Long Pasta – Pasta Lunga
These dried flour-and-water pasta strands are best suited to olive oil- and tomato based sauces. Avoid serving with chunky sauces that will simply slide off the pasta. The easiest way to eat long pasta is to twirl a small number of strands around your fork. Once they are neatly wound around the prongs, pop in your mouth and enjoy! If you are converned about your pasta etiquette, only use a fork – Italians scoff at the thought of using a spoon! If you do need some help, use a piece of bread to heap the pasta onto your fork or if there’s any excess sauce left, use a piece of bread to mop it up.
Spaghetti: These long thin laces of pasta are probably the best known and most commonly used pasta both inside and outside of Italy.
Spaghettini: Spaghettini is essentially thin spaghetti. Indeed, the “ini” at the end designates thinness of these pasta noodles. It is especially good served with seafood sauces.
Caoelli d’angelo: Meaning “angel hair”, this extremely fine pasta is usually served in a well-flavored broth as it is too fine to support a sauce.
Linguine: Literally meaning “little tongues”, linguine is flat spaghetti. It is generally eaten in the south of Italy, although it is not as popular with Italians as it is elsewhere in Europe.
Bucatini: A type of spaghetti with a hole running through the length of the strands thus resembling thin straws. Bucatini is eaten widely in the south-central region of Italy.
Tubes – Tubi
These sturdy pasta cylinders come in an assortment of sizes and perfectly accommodate a variety of sauce. The slimmer tubes such as penne are great with simple tomato sauces while the stouter rigatoni are ideal to partner sauces with large chunks of meat and vegetables. They may be accompanied with the adjective rigate which simply alludes to the ridged design on the tubes or with lisce, which refers to their smooth surface.
Penne: The most common of tubular pastas; The name “pens”, refers to their pointed, nib-shaped ends. They are available smooth or ridged.
Elicoidali: These straight-edged tubes with ridges that curve around them resemble the helixes that they are named after.
Cavatappi: This corkscrew-like pasta is ideal with chunky sauces.
Rigatoni: Large, chewy tubes which are popular in Italy and served with meat sauces.
Gigantoni: These “extra large giants” are too big to serve tossed in a sauce. Instead, they are filled and used in baked pasta dishes.
Special Shapes – Formati Speciali
There are literally hundreds of different pasta shapes, each designed to produce a particular sensation on the palate and to suit a type of sauce. Most of these shapes are ideal for robust sauces as small chunks can be trapped in their cavities.
Conchiglie: True to its name, this pasta resembles shells. They come in a variety of sizes with the smallest used in soups, the middle-sized ones served with sauces and the largest ones, usually stuffed.
Fartalle: Means “Butterfly” and the pasta resemble a bow tie. This is one of the most popular shapes. Fartalle is also good served cold in salad.
Orecchiette: Literally meaning “little ears”, this pasta is a specialty of Apulia in the south-eastern region of Italy. Traditionally, they were made from an eggless hard wheat pasta dough pressed between the thumb and palm to create their unique form.
Fusilli: These are essentially short springs of pasta. They are versatile but lend themselves particularly to vegetable sauces.
Ruote di carro: These cartwheel pasta shapes are especially popular in Sicily where they were first invented.
Ribbons – Fettuce
Homemade or fresh eggpasta is usually cut into ribbons – that is, when it is not filled with a variety of meat or cheese or vegetables to make stuffed pasta like ravioli or tortelloni. This delicate, porous pasta absorbs cream- and butter-based sauces especially well. Shop-bought dried egg pasta can be substituted. Fettuce are generally differentiated by their widths.
Taglionini: 1.5mm width. It can be served with a sauce but you will find it most often steeped in a broth.
Fetuccine: 5mm width
Tagliatelle: 8mm width. Fettucine and tagliatelle are the most common pasta ribbons and are generally interchangeable.
Pappardelle: The widest ribbon, at a 1cm width. Can be cut with straight edges or ridged. Often served with a slow-cooked, dense red meat sauce.