Pasta is an all-time favorite meal. Be it for simple, easy to whip dinners or some elaborate pasta dishes with wine for romantic nights, pasta does not fall short of goodness to offer. But there are a lot of things we do not know about pasta. For one, there are more than 30 types of pasta out there, classified into various categories.
In this post, you will know more types of pasta than ever before, so if you are looking for more ways to cook pasta dishes, this is the sign for you to read on.
Table of Contents
A brief history of pasta
There is a lot of history surrounding pasta and while we cannot take into account all versions, here is a succinct take on this venerated dish. Archives reveal that as early as 1 A.D., the then emperor Augustus already mentioned a dish called lagana which was made from fried dough sheets, layered with cheese, sauce, and meat.
Some historians attribute the start of pasta making in the adventures of Marco Polo, having gone to China, and saw how egg noodles were made and hand-pulled into various textures, shapes, and lengths. Although there is a lot of gray areas in these accounts, what we know is that, the first
pasta dish was made in Sicily in 1154 but the most concrete evidence of community cooking for pasta dishes would be in between the 13th and 14th century.
Before, pasta dishes were cooked dry. During the age of exploration, pasta was taken with voyages into the New World, finding herbs and spices that made pasta dishes more elaborate.
The first pasta maker machine was invented in Sanremo, Italy in the 1600s and from there, the making of various sauces, cheeses, and hundreds of pasta dishes from various Italian regions emerged.
Types of pasta
As have been mentioned, there are more than 30 types of pasta out there, originating beyond Italy. They are classified into short, long, stuffed, sheet, shaped, dumpling, and ribbon pasta, among others.
This pasta category is reserved for the folded and meat, cheese, or vegetable filled dough layers. They can be served in broth, or light sauce. The most popular stuffed pasta is the ravioli.
Stuffing pasta is inspired by the 14th century torte, a savory pie served to the nobility during the medieval period.
It comes in the Schwabisch region of Germany like the spätzle. They look like raviolis, and are fondly called as mouth bags where they come from.
It is traditionally filled with a mix of minced meats, spinach, bread crumbs, onions, smoked meat and herbs and spices.
Coming from Piedmont, this stuffed pasta is traditionally filled with braised meat. They can be shaped like small raviolis or the traditional half-moon shape. It can be plated with light sauce or served in beef broth.
This one is like a larger rigatoni, with twisted ridges combined with vertical grooves. The grooves are perfect for holding in thicker, creamier sauces. It would work well with lighter sauces too, and the meaty, and chunky ones.
This one looks like tiny doughnuts which you can easily fill with your favorite cheese or meat. You can drop them in broths or just the basic tomato soup. The simpler version is tossing it in olive oil with lots of grated cheese.
As the term suggests, strand pastas are made by slicing or cutting long, thin rods of pasta dough. Types of strand pasta are categorized in terms of length and thickness.
Thin strand pastas are best for light sauces or in salads and soups while thick strand pasta are for thicker, meatier sauces.
We all grew up loving spaghetti wherever we are in the world. Its cylinder shape is like a crossover of bucatini and angel hair. Its most popular combo is still meatballs but you should try it with shrimp and pesto when you get the chance.
This one is very thin and fine pasta noodles. The Italian version is made of semolina and the Asian version is made of rice noodles. Vermicelli is a go-to pasta for traditional soup dishes and stir-fry veggies. It also works with simple canned tomato puree.
This hand-rolled pasta is the pride of the province of Siena, Italy. This one is like the fat version of spaghetti, commonly served with ragu, mushrooms, garlic and tomato sauce, mixed with game meat like duck meat and wild boar meat.
It is more famous for its name angel hair pasta. It is the most delicate, and thinnest of all string pastas. It is popularly paired with light sauces but can also be cut to be added in soups and pasta salads.
This one originated from Veneto, in Northern Italy. It is thick and dense, resembling egg noodles. It is long, and thin, made of whole wheat flour, duck eggs, and butter. It is the perfect pair to creamy, olive oil, and seafood sauces.
