoulder Ragu by Genius Recipes

Tags: pasta, pasta shapes, sauces, italian cooking