Pasta originated in Italy, but many historical evidence suggests that the idea of noodles originated in the East. However, Italian pasta has evolved its own unique way. It’s very different from eastern noodles in the way it’s prepared and cooked. Pasta is made from wheat flour and they come in an astounding array of shapes and sizes.
These different pasta shapes evolved over time. Some of them originate from specific parts of Italy. These different pasta shapes are optimized for different types of sauces. Some are made for heavy sauces with lots of ingredients whereas others are meant for broths and soups.
These are the various pastas out there, and which sauces they go best with:
Long, Thin Pastas: Capellini, Vermicelli and Angel Hair
Long and thin pasta are best paired with light sauces. This includes sauces that are olive oil based. Usually, Italian chefs will toss these delicate noodles in Aglio Olio or garlic oil. It’s best not to weigh the pasta down, so a minimal amount of olive oil is best.
Apart from olive oil, lots of fresh cherry tomatoes, basil leaves, herbs and mild cheeses like Parmesan are often sprinkled on top to make the dish even better. If you want to pair it with meat, make sure you choose some seafood like fish or shrimp rather than fatty red meats.
Tiny and Round Pastas: Acini de Pepe and Couscous
These tiny round spherical pasta look exactly like rice or other grains. They cook much faster than regular pasta. As such, they’re often added to soups and salads. This type of pasta isn’t usually eaten with a sauce. In the case of Couscous, it’s cooked with boiling chicken or vegetable stock. The cooked pasta is then eaten with grilled chicken or roasted vegetables, just like rice.
Alternatively, these small round pasta can be sprinkled with nuts, raisins and herbs to be eaten in a more Middle Eastern style.
Long and Flat: Fettuccine, Linguine, Tagliatelle and Pappardelle
All these long and flat pasta differ only in their width. For example, Pappardelle is the widest while Linguine is the narrowest. They are best served with a cream based or cheesy sauce such as Alfredo and creamy seafood. Flat pasta pairs well with rich sauces as they provide plenty of space for the sauce to adhere to and soak up.
White sauces can sometimes be paired with grilled meats like chicken or pork, but make sure that they’re cooked in a non-greasy manner. Oily meats will not balance out the richness of the cream in the sauce. Alternatively, pair the creamy sauce with crunchy nuts to balance out the textures.
Short , Tube Pastas: Penne, Ziti, Campanelle and Rigatoni
These short pastas are often paired with tomato based sauces that have minced meat in them, like Bolognese and Marinara. This is because tube shapes pastas are able to catch more of these rice sauces in them, as well as the minced meat and vegetables contained within.
More commonly, tube pastas are baked with a tomato based sauce with lots of cheese toppings. Tomato based sauces always go best with sharp cheeses like cheddar.
Long Thin Tube Pastas: Bucatini and Perciatelli
These types of pastas look exactly like spaghetti but have a hollow center. They’re really good at picking up sauces that are more watery and not thick or rich. This means that the sauce has to be thin and loose enough to flow inside the hollow centers or the noodles.
Long hollowed out pastas go great with strong and sharp flavors. These includes spicy chili flakes and cheeses with intense flavors like Stilton, Blue Cheese, Roquefort and Cheddar.
Small Round Hollow Pastas: Macaroni and Ditalini
Short,round pastas have traditionally always been enjoyed with creamy and cheesy sauces. In fact, these type of pastas are the one that’s most often associated with home cooked and comfort food.
Macaroni is a very versatile pasta and is usually eaten with warm sauces and soups. They can also be added to salads with some sour-ish sauce like balsamic vinegar or French dressing. They are sometimes baked into casseroles too, with a meat based sauce.
Short and Uniquely Shaped Pastas: Bowtie, Shells, Fusili, Rotini and Wagon Wheels
These short pastas have various wide shapes that can pick up thick and rich sauces. These include twisty shaped pastas which are the best at picking up minced meat based sauces. They are able to give you a larger taste of the sauce, so that the entire mouthful is filled with lots of rich and flavorful sauce that coats the pasts and is contained within it.
These types of pasts go great with thick and rich sauces that are tomato or cream bases, with plenty of meat and vegetables.
Pastas With Fillings: Ravioli, Tortellini and Cappelletti
These pastas are among the most delicious and fun to make. They are usually filled with things like cheese, minced meat, mushrooms, vegetables and sometimes, seafood. Since they already have some flavor within them, it makes sense that they are served with a very light olive oil or butter based sauce. They also go great with thin soups and broth.
Usually, they are lightly flavored with herbs and salt, but nothing else that has intense flavor. This is important so that the taste of the fillings are not drowned out.
Flat, Large and Broad Pasta : Lasagna
Lasagna is also another pasta based comfort food. Usually, the only way it’s cooked is by baking. It’s layered with meats, sauces, cheese and vegetables. The sauces are often rich and hearty.
The more creative you get with the fillings, the tastier your lasagna will be. Lasagna is often made for special occasions or for gatherings as it’s often made in a huge baking dish. Therefore, if you’re having a potluck, do consider bringing some lasagna.
Pasta is a pretty versatile food type so you don’t have to follow this guide too strictly. These sauces are recommended based on what the pastas have been optimized for over the centuries. Just go with the flow and make yourself your favorite pasta recipe.