10. Spaghetti alla chitarra
The name literally translates to guitar and is apt for this thin, long, harp string look. The name also comes from the fact that the fresh pasta dough is cut using a harp-like cutter. It is best served with smooth and creamy sauces, or light oil-based ones.
As implied on the name, tubular pasta would refer to any type of pasta with a tubular or cylindrical shape with hollow centers, taking hold of thick sauces. They are also mostly used in pasta salads and baked casseroles.
This one is referred to as jumbo penne, with the same cylindrical shape, wide hollow center, and thick ridges. Because it is a jumbo size pasta, you can fill it with meaty and cheesy sauce, or a whole Bolognese. It can also be baked in casseroles.
It is also called anelli. It is distinct for its calamari ring shape, hence, the name. It is also often served with ink squid and is perfect for thick sauces or seafood based sauces.
It is a spiral-tube shaped pasta and is also known as double elbow pasta. It is best paired with thick sauces because its spiral knots and rolls can be coated evenly, and trapping more sauce in its center, thanks to its hollowed center.
You can use it for mac and cheese. It is drier than other tube-shaped pastas but probably, one of the most versatile ones for all types of pasta dishes.
This wide-piped, tube pasta comes from the Campania region of Italy. They are sometimes smooth surfaced, and sometimes ridged. They can be stuffed with cheese and meat, baked in casseroles, or tossed in tomato-based sauces.
This one starts as a flat, square pasta, rolled into ridged, tube-shaped pasta. Coming from the Romagna region of Italy, the ridges were traditionally done using wooden combs. The most famous garganelli dish is the one with prosciutto, peas, and onions.
This one is another popular pasta and half of our favorite mac and cheese. It is made using durum wheat, cut in shorter lengths, and curved, elbow like shape. It is quite drier than the other pasta, making it versatile for all types of sauces.
This one is sometimes mistaken for spaghetti. The unique thing about this pasta is its rounder shape, with a hollow center. Because it is thicker than spaghetti, it is cooked with a pool of sauce. It is perfect for traditional pasta dishes, but also for soups and casseroles.
This is another pasta clustered along with the penne because of its cylinder shape and hollow center, only it does not have ridges. Ziti is famous in many Italian restaurants, used in casseroles or simply tossed in olive oil or plain tomato sauce.
This one is more cylindrical than penne, with a wider, hollowed center and thicker ridges. It is perfect in creamy and cheesy sauces and in dishes like the butternut squash pasta.
20. Penne pasta
This one is one of the more famous pasta out there, available in many household pantries around the world. It is unique for its tube shape, slanted edges, and ridges along its body. It is usually used in casserole dishes and is perfect for chicken piccata.
If you are in southern Italy, they would call it the penne lisce because it looks like penne a lot, complete with its slanted edges but minus the ridges. It is traditionally served in casseroles or light sauces.
This one is the crossover of manicotti and penne because it is cylindrical like the former and ridged like the latter. It comes as a pasta sheet and then rolled after stuffing it with meat, cheese, and sauce.
Those categorized under ribbon pasta would be the flatter types of pasta, coming in various thickness, and lengths. Some have ruffled edges, some have straight, serrated edges, and some are shaped like bow ties. They are basically the Italian egg noodles.
23. Fettuccine pasta
This one is next to spaghetti when it comes to popularity, but unlike it, it has a flatter, wider surface. It is also denser, and thicker when cooked. It is a favorite with chunky, meaty sauces like chicken alfredo.
24. Lasagne sheets
This sheet pasta is noted for its ruffled edges. As the name suggests, it is the key ingredient for our favorite lasagne, layered with ricotta cheese, meat sauce, and ground meat. There are already pre-hydrated lasagne sheets if you want to skip boiling.
It is called as such because it is the narrower version of lasagna. It is cooked and prepared like fettuccine but with light sauce and lots of grated cheese.
It comes in many versions. Some are ridged on both sides, while some are cut open on both sides. It makes a delicate first course meal in Italian restaurants.
It is like the crossover of fettuccine and linguine, but shorter in length. It originates from Italy’s Amalfi coast, served traditionally with seafood sauce and various fishes.
