Please upgrade your browser for the best Refinery29 experience. Read more.

Saved! Access Favorites in your account profile. Removed from my favorites

The Many Types Of Pasta Shape, Explained

Welcome to Advice for Impatient Foodies, R29's new cooking column. Each week, our executive food editor and Impatient Foodie founder, Elettra Wiedemann, will tackle any and all questions you might have about food. Seriously, no query is too big or too small. Don't be embarrassed! We've all had moments in the kitchen when we had no idea WTF was going on and wished we could ask someone other than Google for some pointers. So, whether you need help frying an egg, knowing when your chicken is done, or deciding what to make for dinner, we've got your back.
There are so many different types of pasta on supermarket shelves these days — I never know which is best for the specific sauce that I'm making. What's the best way to differentiate between all the types of pasta?
Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
I think the best woman to answer this question is my dear friend Colu Henry, who just finished writing an entire book on easy pasta recipes, Back Pocket Pasta. Here's Colu's advice on navigating the spaghetti shelves:

Long and lean pastas, like linguine, spaghetti, and linguine fini are best with non-tomato-based sauces that cling to the noodle without drowning it. Thicker options, like tagliatelle, fusilli lunghi, and fettuccine have the real estate to handle richer tomato sauces, ragùs, and cream sauces.

Short and curvy pastas, like fusilli, gemelli, and campanelle are the most versatile — perfect for catching bits of vegetables, meat, and seafood in their nooks and crannies. They also work well with a simple marinara or just plain butter and cheese.

Tubular p
astas, such as rigatoni, paccheri, and penne can stand up to heavier, chunkier sauces: think beans and sauces that are meat-driven. The middle of the pasta will capture bits of sauce, allowing you to construct that perfect bite.