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Are you curious about the many, many types of pasta? Start here! Learn all about 12 different long pasta shapes, from fine angel hair to wide pappardelle, along with the best ways to cook and sauce them.
Oh, we love pasta! It’s absolutely one of our favorite foods to eat, hands down. I almost dedicated my entire Family Style cookbook to the art of cooking pasta. I’ve shown you how to cook pasta, and I never stop creating new pasta recipes and sauces.
It’s really amazing that a few simple ingredients make so many pasta shapes! Out of that dough comes a huge array of pasta types, hundreds of different ways to shape it and sauce it.
The names for different pasta shapes can be confusing, with the same shape having multiple names depending on the particular region it comes from.
There are literally hundreds of different types of pastas. This page focuses on one group of classics: Long pasta noodles — “pasta lunga” in Italian.
List of long types of pasta:
Consider this a Top 10 list of the best long pasta shapes for everyday cooking. Get information about the meaning of each name, shape, and the best sauces to pair with them, and get excited to cook some delicious Italian pasta recipes.
Capellini (Angel Hair)
Literally meaning “angel hair,” capellini (also capelli) look like extremely thin pasta strands or vermicelli. This pasta is the most delicate of all long pastas. Use it in soups, broths and tossed with light butter sauces or pesto sauce.
- Fedelini: Another Ligurian pasta shape related to angel hair (capellini). It’s thinner than spaghetti and excellent in broths or with lighter sauces made with butter, creamy cheese or fresh tomato sauce.
Meaning “little tongues” in Italian, linguine is very popular shape that looks a lot like spaghetti, only the strands are flat, not round. Sauce it up with olive oil, garlic and tuna or a creamy mushroom sauce.
- Linguine fini: A slighter finer width of linguine that’s thicker than angel hair. Use it any way you’d use spaghetti or linguine.
- Bavette: This pasta is almost one and the same as linguine, but more used in Ligurian regions along with its cousin trenette.
Spaghetti, popular all over the world, means “small strings” in Italian. Other versions of spaghetti include chiatarra (guitar strings) and spaghettini (thin spaghetti). The best sauces for spaghetti include pasta dishes like classic carbonara sauce, puttanesca sauce, pesto, and garlic butter seafood sauce.
Originating in Lazio and Naples, bucatini is a thick version of spaghetti that’s hollow inside. The word bucatini means “pierced” in Italian. It’s also known as perciatelli in the Campagna region of Italy. Think of bucatini as a very long, super-slender ziti noodle, which means it’s pleasingly chewy. Bucatini goes with all kinds of sauces, especially Amatriciana, roasted tomato sauces with ricotta, and spicy almond pesto sauce.
The name fettuccine means “little ribbons” in Italian, which is a spot-on description. Wider and thicker than linguine, another type of long flat noodle, fettuccine is especially good with rich, heavier sauces with cream and butter (such as decadent fettuccine alfredo and pasta primavera with vegetables), cooked broccoli, or braised meats. Fettuccine is available in grocery stores either fresh or dried.
Tagliatelle comes from the word tagliare “to cut;” It is identical in shape to fettuccine, like a twin sister. This pasta is typical in northern regions in Italy and is the quintessential pasta for Bolognese sauce.
Originating in northern and central Italy (Umbria, Emila Romagna, Tuscany). pappardelle comes from the Italian verb “pappare,” which means “to eat” in Tuscan dialect. Serve these wide, flat ribbons of pasta with hearty game or meat sauces, mushroom ragu, or lemon cream sauce.
This pasta is common in the Veneto and Friuli regions and might be derived from a word that means caterpillars in Italian. They are thicker than spaghetti and often made as a fresh pasta with whole wheat flour. Bigoli has a rough texture that holds onto sauce, and is perfect paired with game meat, duck or chicken or with seafood.
The word pasta is anything but generic. Pasta (a/k/a macaroni) is made in a huge variety of shapes and sizes. It’s a staple food and an essential part of Italy’s heritage. From one end of the Italian peninsula to the other, types of pasta vary tremendously based on geographic region, political history and cultural differences from one village to the next.
Pasta is typically made from a base of either soft wheat flour, higher-protein durum wheat, semolina flour (and other flours like buckwheat and rye) along with water, salt and sometimes egg. Pasta dough is the foundation of fresh handmade pasta from northern Italy and factory-made dried pasta in the south.
The difference between fresh pasta and dried pasta
- Fresh pasta is traditionally made with soft wheat flour (such as tipo OO flour) and eggs. It’s rolled out either by hand or with a machine and cut into shapes. It’s meant to be cooked the day it was made.
- Dried pasta is made with hard durum wheat and water, and is extruded (or forced) through a die or mold that determines its shape. It’s then dried and packaged. The industrialization of pasta-making in the early twentieth century was a revolution, resulting in pasta becoming a common food all over Italy and the world.
Complete your pasta education: Discover all the best short pasta shapes: Rice-shaped orzo pasta, cavatelli, farfalle butterfly pasta, rigatoni, penne, ditalini, orecchiette, potato gnocchi dumplings, elbows for mac and cheese, spiral pasta like fusilli and corkscrews, rotini, stuffed pastas such as tortellini, ravioli and family-style pasta feasts like manicotti, cannelloni and lasagna.