This one highly resembles fettuccine, only slimmer. This one is used mainly for seafood pasta dishes, specifically those involving shells, clams, and scallops. The best sauces to use for linguine would be white wine sauce or any creamy sauce.
In Italy, tagliatelle is interchangeable with fettuccine, but the pasta world says that they are not the same. Both are thick and flat, but tagliatelle has a unique thicker bite. It is perfect for meaty and saucy pasta dishes.
Also called as Mafalda, this one is like a long, ribbon shaped pasta with ruffled edges. It is like lasagna but narrower and comes in strops of almost 10inches long. It is best served with thick, meaty sauces, like the famous lasagna.
Originating from the Lombardy region, it is a short, and flat ribbon pasta, made with the mix of whole wheat and buckwheat flour. This combo gives it a textured, gray-brown color, often plated with herbs, greens, cheese, and potatoes.
This one is wider than fettuccine and is a favorite for those saucy, and meaty sauces and pasta dishes. It is the best pasta choice for Bolognese, and ragu but it also offers an al dente taste to any seafood pasta dish.
Also called tagliarini, it is dubbed as the thinnest egg pasta. It is made of semolina, eggs, and soft wheat flour. It is cooked in just under 10mins, very light and delicate, making it perfect in brothy dishes, light sauces, and with light greens and condiments.
Basically, shaped pasta are named as such because they come in various shapes and sizes. Some are shaped like little ears, like shells, like wheels, twisted and rolled, and more. They are versatile to all types of sauces, and all start as dried.
This one comes from the Emilia Romagna region. Its name roughly translates to priest strangler, strikingly of greedy priests, feasting on these noodles and the locals wishing that they choke on it. It is best for light sauces, as well as pesto.
It is not a famous shaped pasta, but you would love the unique look and taste of campanelle. Its shape is like a tiny bell flower with a hollow center. It works well with thick sauces and could be used as a substitute for macaroni elbows.
This one is shaped like small bow ties with ragged edges. It is popular among pasta salads and is sometimes even cooked along with macaroni elbows. It can also handle all types of sauces, so go for this for texture, distinct look, and Italian taste.
This one has a distinct tube shape featuring rolled, unconnected edges. It is loosely rolled, with a hollow center that makes it a perfect pasta for very thick sauces.
This one comes from southwestern Germany and is basically a round, egg-based pasta. It is only made with eggs, flour, and salt and then served with melted butter, gravy or any creamy sauce.
Shaped like shell, it takes the shape of what it is named from, conchiglie, the Italian word for shell. It comes from small to jumbo size, with open centers that are perfect for catching thick, and meaty sauces.
39. Rotini pasta
It is also referred to as corkscrew pasta. Its spirals are tighter than the fusilli but like it, is also versatile to any type of sauce. It is perfect for one-pot, creamy and cheesy dishes like cacciatore.
It is known as one of the oldest pasta types made with eggless dough and shaped like very small hotdog buns. They are dense, and thick, and go well with broccoli rabe or with meaty sauces.
Given their shape, it is no wonder it is called little ears, which in Italian, is yes, orecchiette. They are dome-shaped pasta shells with a thin, hollow center. However, the edges are wider and with ridges, giving it a peculiar shape and texture.
This one comes in a very twisted and spiral shape, but its crevices are beneficial for holding lots of sauce. It is often used in pasta salads, but also goes well with simple marinara sauce or thick, meaty sauces.
This one is another Northern Italy native. They are distinct for their very white color, and their twisted shape. It is usually cooked with the traditional Genovese way, along with potatoes, green beans, and pesto.
Imagine two thin ropes twisting together and that would be what gemelli looks like. Because of its thick, well-catching noodles, it is best for pasta salads, and herby pasta dishes.
This category of pasta consists of the tiniest, grain-like pastas, that are fine enough to make soup-based dishes. The relatively thicker ones are served in creamier, thicker broths, the smaller ones dropped in light broth, and are also used in salad pasta dishes.
This one looks more like grain or rice and not pasta. It is also called as risoni, originating from Greece. In Italy, it is made of barley, but the contemporary version is now made of wheat flour. It can be used for soup side dishes.
