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Types of Pasta Noodles

By Editorial Staff

pasta typesby Info Guru Paul Seaburn

Pasta is the word we use for the many shapes of wheat noodles that are the staple of many Italian dishes.

It can be purchased dry or fresh and it’s also an easy food to make at home with a pasta maker. Some of the shapes are well-known for one signature dish and their names have become synonymous. Health conscious eaters are opting for whole wheat or gluten-free noodles, while the more artistic go for the multi-hued pastas colored with vegetables. Whatever your taste or sauce, there are many kinds of pasta noodles to use in your dish.

10. Capellini

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The string-shaped pasta noodles come in a variety of thicknesses, with the thinnest being capallini or angel hair pasta. These noodles cook quickly and are popular soups and in dishes using fine olive oil or light creams – they’re too delicate for thick tomato or cream sauces.

9. Manicotti


Big cheese stuffings need big tubes to hold them – that would be manicotti pasta. These 4-inch long tubes come from the Italian word for “large reeds.” They’re sometimes confused with cannelloni, which is used for similar stuffed dishes but is actually a sheet of pasta that is filled and then rolled into tubes.

8. Orzo


While it resembles rice, orzo is actually a small wheat pasta that’s a good substitute for rice in soups, salads and pilafs. From the Italian word for “barley,” orzo often comes in different flavors and colors.

7. Rigatoni


If you’re serving Italian sausage or meatballs in a thick tomato sauce, a good pasta choice is rigatoni – large, ridged tubes with flat ends. The name comes from the Italian word for “to draw a line.” If the ends are cut on an angle, rigatoni becomes called penne pasta.

6. Fusilli


One of the funnier shapes of pasta, fusilli corkscrews come in a variety of lengths and often in multiple colors. Fusilli means “little spindles” in Italian and these noodles are a good alternative to elbow macaroni in cheese dishes and salads, as well as in baked dishes.

5. Fettuccine


It’s hard to imagine saying “fettuccine” without following it with “Alfredo,” the popular dish made with fettuccine, butter, cream and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. These long flat ribbons may have originated in Rome and the name is derived from the Italian word for “small ribbons.”

4. Bow Tie

Bow Tie

The evening wear of pastas, bow tie or farfalle was invented in the 1500s in northern Italy. Since bow ties hadn’t been invented yet, the name farfalle means ‘butterflies’ in Italian. These pasta noodles go well in light and creamy sauces and other dishes.

3. Lasagna


Classic lasagne (the plural form of lasagna) gives its name to the popular baked dish made with layers of meat, cheese, sauce and lasagna noodles. The two-inch wide flat noodles date back to Roman times when the dish had no tomato sauce – that didn’t come until tomatoes were brought back from the Americas.

2. Elbow


Elbow macaroni is a short, curved pasta tube that is eaten by more kids and served at more picnics than any other. Mac-and-cheese is often the first meal kids learn how to cook themselves and macaroni salad goes great with burgers and brats.

1. Spaghetti


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If the sauce is the heart of every Italian dinner, spaghetti is the soul. These thin noodles average a slurping 10 inches in length and everyone has their own technique for swirling them on a fork. It’s no surprise that spaghetti means “little strings” in Italian.


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