There are a few different theories detailing how many types of pasta are out there. Some say there are 350 types of pasta shapes, while others will argue that there are more than 600. No matter how many types of pasta there are, most people consider some style of pasta a pantry staple. They are flexible foods that allow at-home chefs to be creative and unique with the sauce, vegetables, and even added protein. You can try different pasta and sauce combinations or stick to the classics — whatever your taste buds desire. Truth be told, there are few things better than a successful pasta dish.
With the incredible number of pasta shapes and dishes to choose from, it might be overwhelming when making a selection. We’ve compiled a list of the most popular types of pasta, their ingredients, and their traditional uses. Keep reading to check them out, and don’t be afraid to get creative.
10 Popular Types of Pasta
Starting with the most popular, let’s check out 10 classic types of pasta noodles!
Origin: Southern Italy, Sicily | Ingredients: Flour, eggs, milk, and olive oil | Shape: Long, circular noodles | Popular Dishes: Seafood, vegetables, and tomato sauce and meatballs
Spaghetti pasta is a classic that everyone has enjoyed at least once. It is a long, slightly circular pasta with a thicker center than other long pastas. This style of pasta style originated in southern Italy, but has since spread to be widely popular throughout the world, especially in the Mediterranean. You can do it up with the classic tomato sauce and meatballs or make into a vegetable or seafood pasta.
Our Favorite Spaghetti Dish
Personally, I suggest making homemade tomato sauce with fresh Roma tomatoes, butter, onions, and garlic. It’ll have your entire kitchen smelling incredible and pairs nicely with these traditional noodles.
Origin: Northern Italy | Ingredients: Durum wheat flour, eggs | Shape: Long, flat noodles | Popular Dishes: Fettuccine alfredo and seafood
In second place is fettuccine. Fettuccine alfredo is likely the first dish to come to mind as it’s one of the most popular dishes with this pasta shape. However, fettuccine is rarely eaten in Italy and gains its popularity in the United States. It’s traditionally made with egg and flour then shaped into a flat, thick pasta. Fettuccine is the descendant of a similar Greek and Roman pasta called lagane. Fresh fettuccine is pretty hard to beat, but it can easily be found dried in most grocery stores.
Our Favorite Fettuccine Dish
Keep an eye out for a ridged version to add a little more variety to your pasta dish. Buttered fettuccine noodles topped with salsa, sour cream, cilantro, black beans, and green onions is a dish with a vibrant burst of flavors.
Origin: Genova, Liguria, Italy | Ingredients: Durum semolina flour and water (sometimes eggs) | Shape: Thin, flat noodles | Popular Dishes: Pesto and seafood
Linguine means “little tongues” in Italian, and once you take a look at this pasta type, you’ll see why. It’s similar to fettuccine in its flatness but much smaller, falling somewhere between the size of spaghetti and fettuccine. It’s most commonly in pesto-based dishes, but it’s not rare to see linguine as the base for seafood-rich pasta.
This type of pasta first appeared in the 1700s and was a typical festive dish for families during the time period. These days, this pasta is very common throughout Liguria and the world.
Our Favorite Linguine Dish
Making your own homemade pesto sauce with fresh basil, garlic, olive oil, and roasted pine nuts is too easy and couples well with a plate of linguine.
Origin: Tuscany, Italy | Ingredients: Flour, water, eggs | Shape: Spiral, flower-shaped pasta | Popular Dishes: Ragu, vegetables, and baked pasta
Some say the campanelle shape is like a screw. Others recognize a campanelle’s shape for its meaning — a “bellflower” in Italian. No matter what type of pasta shape you see, campanelle is a fun and versatile pasta to have in your kitchen. It’s usually in thick sauce or casserole due to its unique twisted shape that can hold chunky sauces better than smooth pasta. In Italy, campanelle is referred to as “gigli,” which is Italian for lilies. The only downside is that campanelle is usually not easy to find in most grocery stores outside of Italy, but don’t get discouraged.
You can still locate the pasta type to add a little excitement to your pasta dishes.
Our Favorite Campanelle Dish
Once you’ve found campanelle noodles, pair them with a delicious mushroom sauce for prompt devouring!
