The Complete Guide To All Pasta Shapes

The Complete Guide To All Pasta Shapes

Down shot of assorted cuts of pasta on a table

If you love pasta, then you know just how many pasta shapes there are. Even at the grocery store, it may be hard to choose. While some reach for the classics—Spaghetti, Penne, Pasta Shells—some pasta shapes are just too fun to pass up.

In Italy, the many shapes and styles of pasta were created with a dish or application in mind. Where thick sturdy noodles with wide hollows, like Rigatoni, were made to take on hearty sauces and meat ragùs, concave noodles like Orecchiette were made to scoop up small ingredients. Baked pasta dishes, like macaroni and cheese, are often made with Elbows or Shells for gathering gooey cheeses in their sturdy bends and hollows. Some pasta shapes, like the tiny pastina Orzo, have transcended their original use as a soup cut by appearing in everything from cold picnic pasta salads to cheesy side dishes. While every pasta has its place, that doesn’t mean you can’t get inventive with your creations.

Our Ultimate Guide to All Pasta Shapes includes a little history and some inspiration for best-loved pasta cuts—some you may already know and love, while some you may want to try for yourself!

Acini Di Pepe

Named after its tiny “peppercorn” shape, Acini di Pepe is small and spherical. It is best known as the star of the beloved classic, Italian Wedding Soup. This tiny pastina, or soup cut, is usually baby’s first pasta in Italy. Serve it up in brothy soups and cold pasta salads.

We love Acini di Pepe in Spicy Garlic Chicken with Acini di Pepe Pasta & Snow Peas.

Shop now! Available in Semolina.

Pile of Acini di Pepe pasta

Bucatini (also known as perciatelli)

This long cut originates in the Lazio region of Italy. Named for its “hole” running down its center, this straw-like pasta is made to suck up lighter tomato sauces and seafood-based sauces. Bucatini is famous for role in Roman classics like Amatriciana and Cacio e Pepe.

Learn more! Spotlight Series: All About Bucatini Pasta.

We love Bucatini in Silky Tomato & Cream Pasta.

Get even more yummy recipes from our 12 Best Bucatini Pasta Recipes Collection.

Shop now! Available in Semolina.

Bundle of bucatini pasta

Capellini (also known as angel hair)

Many have nicknamed this pasta “angel hair” for its long, thin shape. Capellini is a long-cut pasta that shines with sauces and ingredients that are light in texture and flavor: fresh tomato, olive oil, lemon, basil, scallops and shrimp—to name a few. We love adding Capellini to broth-based soups and lighter cream sauces.

We love Capellini in Capellini with Roasted Garlic & Spinach.

Shop now! Available in Organic, Whole Wheat, Pasta Nests and Semolina.

Bundle of capellini pasta


Hailing from Southern Italy, this fun springy pasta can be described as a twisted “corkscrew” with hole. Cavatappi is a sturdy cut and ready to take on hearty sauces and chunky ingredients. This fun, versatile shape goes great with cheesy baked pasta dishes with spicy sausage and peppers, as well as cold pasta salads with fresh vegetables.

We love Cavatappi in Cavatappi with Peas, Pancetta & Goat Cheese.

Shop now! Available in Organic, Whole Wheat and Semolina.

Single Cavatappi pasta noodle


Known as a soup cut, or pastina, Ditalini is a tiny tube with ridges. This tiny tube-shaped pasta is the star of both broth-based soups and hearty soups, like Minestrone or Tuscan White Bean Soup, but don’t be afraid to try it in a summery picnic pasta salad.

We love in Macaroni Salad with Creamy Parm & Pesto.

Shop now! Available in Semolina.

Pile of Ditalini pasta


As the name implies, elbows are small, c-shaped tubes perfect for capturing sauces and small ingredients. Elbows are famous for starring in cheesy baked pasta dishes, like macaroni and cheese, but they are also a great short pasta for simple tomato and vegetable sauces and creamy cold pasta salads.

