Food Facts

The Low-down on Pasta

Have you ever thought about how many types of pasta there are? Walking down the aisle at the grocery store or making a decision at your local Italian restaurant can be intimidating! But there is a science to choosing the right type of pasta and it can affect the taste of your dish! Below I’ve mapped out the many different types of pasta and what sauces they pair best with!

  • Orzo (or other mini shapes) – since these can’t hold much sauce, and can be easily overpowered, these types of pasta are best used in soup.
  • Fettuccine (and other long thick shapes) – the thicker pasta are great to hold up to thicker meat sauces. When you do the classic pasta twirl, these strands wrap around the thicker sauce.
  • Spaghetti (and long thin shapes) – thinner strands can’t wrap around thick sauces well like fettuccine can. The thinner shapes are better for oil, butter, pesto and lighter cream sauces.
  • Shells – shells are great for heavier cream sauces or cheese sauces since the inside of the shell can soak up a lot of the sauce for a bursting bite. Large shells can also be stuffed with ricotta or other fillings. Smaller shells can work well in soups and pasta salads.
  • Ravioli (tortellini or other filled pasta) – like spaghetti, these are best served with light butter or oil sauces. This allows the filling in the pasta to be the star of the dish and not be overpowered.
  • Penne (and other tube-shaped pasta) – these types of pasta are great for thicker sauces since the inside of the pasta can hold a lot of the sauce when eating. These also bind together well in baked pasta dishes.
  • Rigatoni (and other twisted pasta) – like penne, these are great for thicker sauces (especially cream-based) because all of the ridges can hold onto the sauce. They are also great for cold pasta salads.
  • Farfalle (bowtie) – farfalle is probably the most versatile of pasta. It can soak up flavors from a lighter butter or olive oil sauce, but the ridged edges can also hold on to thicker sauces as well.

No matter what type of pasta you’re looking to cook tonight, it’s most important to just make sure your pasta is cooked well. Overcooking can make it mushy and break apart easily. Check out Barilla’s website on how to cook the perfect al dente pasta!


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