Different types of pasta: an A-Z guide
Heck it can get confusing! There are so many different types of pasta available, it can be tricky to understand and remember which Italian pasta shapes are which. The A-Z listing below is designed to help.
To use it just click a letter from the A-Z list below, or browse by scrolling through the many different types of pasta. Enjoy!
A-Z OF PASTA TYPES
Acini di pepe translates as pepper corns in English, meaning these are seriously tiny pasta shapes. Scatter them across salads for a more filling effect, or drop them into soups a few minutes before the cooking time is up.
AMORI (also, SPIRALI/ CAVATAPPI)
A tubular corkscrew shaped pasta, A.K.A. pasta spirals. These come from Southern Italy originally and are an adaptable shape suited to many types of
Translates as ‘small rings’ in Italian (the ‘ini’ word ending refers to smaller pasta shapes, as explained on this pasta naming page). Anellini are often used in soups.
A long type of strand pasta almost identical to capellini, usually sold in a coiled shape - to look like a nest.
Effectively flattened spaghetti, and virtually identical to linguine.
Bigoli is the Venetian name for a long pasta shape slightly thicker than spaghetti. Bigoli were traditionally made with buckwheat flour but these days makers often use wholewheat flour instead, giving bigoli a slightly darker finish than standard durum wheat spaghetti. (In Tuscany you will hear a pasta similar to this referred to as 'Pici' (pronounced pee-chee) or 'pinci'.)
BOW TIE PASTA
This pasta name comes from ‘buco’, which means hole in Italian, because bucatini is like a hollow version of spaghetti (almost like a thin drinking straw). Perciatelli is a wider version of bucatini.
This is a type of corkscrew pasta (effectively a long kind of fusilli) that hails from the town of Trapani on the gloriously chilled Southern Italian island of Sicily.
This big boy pasta is currently the world's largest pasta shape. One 'caccavella' measures approximately 11cm across at its widest point.
Produced by Gragnano from Naples in the South of Italy, caccavelle are delicious when stuffed (i.e. with bolognese sauce or fried chopped eggplant), covered in a simple tomato or bechamel sauce, and cooked in a hot oven for 20 minutes. Buono!
CALAMARI (also, CALAMARETTI, CALAMARATA)
Originating from the city of Naples (‘Napoli’) in the South of Italy, calamari – also called calamaretti - are thick rings of pasta dyed with black squid ink so that they resemble sliced calamari (a squid dish). Note: if you like seafood, I recommend you try this easy seafood pasta recipe.
A great pasta for catching dribbly pasta sauces, campanelle is a creative looking type of pasta that resembles a church bell (campanelle literally translates as ‘bellblowers’).
Campanelle's fluted edges also resemble the petals of a foxglove flower. (Thanks to lccavender for the great photo.)
This word means candles in English. Candele are long hollow pasta tubes, designed to be the same length - unsurprisingly - as your average sized candle!
Cannelloni (literally ‘large reeds’) are rectangle-shapes of flat pasta dough that are filled - with spinach and ricotta for example - and then rolled into large tube shapes. Cannelloni is then finished by smothering a sauce on top. Try these cannelloni recipes.
A relatively rare type of tubed pasta with ridges down the sides.
Similar to, but smaller than tortellini. Originating from the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, cappelletti - or ‘little hats’ in Italian - are often served with broth. (Pic courtesy of comeilmare). For a great video guide to making cappelletti, click here.
CAPELLI D’ANGELO (ANGEL HAIR)
Capelli d’angelo – literally translated as ‘hairs of the angels’ - is the very thinnest type of pasta, comprising long, very fine strands (‘hairs’) of pasta. Because of its delicacy this type of pasta suits similarly delicate sauces (such as light tomato sauces and broths). Or you could cook it like my breakfast pasta with oil and butter (only without the egg). This pasta’s thinness also means it cooks really quickly - in just a couple of minutes.
Capelli d’angelo is usually served as a ‘primo piatto’ (first course), rather than a main.
