10 Types of Pasta Any Foodie Should Try

Studies and thorough research show that, indeed, pasta can be very healthy, especially in combination with foods most people aren’t that keen on eating, like vegetables. But which types of pasta go with which sauce, and are there any rules as to cooking them to perfection?

The following guide on the types of pasta available today and how to pair them with some delectable sauces should inspire you to broaden your knowledge in the kitchen — and enjoy an insanely delicious meal too!

What Is Pasta?

Traditionally speaking, pasta is a type of food made from durum wheat flour and eggs or water that’s cooked in boiling water. It’s a form of unleavened dough — the type that doesn’t rise in a pot or oven but instead stays thin.

Industrial pasta you can buy today is usually dried pasta, which has been meticulously made using sieved and ground wheat. The manufacturer mixes flour with pure water and then shapes and dried the pasta.

The History of Pasta

Although you may think of Italy as the origin of pasta, its history shows that it has been a staple in various cultures. For example, noodles had already existed in ancient China during the Shang dynasty, and they were made using wheat or rice.

chinese noodles

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Pasta can be traced back to the Greek and Roman civilization too. Though it’s unlikely the god Vulcan made the first spaghetti, Greeks and Romans may have discovered the first lasagne. However, they weren’t boiling their flattened dough (broad noodles). Instead, they roasted them, which may remind you more of how pizza is made.

Pasta’s introduction in Italy may go back as far as the 4th century BC. There is archaeological evidence that the Etruscan civilization knew what it was and even knew how to make it, using tools and utensils similar to what the modern world has today.

Another (legendary) suggestion is that concerning Marco Polo. The legend says that the famous explorer brought pasta to Italy after his travels in the Far East. That idea is too far-fetched today as it would mean pasta came to Italy in the 13th century.

On the other hand, the New World tasted pasta for the first time, all thanks to the colonists. The pasta was easy to store on ships, so explorers would have taken it with them. Surprisingly enough, Thomas Jefferson is credited with making macaroni popular in the US.

Pasta Today

Italians continued to love pasta through the centuries, and they are even credited for having the first pasta factory in Venice, whose license was issued in 1740.

In the 1800s, the industry of pasta began to evolve, slowly following in the footsteps of the Industrial Revolution. The first pasta factory that used steam machines was opened in 1859 in Pest, Hungary. Greater export and preparation of various types of pasta available were made possible in the early 1900s, as manufacturers could then use extrusion and artificial drying processes to boost production.

The US got its very first pasta factory in 1848. It was founded in Brooklyn by a French immigrant, Antoine Zerega, who only had one horse to power his machinery and had to dry the pasta in the sun. The industry continued to develop throughout the 19th century, and in 1904, the National Pasta Association was formed.


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Today, you can choose from over 600 types of pasta (or rather, shapes), with a great variety available in supermarkets. There are also various forms to try out, not only fresh and dry. Frozen, canned, and ready-to-eat pasta have also become quite popular.

10 Types of Pasta You Should Feast on Today

1. Acini di Pepe

Acini di Pepe

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The name of this pasta translates to peppercorns, and that would be the perfect description of its round shape and small size. It’s almost the size of a couscous grain, and it is also seen as a sign of fertility. A popular dish made with this type of pasta is the Italian wedding soup.

• Cooking time: 4–9 minutes
• Best for: simple broths, soups, and cold salads
• Ideal sauces: /

2. Angel Hair

Angel Hair

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Angel hair, or capelli d’angelo, is a type of fina pasta that’s very thin (the diameter is usually between 0.031 to 0.035 inches) with a somewhat fragile texture. It has been said that Italians have loved it since the 14th century and even today. Even though it holds its shape well even after cooking, it goes best with soups and lighter sauces (but traditional sauces sometimes work, too) that won’t drown it and overwhelm it completely.

• Cooking time: 2–6 minutes
• Best for: soups, seafood dishes, and lighter sauces
• Ideal sauces: Pesto Genovese

3. Bavette


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Originating in Genoa, Italy, bavette probably reminds you of tagliatelle. However, the strands are, in this case, narrower and flatter, giving the pasta an almost convex shape that can hold onto sauces wonderfully.

• Cooking time: 6–9 minutes
• Best for: vegetables and traditional pesto sauces
• Ideal sauces: Pesto Genovese

4. Bigoli


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The bigoli pasta comes from Veneto, Italy, and is drastically different from what you may have seen at your local supermarket. The strands are rather thick, long, and tubular, while the texture of the pasta is rough, so it clings to sauces well.

