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The different types of pasta and how to use them

Pasta is a versatile and popular food designed for a variety of dishes, explore different types of pasta and plenty of recipes to make with them.

12 types of pasta and recipes that complement them

Pasta dishes are the  third most popular evening meal in Australia, behind only steak with veggies and roasts. It makes sense, pasta is an ideal base for hundreds of different flavour combinations, and there are a lot of different types of pasta shapes that work well in different recipes. This also means that you can have a lot of fun experimenting with new pasta recipes. Read on to learn some of the most popular types of pasta and the best recipes to make with them!

Long pasta

Long noodles are some of the most common types of pasta you may cook with. Perfect for twirling, and can be served up in a lovely nest shape for a sophisticated looking bowl of pasta. But what sorts of sauces go with these classics?

Spaghetti is a classic for a reason: it's fun to twirl, easy to eat, and has a great texture that you can really sink your teeth into. Its noodles are long, cylindrical and thin. When you think of spaghetti, the classic spaghetti bolognese or pasta with red sauce likely comes to mind. Loved around the world and perhaps the Italy's most famous pasta dish, it's the perfect way to eat this long noodle. Make yourself these  Cheesy Meatballs with Fresh Tomato and Basil Sauce and enjoy it with a bowl of spaghetti. Don't forget to add a sprinkle of parmesan on top!

Fettuccine is a flat and wide long noodle, rather than thin and round. It pairs nicely with a cheese sauce. Whether you want alfredo and chicken or a prawn-filled carbonara, this is the perfect noodle to be stirred in with a creamy base. Another great thing about this noodle is that it's easy to make from scratch! Make this easy pasta dough, and once rolled flat, simply cut the pasta into long ribbons and you have beautiful, fresh fettuccine.

Linguine takes the best traits from spaghetti and fettuccine and combines them. It's about as wide as spaghetti but flat like fettuccine, and it works well with an assortment of sauces. We love this easy 20-minute linguine recipe with lots of bacon, parmesan and greens


Tube pasta

The hollow shape of tubular pasta is perfect for grabbing hold of lots of your favourite sauce. Short tube pasta is popular for pasta bakes and pastitsio.

These noodles are usually about 4-5cm long and cut at an angle or bias, so they resemble the tip of a fountainhead pen. The hollow is about wide enough to fit a pencil. It can come with smooth outsides, or as 'penne rigate' which has ridges, a pleasing texture and great for holding even more sauce. Penne is a good choice for baked pasta dishes. It holds up well in the oven and is the perfectly sized mouthful. Try using this pasta in a carbonara pasta bake with meat and vegetables. 

Rigatoni is a large tube noodle that is wider than penne and cut short and straight. It has ridges or lines along its length. It goes great with pesto, an easy to make sauce of basil, pine nuts, cheese, garlic and oil.Try them together in this recipe for Chicken Pesto Pasta! Serve with garlic bread for added deliciousness.

One of the smaller tube pastas, macaroni is short and has a narrow tube. Sometimes it has a bend in it, this is known as elbow macaroni. Macaroni is most famously used in rich and tasty mac and cheese, a classic comfort food or side dish. Use standard macaroni or switch it up with elbow macaroni on this beautifully saucy  baked mac and cheese with a crispy golden topping.

Other Shapes

There's an almost endless number of pasta shapes out there, and each one has its benefits. Here are some other popular shapes that fall outside the above categories and the recipes to make with them.

This is also known as bowtie pasta because it looks just like a litte bowtie with frilled edge. It's excellent for holding sauce because of the crinkle where it comes together at the center. Similar to tube pasta, it holds up well when baked in the oven. Try this cooking it up in this creamy chicken, bacon and mushroom bake balanced with the flavours of white wine and lemon. Its pretty shape also makes it a favoured choice for pasta salads with creamy dressings like this Zesty Farfalle Salad

Rotini and fusilli both describe the same spiral-shaped noodle. They look like little corkscrews and are loads of fun to bite into, especially for little kids that like to eat with their hands. This richly textured pasta works wonderfully in the recipe for  Tuna, Tomato and Mozzarella Bake. All the curls in the corkscrew-shaped noodles are great for picking up the flaky pieces of tuna.

Pasta shells look like their namesake: open, rounded seashells. They come in many sizes - from thimble-sized, to big enough to fill the palm of your hand. The smaller ones are great for fresh sauces or bakes, and the larger sizes are perfect for stuffing with your favourite fillings. They are often filled with a combination of creamy ricotta cheese and other ingredients, like in this Pumpkin, Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells recipe

Gnocchi are little pasta dumplings made from potato and flour. They are lovely, round and pillowy, and aren solder in a fresher form than most pasta, so they can cook in as little as two minutes. Their larger shape makes them wonderfully filling and comforting in dishes like this Pizza Pasta Bake, great for feeding a crowd or a group of hungry kids!

The translation of orecchiette is literally 'small ears' because their cute dimpled appearance is similar to an ear. Their cupped shape holds pasta sauce and other ingredients well, and their texture when cooked is softer in the centre and a little chewy around the edges. If you've never tried orecchiette before, try this recipe for  Orecchiette with Capsicum and Caper Brown Butter and it might just become a staple in your kitchen!


These tiny pasta look like grains of rice, in North America they're commonly called orzo. They cook quickly, and are popular to use in soups and stews. They're also great in salads, or bakes like this 30 Minute Cheesy Chicken Risoni

Get creative with all types of pasta

Choosing the perfect pasta shape for your next meal is a great way to get creative and try something new and fun in the kitchen. Now that you know some of the best types of pasta that you can put on your dinner table, scroll down to find plenty more pasta recipes to enjoy at home. Enjoy!

GET THE RECIPE: Quick and Easy Fettuccine Carbonara

Use fettucine in this delicious creamy carbonara. A wonderfully tasty meal in just 17 minutes!

GET THE RECIPE:  Pumpkin, Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells recipe

Ricotta, bacon and pumpkin make up the delicious filling for these pasta shells. Baked to golden perfection, this cosy meal will be enjoyed by the whole family.

GET THE RECIPE:  Bolognese Pasta Bake recipe

Bolognese and rigatoni are baked together to make a wholesome meal. This is also a great way to use up leftover bolognese.

Cheesy Meatballs with Fresh Tomato and Basil Sauce

One Pot Bacon, Broccoli and Pea Linguine

Carbonara Pasta Bake

Chicken Pesto Pasta

Baked Mac and Cheese

Lemon, Chicken, Bacon and Mushroom Farfalle Bake

Perfect Fresh Pasta

Vegetable lasagne

Pasta Primavera

Pumpkin, Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

30-Minute Pizza Pasta Bake

Four Cheese Zoodle Spaghetti