Translated as ‘fine hairs’, capellini are – like angel hair – thin, long strands of round pasta, only slightly thicker. As with angel hair, delicate pasta sauces suit capellini best.
An interested shaped pasta, roughly an inch and a half long, that resembles an open pea pod (or, depending on your viewpoint, a small canoe).
Casarecce is Italian pasta maker Barillia's named for strozzapreti (or stranglolapreti), which is a type of short pasta made from two twisted lengths. I love to use casarecce for delicious eggplant-packed pasta alla norma (a truly simple and authentic Italian pasta recipe with a story to tell).
A curved, almost tube-like, kind of pasta featuring horizontal raised ridges.
Cavatappi are tubular corkscrew shaped pasta, A.K.A. pasta spirals. These come from Southern Italy originally and are an adaptable shape suited to many types of sauce. (Picture courtesy of aesterling.)
Described by some as miniature ‘hot dog buns’, cavatelli are small folded pasta shapes that come originally from the Puglia region (on a map, this is the ‘heel’ of Italy’s ‘boot’).
A small, rolled type of pasta that, like cavatelli, comes from the Puglia region. Great for pasta salads.
Meaning ‘whirls’, cellentani are small tubed pasta shapes with a ridged surface. Often used in pasta salads and most often produced by the company Barilla.
These ‘little rags’ are oval shapes with a slight curve like the hull (bottom) of a boat. Great for holding heavier pasta sauces.
There are different types of pasta, and different types of pasta, but this one wins the freakiest award! It's a traditional Tuscan pasta made with a small percentage of cocoa (for the choccy taste) and then served either with game (wild birds), cream sauce and walnuts, or as a dessert with ice cream. If you ever travel to Sienna or Florence, I recommend you try it.
A popular shell-shaped small pasta, literally translated as ‘conch shells’ (and pronounced ‘con-kee-lee-ay’). The shell is good for catching dribbly sauces - as explained on my pasta tips page - so conchiglie are often served with delicious cream or sumptuous tomato sauces. Large shells of this type are called conchiglioni.
A very small tubed pasta type that is often used in soups. As with other miniature pasta types, can be classified as a 'pastina'.
Originating from Liguria, the much overlooked and beautiful coastal region of North West Italy, corzetti are a flat circular pasta ‘stamped’ to resemble ancient coins. (I have a soft spot for corzetti as they were served at my wedding in Rapallo, Liguria, when they were smothered in pesto - also from Liguria.) Picture by www.tigulliovino.it.
The word ditali comes from 'dita', which means fingers in Italian. So ditali are things that can fit around a finger. Pasta-wise this makes for small, ring-like tubes. Ditali work really well in hearty soups such as this scrummy lentil pasta.
(Ditalini are very small versions of such tubes - click here to learn how word endings like ‘ini’ and 'oni' are used to refer to different sizes of pasta.)
A short, curved type of macaroni (spelt ‘maccheroni’ in Italian), often served with cheese in America.
Pasta spirals, similar to fusilli.
by Charming Italy
Actually Italian for ‘butterflies’ (not bow ties!), farfalle are small rectangle-shaped pasta pieces that have been pinched together in the middle. Learn how to make your own farfalle here. (Pic by Jim Simandl.)
Quite simply fazzoletti refers to 'little hankerchief' shapes of pasta.
Derived from the old Italian word ‘fettucce’ (string), fettuccine refers to flat pasta sheets cut into ribbon-like strands. Fettuccine is wider than linguine, and therefore better for catching tomato, cream and meat sauces.
FILINI (FILI D'ORO)
Means ‘small threads’ in Italian. Filini are very thin, round pasta sticks an inch or less in length, and a type of 'pastina' (tiny pasta).
A pasta shape from Tuscany that looks rather like a curvy, open-ended rigatoni.
A flower shaped pasta that looks like it’s been made from joined (and ridged) pasta circles.
