You Know You’re Italian If You Can Name These 19 Kinds of Pasta

Pasta is the cornerstone of many Italian culinary creations. While it may taste similar in every form, it comes in an astonishing variety of shapes and sizes, often classically paired with a specific sauce. Here are 19 kinds of pasta that showcase this diversity—if you can identify every type, you’re undoubtedly in touch with your Italian roots!

Spaghetti

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We’re starting you off easy with these classic strands—long, thin, and cylindrical. All Recipes recommends serving this quintessential Italian pasta with bolognese sauce, creamy carbonara, or simply olive oil and seasoning! Spaghetti is versatile, simple, and beloved worldwide.

Fettuccine

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Tasting Table asserts that fettuccine is another type of ‘long’ pasta, like spaghetti, but is wider, flatter, and slightly thicker—creating ribbon-like strands that are ideal for clinging to creamy sauces. It’s traditionally served with buttery Alfredo sauce or cheesy Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Penne

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Penne is known for its cylindrical shape, hollow center, and angled ends, and is a versatile pasta that works well with hearty sauces that coat the outside and fill the middle—making every bite flavorful. What’s for Dinner? says, “The name is derived from the Italian word penna, which means ‘pen.’”

Rigatoni

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These large tubes are similar to penne but larger, without angled ends. Live, Eat, Learn claims they hold their shape well in baking, so they’re great for oven-cooked pasta dishes. Their outer ridges and cavernous middles also make them great for chunky sauces like vegetable bolognese.

Farfalle

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Farfalle means ‘butterfly’ in Italian and is often called “bow-tie pasta” in America. Each piece has a pinched middle and wings on each side, making either name befitting. It’s a sturdy pasta that is easy to undercook due to its thick middle, but it goes well with light sauces or served cold in pasta salads.

Orecchiette

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According to Food52, orecchiette means “little ears” in Italian and was named for its small, bowl-like shape. Made from semolina flour and originating in Southern Italy, it’s perfect with thick, chunky sauces and is traditionally paired with broccoli rabe or Italian sausage.

Tagliatelle

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Most people will have trouble distinguishing tagliatelle from its close relative, fettuccine. It’s slightly wider, flatter, and made with eggs as well as flour. Farm Flavor writes, “They are traditionally used in Bolognese or other meat sauces, but they also pair well with seafood and vegetable-heavy dishes.”

Linguine

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Imagine flattened spaghetti or fettuccine that’s been cut in half long ways—now you have linguine! Real Simple states that it’s often paired with lighter, seafood-based sauces such as linguine alle vongole (linguine with clams), a classic dish that makes the most of its more delicate texture.

Pappardelle

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This pasta hails from Tuscany and comes in very broad, flat ribbons that look like fettuccine, only wider. It perfectly accompanies beef ragu or hearty game-laden dishes made with rabbit, boar, or duck. Indeed, its name literally means “gobble up” in Italian!

Cavatappi

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This corkscrew-shaped pasta is fun to look at and has a great ‘mouth-feel’ when eaten due to its curly shape adorned with small ridges. According to Parade, these pretty spirals are great for clinging to creamy sauces in baked cheese dishes or mixed with mayonnaise in pasta salads.

Tortellini

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This ring-shaped pasta is a filled pasta, traditionally filled with pockets of cheese or meat. A traditional specialty of the Emilia region of Italy, tortellini is typically served with cream sauces or in a rich capon (large poultry) broth, making a hearty and tasty meal that is popular in cooler weather.

Lasagna

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Like penne and spaghetti, this flat, sheet-like pasta will be familiar to most of us, typically served layered in a tomato and meat or vegetable sauce and topped with creamy béchamel. Typically, lasagna is not boiled in water before use but instead absorbs liquid in the oven, cooking as it bakes.

Gnocchi

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Country Living claims gnocchi is the only pasta made with the addition of cooked mashed potatoes, as well as flour and eggs—although there is a type made from ricotta cheese, too! These soft, doughy dumplings are served with a savory white or red sauce, from simple tomato basil to a decadent Gorgonzola cream.

Ravioli

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Another filled pasta, these pillow-like squares are filled with all types of filling, from pumpkin or spinach to cheese and meat. Due to their more interesting flavors, they’re typically served with simple sauces like a classic Pomodoro or merely tossed in butter infused with sage or garlic.

Cannelloni

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As with lasagna, cannelloni is intended to be baked in the oven but comes in the form of huge, cylindrical tubes that are filled with a traditional mixture of spinach and ricotta (or sometimes minced meat). The filled tubes are placed on a tomato sauce base and covered with creamy, nutmeg-infused béchamel. Delicious!

Capellini

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Also known as “angel hair pasta,” capellini’s very thin strands are long and delicate, so they won’t pair well with chunky, thick sauces. Instead, The Pioneer Woman recommends serving them with light, delicate sauces, such as a thin cream sauce or a simple garlic and olive oil coating.

Fusilli

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Also known as rotini, this pasta comes in bitesize tight spirals that are excellent at holding a lot of sauce and are perfect for children. Fusilli pairs particularly well with thick, rich sauces that don’t have huge vegetable chunks, like a tuna pasta bake. They are also popular in cold pasta salads.

Conchiglie

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This pasta is shaped like seashells and has hollows that are perfect for holding chunky sauces or baking in rich, cheese-laden oven dishes. They come in various sizes, too, including tiny conchigliette and much larger conchiglioni. All have the same shell-like ‘conch’ shape but differing dimensions.

Risoni

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One of the tiniest varieties of pasta, risoni resembles grains of rice and is only slightly larger than long-grain rice once cooked. Commonly called orzo in North America, it cooks quickly and is popular for adding bulk to soups and stews. It’s also great in fine-chopped salads and some pasta bakes.

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