Bigoli’s history is also quite long since it has been made in a type of press called bigolaro ever since 1604! In the past, makers usually used buckwheat flour; today, whole wheat flour is a top choice.

• Cooking time: 9–12 minutes
• Best for: thick or meaty sauces
• Ideal sauces: Duck ragu (Bigoli con l’anatra), salsa sauce

5. Cappelletti


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There are a few stuffed types of pasta you should try out, with “little hats” or cappelletti having one of the most interesting shapes. This pasta usually consists of meat and cheese folded into the pasta. You then twist the dough and form it into a hat shape.

Cappelletti pasta also has a long history, dating back to the Middle Ages. Back then, this pasta was a luxurious Sunday lunch option — and today, you can often eat it on holidays, like Christmas.

• Cooking time: 7–10 minutes
• Best for: chicken or capon broth
• Ideal sauces: /

6. Cencioni


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Cencioni, or “little rags”, are very different from other types of pasta, mostly because they resemble rags of dough and have a dense texture. The pasta should have a different texture on each side — smooth on one and rough on the other — so that the sauce clings well onto it. The shape is mostly oval or petal-like, and the pasta itself is chewier than some other varieties, making it perfect for heartier main dishes.

• Cooking time: 12–16 minutes
• Best for: meaty stews or ragus, soups, casseroles
• Ideal sauces: Ragù alla Pugliese

7. Corzetti


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Corzetti belongs to the more unusual types of pasta you may not see often — but its popularity in Italy is evident even today. In contrast to some other types, this pasta consists of water, egg yolks, flour, and surprisingly, white wine (but it seems this part is optional). Its shape is disc-like, and you can also stamp patterns or symbols on the pasta to help the sauce stick to it.

Back in the day, it was common to stamp Genovian family crests onto the discs. Today, makers can stamp their trademarks, or the discs can have a regional coat of arms on them.

Since you can customize them, you can even use corzetti as wedding favors or for other types of events to give away to your guests.

• Cooking time: 15–17 minutes
• Best for: light sauces, pesto, and cheese
• Ideal sauces: Sugo di Funghi, Pesto Genovese

8. Fedelini


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Fedelini may not be so popular as fusilli and penne (some of the most famous types of pasta), but people of Naples, Liguria, and Genoa absolutely love it. Slightly thicker than vermicelli, this pasta is a great addition to freshly made tomato sauces and pesto, and it also pairs well with some fresh herbs, garlic, and olive oil.

What’s more, you can use it in baked dishes too; in Naples, fedelini are a must in pasticcio, a type of savory baked pie.

• Cooking time: 5–7 minutes
• Best for: light tomato and pesto sauces, oven-baked dishes (pasticcio)
• Ideal sauces: Pesto Genovese, Marinara

9. Fettuccine


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Thick and ribbon-like fettuccine is one of the classic types of pasta you may have already come across before. It’s a real specialty in central and southern Italy, but today, there are so many varieties to choose from, each linked with a different location.

Similarly, the sauces that go with it are varied, with some areas using fettuccine in desserts in combination with walnuts and honey. Fettuccine Alfredo (arguably the most popular dish), however, has American origins!

• Cooking time: 8–13 minutes
• Best for: rich or creamy, and meaty sauces
• Ideal sauces: Alfredo

10. Mafaldine


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Some types of pasta have rather obvious similarities, and that’s the case with Mafaldine and Fettuccine. Think of Mafaldine as wavy Fettuccine since it’s of similar shape and width but has wavy edges.

The pasta got its name after Princess Mafalda of Savoy, so some even call it “little queens” (reginette). Its origin can be traced back to Naples, so unsurprisingly, Ragù Napoletano goes pretty well with it.

• Cooking time: 9–12 minutes
• Best for: delicate game, fish, and white sauces, shrimp, cheese, sausages, mushrooms, or cherry tomatoes
• Ideal sauces: Ragù Napoletano

Selecting and Storing the Various Types of Pasta Available Today

When faced with an aisle full of pasta or making yours at home, consider the following:

• Size. Small and delicate types of pasta usually go well with lighter sauces, soups, and broths. Larger ones, though, especially the open kind, would serve as convenient vessels for heavier sauces and bits of meat and vegetables.

• Texture. Similarly, you want to pair the texture to the perfect sauce, going for unusual shapes and pasta with bumps, openings, ridges, and similar if you’re making chunkier sauces. Slimmer pasta varieties can get slippery, so it’s best to pair them with lighter sauces that won’t overwhelm them.

