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12 Types Of Pasta Noodles And When To Use Them

When you want to cook a pasta dish, you have to think about specifics. Variance in cut, shape, and thickness allow for multitudes of different types of noodles, so be sure to place your pasta in a setting conducive to its size, shape, and texture. Consider questions like, “Should I use a light broth or a heavy meat sauce? Should I sprinkle my pasta into a soup? Should I toss it in olive oil for a cold salad?”

The better you get to know your noodles, the better you’ll be able to prepare them—and feed yourself. Here’s a good place to start: 12 types of pasta noodles and when to use them.

1. Pappardelle
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A wide egg noodle with Tuscan origins, pappardelle is often served with hearty meat sauces, as in Plated’s Winter Ragout Pappardelle recipe.

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2. Farfalle
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Also called bow tie pasta for its shape, farfalle (the Italian word for butterfly) makes a great cold pasta salad, and can also dress up a warm bowl of meat and veggies, as in our Farfalle with Fresh Sausage and English Peas recipe.

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3. Shells
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Shells work in a variety of settings, depending on their size. If your shells are large enough, you can stuff and bake them (as in the below Cheesy Spinach Stuffed Shells recipe), while medium-sized shells work well in casseroles and with meat sauces. Reserve the smallest shells for adding to soups and stews.

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(Image: Eat, Live, Run)

4. Campanelle
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(Image: Galley Kitchen Blog)

Literally meaning “bellflowers,” campanelle sports a very unique shape that’s great at capturing thick, creamy, or meaty sauces. And they work wonders in cheesy bowls, too—like this Campanelle with Fresh Fava Beans recipe.

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(Image: Newsday)

5. Bucatini
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Like spaghetti, but hollow, these unusual noodles taste great in casseroles, your favorite stir-fry recipe, or stewed in a broth with fresh tomatoes, as in our Pollock Oreganata with Stewed Grape Tomato Bucatini.

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6. Angel Hair
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(Image: Chew Nibble Nosh)

Angel hair is the thinnest type of pasta, made of long, very fine strands that cook quickly. Use delicate sauces with this narrow noodle, like a light tomato sauce or a broth, or simply cook it with butter and oil. This Angel Hair Pasta with Garlic, Herbs, and Parmesan recipe, for example, isn’t particularly heavy—except on flavor.


(Image: Simply Recipes)

7. Acini di Pepe
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(Image: Apple Crumbles)

Sometimes referred to as pastina, acini di pepe means “small parts of the pepper” in Italian, alluding to its miniscule size and rounded shape, which makes it versatile enough to be welcome in a wide range of dishes. Make it the mainstay of a cold salad, as in the Acini de Pepe Savory Pasta Salad below, or sprinkle it into a piping hot soup.

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(Image: Tasty Kitchen)

8. Gnocchi
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Gnocchi are tiny, soft dumplings traditionally made from potato, egg, and flour. This hearty pasta is perfect for rich sauces, and even stands up to baking, as in our Baked Gnocchi with Tomato, Mozzarella, and Spring Salad recipe—now on the menu!

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9. Orecchiette
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Italian for “little ears,” orecchiette are shaped like pasta bowls, rendering them perfect for collecting sauce. This pasta goes great with heavier sauces rife with meats and veggies, as with this recipe for Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage, as their shape is perfect for catching bits of both.

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10. Orzo
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You’d be forgiven for mistaking this pasta for rice. The toothsome orzo is often found adding heartiness to soups and salads, though we’ve been known to mix it with asparagus, lemon zest, and crumbled feta in our Lamb Meatballs with Orzo and Asparagus recipe.

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11. Penne
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This tube-shaped pasta is about two inches long and cut diagonally at both ends, making it a perfect bed for most sauces and toppings. Vodka sauce, anyone?

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(Image: Dishmaps)

12. Ravioli
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You know this one well, we assume, as ravioli can pretty much do anything. These square pillows of dough can be filled with cheese, meat, veggies, or even seafood—hello, lobster ravioli—and served topped with sauce, in soups, or simply drizzled with olive oil. Check out this divine Cheese Ravioli with Kale Pesto and Roasted Carrots recipe and taste this pasta in all its glory.

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What’s your favorite kind of pasta and what recipes do you use it for? Tell us in the comments!

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