This one is also referred to as thimble pasta or short macaroni because it is shaped like small tubes, like a macaroni cut in four. It was a famous, cheap soup pasta meal during the industrial revolution in Puglia, Italy. It is used in minestrone soup and a key ingredient in fagioli.
Literally translating to flakes, ptitim are small, grain like pasta, which are also fondly called as Israeli couscous or pearl couscous. It was developed in Israel in the late 1950s at a time when rice supplies were very scarce. It is served with parmesan, greens, and tomatoes.
It comes with a well-loved nutty flavor and is also called the Sardinia couscous as it originated from Sardinia. It is made of semolina, cut into pearls, and then toasted. It is served with thick sauces, and pasta salads.
Types of Pasta – FAQs
Now that we know the different types of pasta, what goes with each best, where they come from, and what they look like, and how they are prepared, it is time for some useful FAQs that could further stir your interest and some health-related information that you should know about.
What is the hardest pasta to make?
You can find the hardest pasta to make in Nuoro of the Sardinia region. This pasta is called the Su Filindeu and there are only ten people left who could masterfully make it, making it also an endangered pasta type.
In a feature story by SBS where one of the last 10 makers was interviewed, the Su Filindeu has three centuries of historical timeline but because it is very time consuming to make, it has lost its appeal through time. It is translated to the ‘threads of God’, measured at 256 thread count.
What is the rarest pasta?
Because of the intricacy of making it, the Su Filindeu is not just considered as the hardest pasta to make but also the rarest pasta. It is made solely by hand and the 10 people left who know how to make it just come from one family now, residing in Nuoro in Sardinia.
This rare pasta is so delicate, traditionally served in traditional Sardinian soup dishes. And they say that if you ever get a hold of one, surely you have bought it for $150 per kilogram.
Which pasta is best for weight loss?
There are lots of recommended pasta for weight loss. As a matter of fact, there are lists of nutritionists recommended pasta for weight loss. Of all of them, the most recommended one would be wholewheat pasta. It is the good balance of high fiber and low carb content, making you feel full, but with enough energy to get you through the day.
Is pasta only made in Italy?
History says that pasta is not originally from Italy, but a product of a long line of cultural exchange of European explorers and Eastern egg noodle makers, like the Chinese. But coming into the present day, the question of pasta being made in Italy warrants an answer of no.
While Italy remains to be the major producer and consumer of pasta, thanks to its cultural significance, the four other main producers of pasta would be the USA (2M tons/year), Turkey (1.3M tons/year), Brazil (1.2M tons/year), and Russia (1M tons/year).
What countries eat the most pasta?
Knowing which countries make the most pasta automatically arouses us to know which countries eat the most pasta, for sure.
In a report by the International Pasta Organization (IPO), the top six countries who eat the most pasta would be: Italy, Tunisia, Venezuela, Greece, Chile, and the USA.
Which pasta is the lowest in calories?
We have previously named the best pasta for weight loss and that is whole wheat pasta. Understandably, it is also considered as the pasta with the lowest calories. Along with its high-fiber content, it supports cardiovascular and digestive health. It also lowers chances of type 2 diabetes and heart diseases.
Useful fact, if you are looking for a low carb alternative to pasta, you can always try the shirataki noodles or also known as miracle noodles.
Is eating pasta everyday bad?
Well, the cliché, ‘too much of anything is bad’ also applies to our favorite pasta dishes. When eaten in moderation, sure, pasta can be a good source of fiber. And depending on the type, it could become a viable source of nutrition and an aid to weight loss.
Studies suggest that eating pasta three times a week would not lead to any significant carb spike or weight gain. When you have a pasta week and intend to eat a pasta meal daily, it is said that you must limit your intake of 4ounces of dried pasta or 2cups of cooked pasta.
Pasta is an all-around ingredient to some of the heartiest meals we could whip off. It can be served, lathered with thick, meaty sauces, lighter wine based or oil-based ones, or can be filled with your choice of stuffing, from meat, veggies, and various cheeses. On top of these, you are eating delicious, guilt-free, and complete meals.
There are no words to describe the significance of pasta in history and everyday life. And with knowing the various types of pasta, we have yet again unlocked another reason to love pasta more.