We love it in Chicken, Sausage and Peppers Macaroni.

Shop now! Available in Whole Wheat and Semolina.

Pile of elbow pasta

Farfalle (also known as bowties)

Commonly known as bowties, Farfalle is actually the Italian word for “butterfly.” This fun pasta shape cooks up deliciously al dente because of their pinched middles. Serve Farfalle hot or cold with lighter sauces and dressings featuring vegetables like zucchini and artichokes.

We love Farfalle in Creamy Dill Farfalle with Salmon.

Shop now! Available in Organic, Whole Wheat and Semolina.

Single farfalle pasta noodle


Popular in Roman cuisine, these wide “ribbons” of pasta are famous for pairing with butter and Parmigiano cheese in the classic creamy Fettuccine Alfredo. Fettuccine shines in fresh cream sauces with prosciutto ham and peas, as well as other ingredients like artichokes, porcini mushrooms and seafood.

We love Fettuccine in Egg Fettuccine with Parmigiano & Prosciutto Cream Sauce.

Shop now! Available in Spinach Fettuccine, Egg Pasta Nests and Semolina.

Bundle of fettuccine pasta


This popular “spindle” shaped pasta was born in Southern Italy, where it was made by rapidly twirling spaghetti around a rod. These days, its springy curves are perfect for capturing sauces and small ingredients. Fusilli is a great pasta shape for the classic Bolognese meat sauce and cream sauces, but also cold pasta creations loaded with olives, peppers and more.

We love Fusilli in Braised Beef Ragù with Fusilli.

Shop now! Available in Gluten Free, Whole Wheat and Semolina.

Single fusilli pasta noodle

Fusilli Col Buco

This cut is as fun to eat as it looks! Fusilli col Buco is a beloved long, spiral pasta named for the “hole” running down its center—a perfect feature for sucking up tomato sauces. While it is traditionally served in a Neapolitan Ragù meat sauce, this curly long cut is ready to take on sauces of mushrooms, peas, pancetta and more.

We love Fusilli col Buco in Zucchini Alfredo with Fusilli col Buco.

Shop now! Available in Semolina.

Pile of fusilli col buco pasta


This twisted short-cut is named after the Italian word for “twins,” since it appears as two noodles intertwined. Its twists are what makes Gemelli great at capturing sauces—from light tomato sauces to cheesy cream sauces—boasting the best flavor in each bite.

We love Gemelli in Baked Pasta with Spinach, Artichokes & Brie.

Shop now! Available in Organic Semolina.

Single gemelli pasta noodle


Pronounced N’YAW-kee, this pillowy potato pasta hails from the Northern Italian province of Lombardy, where potatoes were easier to come by than wheat. Handmade in peasant kitchens for centuries, these Italian dumplings were often served with simple sauces of butter and herbs, but have become much more prolific. Gnocchi shine in just about any application: tomato sauces, meat sauces, cream sauces, cheesy baked pasta recipes and even soups.

We love Gnocchi in Gnocchi Malloreddus (Gnocchi with Sausage).

Shop now! Available in Gluten Free, Gluten Free Mini, Gluten-Free Chickpea, Mini Potato and Classic Potato.

Two piece of potato gnocchi

Jumbo Shells

These beloved noodles are made with durum wheat and shaped into hollow seashells that are made for stuffing with savory cheeses, hot or mild Italian sausage, roasted vegetables, mushrooms and seasonal favorites. Once filled, they get topped with a rich tomato or cream sauce and then baked to perfection.

We love Jumbo Shells in Pumpkin & Ricotta Stuffed Shells with Tomato-Basil Sauce.

Shop now! Available in Semolina.

Pile of jumbo shells pasta noodles


These wide flat noodles, or pasta sheets, are used in the classic layered pasta dish of the same name. Their ruffled edges are great at holding in all those gooey baked cheeses. Still, lasagna is capable of more than just the traditional baked pasta. Try these noodles in stovetop creations, broken up in soups or as roll ups. The pasta-bilities are endless!

