Our Illustrated Guide to Pasta Shapes, from Calamarata to Ziti
Learn the difference between common varieties of pasta, then try our delicious and inspired pasta recipes featuring each kind.
Whether you're doing your weekly grocery shopping or eating at a fabulous Italian restaurant, it's easy to gravitate towards popular pasta shapes such as spaghetti, ziti, and penne. However, there are so many more intriguing and delicious pasta shapes—both fresh and dried—that you can enjoy at home (no plane ticket to Italy required). Here, we're introducing you to some lesser-known pasta shapes such as calamarata, garganelli, and gemelli, as well as highlighting new ways to use more well-known pasta shapes like farfalle ("bow ties") and orzo.
If you can't tell the difference between similar corkscrew-shaped pastas such as cavatappi, cellentani, and fusilli, our illustrations and descriptions should clear up any confusion. Once you understand which is which, try cooking each unique shape at home. The nooks and crannies of every twist and turn are excellent at holding hearty sauces, meat, and vegetables.
With each pasta shape, we're also sharing some of our favorite recipes that make great use of them. You might not be familiar with calamarata, thick rings of pasta which look like calamari; this shape is delicious when paired with summer vegetables like roasted eggplant and tomatoes. Of course, we're reintroducing the classics that everyone knows and loves, too. You'll find descriptions for ziti and penne, plus some of our favorite recipes that go beyond a cheesy baked pasta dish, such as Penne with Shrimp, Feta, and Spring Vegetables.
Though there are hundreds of different pasta shapes—including noodles like spaghetti and pappardelle, and stuffed pasta like ravioli and tortellini—we're highlighting 14 key short pasta shapes here. If you're looking to upgrade a basic weeknight pasta dinner, or simply try out new recipes, this guide to pasta shapes should serve as ample inspiration.
This thick, ring-shaped pasta is inspired by slices of calamari. The shape originated in southern region of Italy, where fresh seafood-inspired pasta dishes reign. It can be found in many grocery stores near other artisanal pasta shapes. Make Calamarata with Roasted Eggplants, Tomatoes, and Olives for a delicious, crowd-friendly meal.
Its name means "little bells," and this pasta shape is characterized by its ruffled edges, hollow center, and bell-like shape. You'll find campanelle sold by major pasta makers such as Barilla. Try our recipe for Campanelle with Pistachio-Mint Pesto, Asparagus, and Cherry Tomatoes or Campanelle with Zucchini and Mint.
A popular, smooth corkscrew-shaped pasta, cavatappi is a fun one—from baked macaroni and cheese to One-Pan Creamy Tuna Pasta, the nooks and crannies of cavatappi hold plenty of sauce, protein, and vegetables. It is similar to cellentani, which has ridges.
A naturally vegan pasta made with semolina flour and water, cavatelli resemble miniature hot dog buns. Cavatelli can be found with either ridged or smooth edges, and is available in both dried and fresh versions. Make homemade cavatelli using our recipe, then serve it with spinach, caramelized fennel, and fried eggs.
This classic bow tie-shaped pasta, which hails from northern Italy, is one of the most well-known. Farfalle is a great choice for pasta salads or lighter sauces due to its flat shape. It's widely available as a dried pasta in most grocery stores, but try making your own using our recipe for Fresh Carrot Pasta Dough, then pair it with lemon and herbs.
With more ridges, twists, and turns than cavatappi or cellentani, fusilli is another fun corkscrew-shaped pasta that's worth cooking any night of the week. Once you stock up on a few boxes, whip up Fusilli Carbonara with Frisee and Lemon.
Also known as "little ears," orecchiette, which comes from Puglia, Italy, is just as delicious in pasta salads as it is hot pasta dishes. One of the most classic combinations is orecchiette with broccoli rabe and sausage. Our recipe for Orecchiette, Celery, and Olive Salad with Ricotta Salata is the perfect potluck side, but Orecchiette with Broccoli-Rabe Pesto a delicious twist on the classic combination.
You know it and love it. This cylinder-shaped pasta with bias-cut ends is one of the most popular out there. Try the ridged version, penne rigate, if you want something with a bit more texture. Serve this tried-and-true favorite with spinach pesto and turkey sausage or light and bright Penne with Shrimp, Feta, and Spring Vegetables.
Wide, tubular shaped rigatoni has ridges and a large hollow center for sauce. You're more likely to find dried versions of rigatoni rather than fresh. The ultimate comfort food meal may very well be Baked Rigatoni with Sausage. Another hearty recipe is Rigatoni with Sausage and Fennel, as well as vegetarian Rigatoni with Eggplant and Yogurt.
Straight and tubular, ziti is ubiquitous and versatile. One of the most popular ziti recipes is Creamy Baked Ziti, which is particularly enjoyable on a cold winter night. Baked and stuffed pastas like this are said to have been invented in Italy during the 1800s as a way to use up leftovers.