Who doesn’t love pasta? Whether you crave traditional spaghetti and meatballs or fettuccini alfredo, there are pasta and sauce combos that just marry each other perfectly. Generally speaking, thinner, more delicate pastas pair well with lighter sauces; and heavier, thicker pastas do well with meaty ragouts.
We break down 11 types of pasta and their ideal sauce pairings.
Spaghetti noodles are about 2mm in diameter and hold up well to hearty meat sauces or meatless sauces paired with meatballs.
2. Angel Hair
Angel hair pasta is half the diameter of spaghetti. Because it is so delicate, ideal sauces are light: plain melted butter by itself, olive oil by itself or with either basil leaves or diced tomatoes and lightly toasted pine nuts.
Bucatini is basically hollow spaghetti and works well in brothy soups or with sauces watery enough to fill the channel.
Papardelle are wide ribbons of pasta, about an inch across. They’re pretty substantial and can hold up to meaty sauces (i.e. Bolognese) and heavy cream sauces, too.
Cavatappi is the Italian word for “corkscrew” and describes these hollow, spiral pastas to a “T.” They’re as hearty as bucatini, so pair them with meat sauces that are loose enough to flow into the tubular holes.
6. Elbow Macaroni
Elbow macaroni are ideal for any kid’s favorite treat: mac and cheese. Instead of buying it in a box, give it some homemade flair by switching out the cheese to Fontina, Greuyere or even smoked Gouda.
Penne is the Italian word for “quills” or “feathers” and consists of tubes of pasta cut on the bias. The ends resemble the ends of writing quills. Penne pasta is about one quarter of an inch wide and two inches long, and is ideally paired with chunky sauces or baked in casseroles.
Fettucine is a narrower version of pappardelle, about a quarter of an inch wide. It can handle thick, meat-based sauces, but it’s most often used to make Fettucine Alfredo, which features a thick, flavorful and creamy sauce.
Lasagne is the name for the three-inch wide noodles used to make lasagna casserole, which traditionally features layers of noodles, meat sauce and ricotta cheese. Vegetarian options substitute meatless sauce and can include eggplant or other vegetables in place of meat.
10. Acini Di Pepe
Acini di pepe are tiny, peppercorn-size pasta that are ideally added to brothy or vegetable-based soups in the same way as barley. This is an ideal pasta to turn rice pudding into a pasta pudding with great texture.
Ravioli are stuffed pastas that range in size from one to four inches. They’re stuffed with meat, cheese, squash or mushrooms and served with meat sauces, cream sauces or simply melted butter.
Pasta is most often served as a hot dish, but don’t forget that it creates really tasty cold salads, too. You can prepare it with mayonnaise-based sauces and add everything from tuna to vegetables and roast chicken to grilled shrimp. You can stir-fry the longer, ribbon-like pastas with Asian soy and teriyaki sauces along with marinated pork, beef, chicken or shrimp. You could even make desserts, such as a custardy noodle kugel or an apple and ricotta cheese lasagna. Let your imagination go wild!