We love Lasagna in Weeknight Skillet Lasagna.

Shop now! Available in Gluten Free, Whole Wheat, No-Boil Semolina and Classic Semolina.

Stack of lasagna noodles


Originating in Liguria, Italy, this long, ribbon-like pasta is made to be enjoyed with other popular ingredients from the region: basil pesto, seafood and fresh tomato sauces.

We love Linguine in Linguine with White Clam Sauce.

Shop now! Available in Whole Wheat and Classic Semolina.

Bundle of linguine pasta


Named for their round, disc-like shape, these “little ears” are the perfect scoops for capturing sauces, beans, Italian sausage and chunky vegetables. Orecchiette originate in Puglia, Italy, where they are famously prepared with broccoli rabe in Orecchiette con Cime di Rapa.

We love Orecchiette in Orecchiette with Chicken in Goat Cheese Sage Sauce.

Get even more yummy recipes from our 5 Recipes To Make With Orecchiette Collection.

Shop now! Available in Whole Wheat and Semolina.

Single orecchiette pasta noodle


Named for its small “barley” size, this tiny pastina is a versatile shape that is perfect for everything from soups to pasta salads to cheesy side dishes.

We love Orzo in Baked Orzo with Mushrooms, Peas & Cheese.

Shop now! Available in Gluten Free, Whole Wheat and Semolina.

Pile of orzo pasta


Originating in Tuscany, Pappardelle are large, broad, ribbon-like noodles made traditionally as fresh egg pasta. These golden pasta ribbons are wider than Tagliatelle, but thinner than lasagna. Its name comes from the Italian word pappare, which means “to gobble up,” since this pasta is classically served with hearty cream or meat sauces, like the Bolognese

We love Pappardelle in Creamy Lemon Pappardelle Pasta.

Get even more yummy recipes from our 19 Best-Ever Pappardelle Pasta Recipes Collection.

Shop now! Available in Egg Pappardelle.

Single pappardelle pasta nest

Penne Rigate

Maybe one of the most popular short pasta shapes, this “pen” shaped pasta has angular ends that draw sauce into its hollow body. This and its notable ridges make Penne Rigate great at capturing sauces. Though it is a versatile pasta cut, Penne Rigate is famous for pairing with the prized tomato-cream sauce in Penne alla Vodka.

We love Penne Rigate in Whole-Wheat Penne with Kale & Toasted Breadcrumbs.

Shop now! Available in Gluten Free, Organic, Whole Wheat and Semolina.

Single penne rigate pasta noodle

Penne Ziti

This tube-shaped pasta originated in Naples, where it is traditionally served at weddings. It is a popular short cut known to star in cheesy baked pasta dishes. Unlike its cousin Penne Rigate with its angular cut and surface of ridges, Penne Ziti is straight cut with a smooth surface. Serve them with traditional Italian sauces like Puttanesca or the fiery Arrabbiata.

We love Penne Ziti in Eggplant Parmesan Baked Ziti.

Shop now! Available in Semolina.

Single penne ziti pasta noodle


With Roman origins, this ridged tube-shaped pasta is a sturdy cut ready to take on chunky sauces and meaty ragùs. Rigatoni is a great choice for baked pasta dishes and pairs well with other Southern Italian favorites like spicy peppers and Italian sausage.

We love Rigatoni in Baked Sausage and Cheese Rigatoni.

Shop now! Available in Organic and Semolina.

Single rigatoni pasta noodle


Also known as Cannelloni, these prized pasta tubes are named for their hollow “sleeve”-like shape. Manicotti can be stuffed with any number of fillings, though creamy ricotta and herb is the most popular choice. For something new, try a savory stuffing of Italian sausage, mushrooms, sautéed vegetables or squash. The stuffed pasta is topped with an herbaceous tomato sauce or a light cream sauce and then baked.

Learn more! All About Cheesy Stuffed Pasta: Manicotti, Cannelloni. 