Olive leaf shaped pasta, originally from Basilicata in Southern Italy.
Fusilli is the Italian word for ‘little spindles’. Fusilli are sometimes referred to as 'corkscrew pasta' and are more tightly curled than spirali/cavatappi. They are great for catching cream and vegetable sauces, as well as using in pasta salads like this wholesome vegetable dish.
A longer version of fusilli also exists called ‘fusilli napoletani’ (from the Southern Italian city of Naples).
Click for this site's selection of easy fusilli recipes.
One of my very favorite little pasta shapes (they're so bouncy on the fork!), these are effectively fusilli that have been hollowed out, drinking straw style. Photo by 'usychan' on Flickr.
Literally, 'cocks’ combs', galletti (pronounced 'gah-LAY-tee') are semi-circular tubular pasta with ruffled edges.
Garganelli are penne-like pasta shapes, however they are rougher looking. They resemble homemade penne almost... created by folding and sticking together pasta rectangles. Learn how to make them yourself on this garganelli page.
(Wonderful garganelli pic by Luisa Ghetti.)
Gemelli, which truly is a different type of pasta (without any real variations of its own), translates as ‘twins’ - so called because this type of pasta is made by twisting two short strands of pasta around each other.
Meaning sunflower in Italian, girasole is sunflower-shaped ravioli (stuffed pasta).
A type of pastina, gozzini look like mini pipes ('pipe' in Italian).
A short curled type of pasta (the plural form of the word is ‘gramigne’). Like a semi-circle shape with one end more curled inwards. (Pic below by Nicola Poluzzi.)
Lasagna is one sheet of flat pasta, whereas lasagne refers to several such sheets.
Originating from the Emilia Romagna region of North Italy, lasagna can be cooked with minced beef (the most popular version), vegetables, and many more ingredients. (Check out my easy lasagna recipes to get started.)
Instead of large flat sheets, lasagnotte are wide strips of pasta, broken into pieces, which are boiled rather than being baked and served in messy form on a plate.
Another pasta originating from Liguria, linguine refers to long flat strips of pasta (thinner than fettuccine). Sometimes called flat spaghetti, linguine (also referred to as linguini) is Italian for ‘little tongues’. In Liguria, linguine are also called ‘trenette’ (trenette al pesto being a staple meal of this region).
If you have a pack of linguine to hand, try this easy Ligurian recipe - it's delicious.
Lumache is Italian for ‘snails’, so this variably-sized stuffed pasta is shaped like a snail’s shell.
A small pasta type made with semolina and water (rather than flour and eggs). Maccheroni comes in many forms, from elbow maccheroni to ditalini (very short, small tubes).
Almost identical to tagliatelle, only featuring frilled, ruffled edges. I recommend cooking this pasta with this tomato sauce (ideally with ricotta cheese stirred in). Delicious!
Maltagliati literally means 'badly (mal) cut (tagliati)'. So maltagliati pasta basically comprises very roughly chopped shapes of pasta. These shapes don't take a particular form as such - you can just chop any fresh pasta you've made into medium sized strips or shapes, using a sharp knife or pizza/ravioli cutter, and call it maltagliati.
Maltagliati is also often produced using scraps of leftover pasta dough (or you could, for instance, break packet lasagna sheets into bits).
MANDILLI DE SEA (SILK HANKERCHIEFS)
Mandilli de sea literally translates as 'silk hankerchiefs', which in pasta terms refers to roughly cut square(ish) flat pasta sections featuring full parsley leaves inside. Learn how to make mandilli de sea.
A stuffed baked pasta, manicotti translates as ‘sleeves’ in Italian and refers to large, tube-shaped noodles.
In Italian this means ‘half moons’. A semi-circular type of stuffed pasta. Also sometimes referred to as ravioli, or in the North of Italy, pansotti.
As implied above, mezza or mezzi means half in Italian, therefore this pasta name means ‘half rigatoni’ (a shorter version of rigatoni).