• Purpose. Heavier dishes require denser pasta, while lighter dishes should be paired with fluffy, delicate varieties. If you were to use small rice-sized pasta, for instance, with a hearty tomato sauce and meatballs, the pasta would disappear underneath it. Likewise, you wouldn’t put smooth penne in a soup or pair it with a sauce that’d flow out of it as soon as you take a bite.

When shopping for pasta, pay close attention to the packaging. You should try to avoid frozen pasta that feels more like a solid block than a delicious meal or has freezer burn and ice crystals on it.

Dried pasta can have flaws, too; it may look cracked, so it could fall apart on you when you start cooking.

The same goes for fresh pasta — it should be smooth and with an even color. Check the packaging in this case as well, as there shouldn’t be any liquid or moisture inside it. If there is, the pasta may be too soft or moldy.

How to Store Your Pasta

If you’ve bought a package of dried pasta, you can store it in a dry, cool area for up to a year (at least). If it’s tightly sealed or in a closed container, you may even be able to store it almost indefinitely.

store pasta

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Make sure to refrigerate your fresh pasta and keep an eye on the expiration date. You can store it for about two to three days; if you don’t plan on eating it soon, it’s best to freeze it.

If you haven’t opened the package, you can freeze it for up to nine months. However, if you were cooking with it and have some leftover, you can freeze it for up to three months, provided you use an airtight container.

You can refrigerate your homemade fresh pasta for one to two days or freeze and use it within a couple of months. Alternatively, you can dry it, but the drying time will depend on the shape, thickness, and size.

Keep in mind that homemade pasta has a shorter shelf life; dried pasta lasts for about two to six months, whereas frozen pasta can be used for up to eight months.

Which Is Better, Fresh or Dried Pasta?

fresh or dry pasta

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The broadest classification of pasta boils down to two main categories: pasta fresca and pasta secca.

You should eat fresh pasta right away, as soon as you’re done kneading the dough, shaping it, and cooking it. In contrast, you can store dried pasta and prepare it later.

There’s a difference in the ingredients, too; dried pasta is made with water, salt, and flour, whereas fresh pasta needs eggs and some more water to get the right consistency.

Both types can make for a delicious meal, but there are some “rules” as to which type works best for particular sauces.

Since pasta secca has a firm structure, you can pair it with some heavier sauces, and in general, these can withstand more ingredients. You also serve it al dente, so its firmness plays a key role in how the sauce sticks to the shapes.

Pasta fresca, however, should be tender, so naturally, you should serve it with delicate cream- and dairy-based sauces, like those made from butter and milk.

How to Cook Pasta to Perfection Every Time

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• Use a big enough pot. Pasta needs space to move around in the pot to cook well, especially if it will grow in size (like dried pasta does).

• Pour enough water. To cook a pound of pasta, you’ll need about four quarts of water to submerge each strand. This does mean you’ll have to wait a while for the water to boil, but you can always put a lid on the pot to speed things up.

• Measure your pasta. Use a kitchen scale to ensure every person gets about two ounces of it.

• Add enough salt. One of the worst mistakes is not salting your pasta water or salting it later. Salt is a must (add about 1-1/2 tablespoons per pound of pasta) because it can enhance the flavor.

• Stir the pasta while it’s cooking. It might stick to the pot, so make sure to stir it around a couple of times until it’s ready.

• Check your pasta regularly. Don’t cook it exactly according to the instructions without ever checking it.

About two minutes before time’s up, take a piece out, wait for it to cool, and then taste it. If it’s mushy, you’ve been cooking it for too long. If it’s way too tough to eat, it needs a few minutes more.

• Drain your pasta (but don’t rinse it!), and save some of the water for your sauce. If you’ve made a thick sauce that needs a bit thinning out, pasta water will fix the problem. And in any case, add some to your dish to help bind it all together.


• Break your longer noodles, such as spaghetti, linguini, etc. Simply place them on the one end of the pot and use a spoon to gently immerse them.

• Add the oil to the cooking water. It won’t do much in terms of stickiness — all you have to do is stir. In fact, it could make your pasta too slick.

Final Thoughts

Though the list above may not be exhaustive, you probably haven’t heard of half of those types of pasta before and are now ready to go on another culinary adventure. Grab your tools, your faithful pots, and arm yourself with patience — now’s the time to try your hand at making some of the most delicious pasta dishes in the world with your new favorite shapes!