We love Manicotti in Ricotta Spinach Manicotti.

Shop now! Available in Semolina.

Two manicotti pasta noodles

Mezzi Rigatoni

Shorter than Rigatoni, this ridged, tube-shaped pasta is prized in Southern Italy, where it shines paired up with Italian sausage and sautéed peppers in the classic Peperonata or a spicy pepper Arrabbiata sauce.

We love Mezzi Rigatoni in Calabrian Chili and Tomato Pasta Sauce with Rigatoni.

Shop now! Available in Semolina.

Single mezzi rigatoni pasta noodle


This beloved seashell-shaped pasta has a concave body that is perfect for scooping up hearty and creamy sauces along with small ingredients. While they are known for their role in baked macaroni and cheese recipes, Shells are a great pasta cut for everything from simple butter and herb sauces to hearty ragùs.

We love Shells in Pasta Shells with Peas, Prosciutto & Shrimp.

Shop now! Available in Whole Wheat and Semolina.

Single pasta shell noodle


These “long strings” may be the most well-known pasta cut. This quintessential pasta is long, thin and cylindrical, and famous for its role in the Italian-American duo, Spaghetti and Meatballs. Classic Italian dishes include Aglio e Olio and Spaghetti al Pomodoro, but spaghetti is a super versatile pasta shape that shines in everything from lighter marinara sauces and olive-oil-based sauces to chunky meat sauces.

We love Spaghetti in Spaghetti with Zucchini, Chickpeas & Pancetta.

Get even more yummy recipes from our 10 Recipes To Make With Spaghetti Collection.

Shop now! Available in Gluten Free Corn & Rice, Gluten Free Whole Grain Rice, Organic, Whole Wheat and Semolina.

Bundle of spaghetti pasta

Spaghetti Alla Chitarra (Spaghettini)

This squared spaghetti is named after the guitar-shaped kitchen utensil, the chitarra. A unique thick cut with an irresistible al dente bite, Spaghetti alla Chitarra is a versatile pasta that pairs up with any number of sauces—from simple tomato to heart meat sauces, like the traditional Abruzzese Lamb Ragù.

We love Spaghetti alla Chitarra in Anchovy & Caper Butter with Spaghetti alla Chitarra.

Shop now! Available in Semolina.

Bundle of spaghettini pasta


Originating in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, these long, flat ribbons of pasta are close in size to fettuccine. Their flat ribbon shape makes them perfect for capturing chunky, hearty sauces. In Italy, Tagliatelle are one of the most popular pasta shapes and are often served like the Italian-American “spaghetti and meatballs.”

We love Tagliatelle in Figgy Tagliatelle with Goat Cheese & Prosciutto.

Shop now! Available in Spinach Pasta Nests and Semolina Pasta Nests.

Single spinach tagliatelle pasta nest


Similar to rigatoni, but with a twist! These twisted tubes come to you from Naples, Italy, where they are served with rich, full-bodied sauces and ragùs. Tortiglioni is fun to say, but it is also a superb sauce-capturing shape ready for the chunkiest of sauces and even cheesy baked pasta recipes.

We love Tortiglioni in Tortiglioni with Ham & Peas.

Shop now! Available in Semolina.

Single tortiglioni pasta noodle


One of Italy’s most beloved pasta shapes, these pasta rings are made up of a rich, but delicate egg pasta stuffed with cheese, meat or other savory fillings. Traditionally, Tortellini are served in broth-based soups, but are versatile enough for any number of sauces: from light tomato sauces and oil-based sauces to creamy picnic pasta dressings.

We love Tortellini in Pasta Fagioli Tortellini Soup.

Get even more yummy recipes from our 11 Recipes for Your Favorite Stuffed Pasta Rings Collection.

Shop now! Available in Spinach and Three-Cheese.

Pile of tortellini pasta

Thin Spaghetti

Thinner than its more famous sibling, this beloved long cut is best paired with lighter, thinner sauces that won’t overwhelm its delicate form. We love Spaghettini with a fresh-tomato and herb Pomodoro sauce and a light scampi butter sauce with shrimp.