Origin: Southern Italy | Ingredients: Flour, water, and eggs | Shape: Spiral pasta | Popular Dishes: Salad, soups, and tomato, white or pesto sauce
Also known as rotini in the United States, fusilli pasta is one of the most versatile pastas to have in your kitchen. It’s traditionally made by pressing and spinning a rod over thin strips of pasta dough to form them into their iconic circular shape. A unique feature of fusilli is its color variety. Whole wheat is the pasta’s base. Adding ingredients like spinach or tomato can impact the taste and color to make for a more exciting flavor complex in the overall pasta dish. The longer version of fusilli is known as “fusilli lunghi” and the larger kind of fusilloni.
Our Favorite Fusili Dish
I personally recommend fusilli with a homemade pesto topped with freshly grated parmesan.
Origin: Southern Italy | Ingredients: Durum wheat and water | Shape: Curled small tubes | Popular Dishes: Macaroni salad, and macaroni and cheese
When you see a picture of elbow pasta, you’re likely reminded nostalgically of the classic macaroni and cheese you ate as a kid. However, elbow pasta can be useful in so many more ways. In Italy, elbow pasta will likely be the base ingredient in a popular four-cheese dish or a simple tomato sauce and vegetables. Elbows are traditionally cut into short lengths and curved with the center hollowed out. They can be straight or curly with grooves on the outside.
Our Favorite Elbow Dish
Try a homemade macaroni and cheese that is either baked for a crunchy top layer or topped with dried herbs and ground pepper.
Origin: Tuscany, Italy | Ingredients: Flour and water | Shape: Small twisted pasta | Popular Dishes: Pesto and cream-based sauces, and seafood dishes
Italian for “twins,” gemelli is a pasta type that appears as two small pieces of pasta spiraled around each other to create a short DNA-like structure. Their look is a deception, however. Gemelli is actually made by spinning one s-shaped pasta strand into a spiral. Gemelli is often garnished with pesto, but it’s not uncommon to see it as the base in a macaroni and cheese dish. It’s also a favorite pasta style to use as the base in chilled pasta salads.
Our Favorite Gemelli Dish
Toss it in a large bowl with Italian dressing, parmesan, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and mozzarella for a tasty summer salad.
Origin: Southern Italy | Ingredients: Durum wheat semolina and water | Shape: Ridged, tube-like pasta | Popular Dishes: Vegetable bolognese, thick sauce, and baked dishes
These large, ridged tubed pastas are staples in central and southern Italy. It was first made in the 1930s and quickly rose in popularity across the world. They are usually slightly curved and cut perpendicular to the tube walls instead of at an angle. The name is Italian means “ridged” or “lined,” and when you look at these pasta shapes, you’ll understand precisely why. The ridged surfaces make sauces and cheese stick better to the pasta than other pasta shapes with smooth outsides. Rigatoni is perfect for a thick bolognese with meats and vegetables.
Our Favorite Rigatoni Dish
Whip up a pot of creamy vodka sauce, throw in the rigatoni noodles, and sprinkle with freshly-grated parmesan for a delectable dinner treat.
Origin: Ancient Greece | Ingredients: Flour and water | Shape: Long, flat, and rippled noodles | Popular Dishes: Meats, cheese, and tomato sauces
Lasagna is one of the earliest known pasta types. Unlike the vast majority of pasta, lasagne, as we know it today, actually originated in Greece.
The name stems from the Greek word “Laganon.” It comes from the method used to create the pasta rather than the ingredients used. Lasagna is perhaps one of the most popular dishes worldwide. People have adjusted the traditional recipe to their unique tastes and cultures. Lasagne is a pasta type that welcomes ingenuity.
Our Favorite Lasagne Dish
There’s nothing quite like a classic meat lasagna with heaping dollops of fresh ricotta cheese between every layer of noodles!
Origin: Tuscany, Italy | Ingredients: Flour, water, and eggs | Shape: Square stuffed pocket pasta | Popular Dishes: Stuffed with meats and cheeses with tomato sauce
Most of us have been eating ravioli since we were kids. Ravioli is a type of pasta shaped in a square and stuffed with various meats, cheeses, or vegetables. In many Italian restaurants, ravioli can be an appetizer or entree. It dates clear back to the 14th century when it was a staple food in Italian cuisine. While serving ravioli with tomato sauce today is the norm, it wasn’t actually made with red sauce until the 16th century. Now, you can enjoy ravioli premade, handmade at home, or from the can.
Our Favorite Lasagna Dish
Stuff your ravioli with cheese, meat, or veggies, and chow down this classic Italian staple.