MOSTACCIOLI (PENNE LISCE)
Mostaccioli means ‘small moustaches’. This pasta is a 2-inch tube pasta common to the Campania region of Southern Italy. (Like penne only without the ridges.)
Orecchiette means ‘small ears’, and refers to a rather curious and very different type of pasta from the Puglia region of Italy. A great small pasta for scooping up sauce, orecchiette go well with heavier meat and vegetable sauces. Click to make your own orecchiette.
This small pasta is thought to look like grain (orzo means barley), so is often used as an alternative to rice. Similar to punte d’argo.
Effectively an oversized version of rigatoni (a smallish tubed pasta), only without ridges.
A traditional treat, pappardelle is a wide egg noodle from Tuscany. Often served with serious meat sauces such as wintry wild boar ragu.
An interchangeable term that refers to mezzalune in some parts of Italy (such as the North), but triangular-shaped ravioli in others. Learn how to make pansotti here
PASTA AL CEPPO
Shaped like a stick of cinnamon (which some Italians put in their espresso… the real cinnamon that is, not the pasta!).
Means ‘little pasta’. Sometimes used to refer to tiny pasta stars, but pastina is also used as a category name that refers to several tiny pasta types such as ditalini.
One of the most popular pasta types around, penne (below) means ‘quills’ and refers to straight tubes of pasta cut diagonally at the ends (to resemble the end of a quill, like a quill pen). Penne 'zita' is a wider penne version.
• Penne is a great small pasta to use in this vegetable pasta salad.
• It also suits this creamy pasta with ricotta.
• Click to learn how to make penne pasta - it's simple!
A close cousin of bucatini, perciatelli are large hollow strands of pasta.
Le piccage, meaning strings, are relatively long, ribbon like pasta shapes. We tend to make these frilly edged, using a ravioli cutter, and often with dried majoram herbs inside. See our full piccage cooking guide.
'Pici' (pronounced pee-chee) or 'pinci' is the Tuscan name for a long pasta shape slightly thicker than spaghetti. (In and around Venice you will hear a buckwheat or wholewheat pasta very similar to this referred to as 'bigoli'.)
Pronounced 'PEE-pay', this means ‘pipes’ in Italian. Therefore 'pipe' are small, chunky pasta shapes that resemble mini smoking pipes (think 'Sherlock Holmes').
A tagliatelle-esque pasta that originates from the Valtellina region of Italy, close to the Swiss border.
The difference between pizzoccheri and tagliatelle is that pizzoccheri are made from two types of flour – plain (or all-purpose) flour and ‘buckwheat’ flour, which gives the resulting pasta a firmer, more chewy texture. A classic sauce for this dish is cheese, potato and cabbage (very hearty stuff).
A tiny rice shaped pasta, often used in soups.
Meaning ‘needle tops’, these are tiny ‘pastina’ that look exactly like grains of rice. Therefore great for dropping in soups. Sold under the Spigadoro pasta brand and similar to orzo.
Difficult to describe in words, this small, short pasta type looks a little like a flower ‘end-on’. It features approximately 7 wave-edged ridges radiating out from a central tube.
Arguably the most well-known type of stuffed pasta, ravioli (plural) are usually square with slightly ruffled edges. Get started making them with my easy spinach and ricotta ravioli recipe here or try this ravioli recipes page.
A medium-sized lasagne noodle with frilled edges.
A very popular type of pasta in the south of Italy, rigatoni are large, ridged, and sometimes slightly curved tubes of pasta with square ends (unlike diagonally cut penne).
Often used interchangeably with orzo, risoni actually means 'big rice' (see the oni language guide on our names of pasta page). However it's actually made from pasta, not rice, and thus great for soups like this minestrone soup recipe.
Rotini are twisted pasta like fusilli, only shorter.
RUOTE (WAGON WHEELS)
A small, wheel-shaped pasta. Useless for catching sauce but good for kids! (Click here to check out more fun-shaped pasta shapes.)