We love Thin Spaghetti in Garlicky Spaghetti with Kale, Tomatoes and Pancetta.

Shop now! Available in Semolina.

Bundle of thin spaghetti pasta


As fun to say as it is to eat, this shell-elbow pasta hybrid features a curved tube shape with a ridged exterior. This unique pasta cut is ready to scoop up sauces and small ingredients. Try it in cheesy baked pasta dishes with gourmet upgrades like artichokes, peas, pancetta and mushrooms.

We love Shellbows in Roasted Pepper Bruschetta & Tomato Sauce with Italian Sausage.

Shop now! Available in Semolina.

Single shellbow pasta noodle


This classic Southern Italian pasta consists of smooth, straight-cut tubes perfect for capturing sauces and small ingredients. Ziti is famous for its role in traditional Napolitano meat sauces and cheesy baked pasta dishes featuring ricotta and tomato.

We love Ziti in Cheesy Baked Ziti.

Shop now! Available in Semolina.

Three ziti noodles

DeLallo Pasta Shapes: FAQ

How many pasta shapes are there?

There are over 400 pasta shapes in existence: long cuts, short cuts, stuffed pasta, soup cuts (known as pastina), etc. Each cut has its own unique use in the kitchen, from hollow sauce-capturing shapes to long tendrils perfect for coating with olive oil sauces.

How do I make shaped pasta?

Pasta shapes can be categorized based on how they are formed: by-hand, rolled into sheets or extruded.

Pasta shapes formed by-hand are made by rolling pasta dough into a long rope and then cutting the rope into equal sized dough pieces. From there, the dough is formed into shapes like orecchiette and gnocchi.

Another method of forming pasta shapes is by rolling out the dough and cutting it into sheets. This method is used to make shapes such as ravioli, lasagna noodles, tagliatelle and spaghetti. While shapes like ravioli, lasagna and wider pasta noodles can be cut by-hand, shapes like spaghetti and linguine are typically run through die cutters.

The third method of forming pasta shapes is by extrusion. This method for forming pasta is via extrusion. Dough is forced through a die, where the shaped pasta comes out the other end and is cut to whatever length the pasta calls for. There are many dies that are used to create different shapes. Hollow dies used for shapes like elbows, penne and rigatoni. Spiral-shaped pasta, like cavatappi, is made by dies that have angled slots that cause the dough to spin as it is extruded.

DeLallo uses traditional bronze dies to extrude pasta, which gives it a rougher surface texture for capturing sauces. Some pasta brands use Teflon. While Teflon is faster, it gives noodles a slippery surface resulting in an inferior pasta that won’t allow sauces to stick.

What are the most popular pasta shapes?

In the U.S. and quite possibly the whole world, Spaghetti is by far the most popular pasta shape. In fact, it is so much so that people often use the word “spaghetti” to stand in for any cut of pasta. Next up, is the versatile short cut, Penne.

What are the most popular pasta shapes in Italy?

The most popular pasta shape in Italy depends on where you are in the country! Like we noted in the specific cuts, each region is famous for its own unique pasta. In Northern Italy, soft wheat (made into type 00) and potatoes reign, so gnocchi and heartier egg pasta is popular. (Eggs are used to strengthen the pasta when soft flour is used.) Hard durum wheat grows in Central and Southern Italy, so semolina pasta is most common. These cuts include Orecchiette, Casarecce, Spaghetti alla Chitarra and many more.

While it’s hard to know which pasta shape is the most popular overall, the top cuts are certainly Spaghetti, Penne and Tagliatelle.

How are pasta varieties categorized?

  • Long (Pasta Lunga)
  • Short (Pasta Corta)
  • Tube
  • Stuffed (Ripiena)
  • Cooked In Broth (Pastina)
  • Stretched (Strascomato)
  • Dumpling-Like (Gnocchi/Gnocchetti)
  • Special Shape

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