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There are so many shapes and sizes on the market today, that it can be hard to know the names of all them – much less what kind of sauce works well with what shape. Here, we covers some of the basics, and adds in a few of the most popular noodles on today’s menu.

Long Shape Pastas:

The most well known and versatile pasta of the bunch. This pasta can be used with a variety of sauces, either red or cream.

Angel Hair
Also known as Capellini or Capelli D’Angelo, work best in broth. In Italy, it is often used as a dessert pasta.

Flatter shaped noodles than spaghetti, linguine works well with red and cream sauces. More popular in the US than it is in Italy.

This pasta is made with a hole in the middle, like a straw. Works well with robust meat sauces.

Ribbon Pasta
Ribbon pastas are best when rolled by hand, which creates a delicate, textured porous pasta that absorbs and attracts butter and cream-based sauces unlike any others.

Classically served with a meat bolognese sauce.

Holds up well with large chunks of mushrooms and chicken.

Best with cream based sauces such as Alfredo.

Tube Shaped Pastas:

Probably the most common penne is made smooth or with ridges and can be served with a wide range of sauces, both chunky and/or creamy.

Most popular with Italians and served with either meat sauces, or tossed with butter, parmigiano-reggiano cheese and a little cream.

Chifferi lisci
Elbow macaroni – used in soups.

Special Shapes:

Shell-shaped pasta, used in soups and sauces, and the American version in salads.

Potato dumplings, best served with a ragu sauce.

Also known as butterfly or bow tie pasta. Works well with most sauces, both red and cream.

Means, literally, “little ear.” It traps sauces in its hollow section.

Called “radiators,” because they resemble little heaters, they trap sauces in their ridges.

“Short Springs” – often served with a light tomato sauce.

Ruote Di Carro
“Cartwheel” shaped pasta – works well with a red sauce and cheese.

Stuffed Pastas:

The most popular pasta here in the states, it is stuffed with either meat, seafood, vegetables, or cheese. Works well with a tomato sauce.

Crescent shaped and served on New Year’s Eve in broth or with a cream sauce.

Square-shaped ravioli stuffed with Swiss chard, or spinach and ricotta cheese. Best when served with a butter sauce or just parmigiano reggiano.

Sheets of pasta spread with a variety of fillings and rolled up like a jelly roll and baked.

Large sheets of pasta that are layered with sauce, meat, seafood, vegetables and/or ricotta cheese.

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