Officially called ‘beggar’s purses’, sacchietti are sacks of pasta that are filled like ravioli.
Great for feeding to little Princesses, sagne are curled like ringlets. Also known as sagne incannulate (which are up to 13-inches long).
A type of pasta from the Amalfi coast in Southern Italy, scialatielli are like short, slightly widened strips of tagliatelle, and are sometimes ‘pinched’ in the middle.
Scialatielli are usually cooked with zucchini (courgette) and muscles/clams, or alternatively served only a fresh cherry tomato and garlic sauce.
SEME DI MELONE
Seme di melone literally translates as ‘seeds of melon’, and is a small pasta (i.e. a type of 'pastina') used in soups.
A long type of tube pasta, like bucatini that has been sliced down one side.
One of the oldest known pasta shapes, spaghetti refers to long, thin, round strands of pasta. Larger versions are called spaghettoni, and smaller ones spaghettini – explained here.
Interestingly, and unlike most long pastas (which are often used with seafood), spaghetti is often served with meat and tomato sauces. Just wear a napkin!
Best described as broken spaghetti (spaghetti chopped into smaller lengths for use in soups). Alternatively, my Italian ‘family-in-law’ just snap normal spaghetti sticks.
Derived from a German word, spaetzle are very small noodles (or dumplings) that are rolled or squeezed through a colander. Not dissimilar in form from trofie.
A type of strand pasta, made from egg (as usual), and originating from the Umbria of Italy (central Italy, south of Tuscany).
A type of twisted tube pasta, translates literally as Literally ‘priest stranglers’! Note: the famous Italian pasta maker Barilla refers to this pasta as ‘casarecce’.
A thinner version of tagliatelle (AKA ribbon pasta).
Classic thin egg noodles, originating from the Emilia Romagna region.
Learn how to make delicious fresh pasta and then slice this into tagliatelle in the final video on my how to make pasta page.
A narrower type of tagliatelle. (Learn about ‘ini’ types of pasta here.)
Torchietti means ‘little torches’ in Italian, which aptly describes the shape of this small, bell-shaped pasta. (‘Torchi’ refers to the larger version of this pasta.)
A twisted pasta shape.
A small stuffed pasta that looks like little hats. Effectively a larger version of cappelletti.
Twisted tubes of pasta, used in many baked dishes.
Trenne refers to a triangular version of penne.
The name used in Liguria for linguine. Often served with traditional Ligurian pesto (see my 5-minute pesto recipe).
As served at a family Christmas dinner I enjoyed in the beautiful seaside town of Rapallo, trofie refers to 2- or 3-inch long thin twisted rolls of pasta.
Originally from Camogli (‘cam-oi-yee’), another Ligurian seaside town, trofie were traditionally rolled on the knees of fishermen’s wives who, it’s said, did this whilst sat out looking to sea and waiting for their men to return.
A traditional Ligurian dish is ‘trofie alla Portofino’, which comprises half a dish of trofie covered in tomato sauce, and the other in the finest Ligurian pesto.
Pic by Sandra Salerno.
Trottole (the plural of 'trottola') comprise pasta rings that are curled around a central column. This type of short pasta is often used in soups.
A rather generic term referring to small and short tubed pasta. Tubetti could be called a type of pastina (small pasta often used in soups).
TUBETTI RIGATI (TUBETTINI)
A very small type of pastina that literally translates as ‘little tubes with lines’ in Italian. My kitchen icon mamma-in-law Marisa makes pasta fagioli using tubettini (here is her super-simple pasta fagioli recipe).
A ridged version of rigatoni.
Not too common, ventagli are wide, short ribbons of pasta with ruffled edges.
A round type of strand pasta literally translated as ‘little worms’ (nice!), which is thinner than spaghetti yet thicker than the super-fine angel hair.
A medium sized thin tube pasta (like a hose), sometimes featuring ridges. Traditionally served at weddings in the Campania region of Italy.
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