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7 Types of Pasta – and 25 Ways to Eat ‘Em

Pasta is the answer to many of life’s questions: What’s for dinner? What’s your favorite food? What did the Lady and the Tramp share during their romantic meal in the alleyway? We had pasta for dinner last night, what should we have tonight?

All of these questions can be answered with one, simple word: pasta.

It’s crazy to think that one food can have so many forms. There are thin ribbons, thick strands, wheels, elbows, spirals, radiators, and that’s just to name a few of this iconic food.

Although many of us love pasta, we may not know the real name of the pasta we love.

Consider this your beginner’s guide to some of the most popular shapes and their ideal uses!

Spaghetti

Long, thin noodles that are often considered the shape America loves most. Spaghetti can be dressed with light or heavy sauces and is eaten by twirling your fork to gather the pasta into a compact bite. Check out some of our favorite spaghetti recipes:

Garlic and Lemon Spaghetti [1]

Photo by The Rachael Ray Show [2]

Spaghetti with Bacon and Cabbage [3]

Photo by The Rachael Ray Show [2]

Mushroom and Shallot Spaghetti with Crispy Prosciutto [4]

Photo by The Rachael Ray Show [2]

BLT Spaghetti [5]

Photo by The Rachael Ray Show [2]

Penne

Penne is another versatile shape that can be paired with virtually any sauce. It’s tubular and bite-sized – the name comes from the Latin word for “feathers” or “quills.” If you’re thinking of making a pasta salad or casserole, penne is often our first choice for its ability to hold extra sauce and flavor in its hollow center:

Penne with Pancetta, Peas and Mascarpone [6]

Photo by The Rachael Ray Show [2]

Penne and Roasted Squash with Pumpkin Seed Pesto [7]

Photo by The Rachael Ray Show [2]

Florentine Penne with Chicken [8]

Penne alla Senese [9]

Photo by The Rachael Ray Show [2]

Pappardelle

Fat in width and long in length, there’s a whole lot of pappardelle in one noodle. With its large size, it can hold up against the heaviest additions like veggies or meats, and you’ll see Rachael use papparadelle often in dishes like ragus:

Cauliflower Pappardelle with Gorgonzola [10]

Photo by The Rachael Ray Show [2]

Veal or Chicken Ragu with Mushrooms and Marsala [11]

Photo by The Rachael Ray Show [2]

Pappardelle in Chianti Sauce [12]

Photo by The Rachael Ray Show [2]

Fusilli

You may know fusilli as the spiral noodle. With its ridges and texture, it often holds sauces well in its small crevices. It’s fun to eat and has excel

Gluten-Free Corny Fusilli [13]

Photo by The Rachael Ray Show [2]

Roasted Pea and Carrot Pasta [14]

Rigatoni

Rach likes to call rigatoni “rigs” or “riggies,” for short. Rigatoni have large groves and a tubular shape, making them ideal for chunky, cream, or cheese sauces. In our opinion, nothing beats some rigs with a delish cheese sauce and lots of meat!

Rigatoni Quattro Formaggi with Roasted Garlic and Crispy Sage, and Escarole Salad [15]

Photo by The Rachael Ray Show [2]

White Meat Sauce [16]

Photo by The Rachael Ray Show [2]

Riggies with Charred Tomatoes, Hot Sausage, Kale and Ricotta [17]

Photo by The Rachael Ray Show [2]

Baked Pasta with Butternut Squash, Sausage & Ricotta [18]

Photo by The Rachael Ray Show [2]

Sweet Pepper Riggies [19]

Photo by The Rachael Ray Show [2]

Riggies with Chunky Vegetable Sauce [20]

Photo by The Rachael Ray Show [2]

Gnocchi

Consider gnocchi a cross-breed of potato and pasta. It has an airy composition, making it feel like a pillow in your mouth that slowly melts away. Flavored butter or sauce really brings out the best in this pasta, where the texture is just as important as the taste.

Gnocchi or Spinach Gnocchi with Pomodoro Sauce [21]

Pork or Veal Chops with Sage and Gnocchi with Gorgonzola and Walnuts [22]

Photo by The Rachael Ray Show [2]

Roast Chicken Ragu [23]

Photo by The Rachael Ray Show [2]

Lasagna

The widest noodle of them all, Lasagna is a heavy lifter. It’s crafted to hold delicious layers of sauce, meat, veggies and cheese, made with ridged edges and a sturdy composition.

Butternut Squash and Escarole Lasagna [24]

Photo by The Rachael Ray Show [2]

Lasagna with Meat Ragu [25]

Photo by The Rachael Ray Show [2]

Pumpkin Lovers’ Lasagna [26]

Let us know what your favorite pasta shape is on Facebook [27]!

[Lead photo by The Rachael Ray Show [2]]