The Different Types of Pasta

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Pasta is a household staple – whether you are a child, college student, young professional, or a parent, knowing how to make pasta is a must-have in your arsenal of life. But many people who don’t have a great interest in cooking may not know about the different kinds of pasta and how to enjoy each one.  Here is a quick guide to a few of the different kinds, so the next time you walk into a grocery store or an online pasta business like Gigi’s Pasta, you know what you are looking for!

Spaghetti: Spaghetti is probably the most widely recognized kind of pasta, and everyone from kids to the elderly loves it. Spaghetti is characterized by having long strands and being yellow in its raw form.  The cooking time for spaghetti is usually 10-12 minutes.  A thinner version of spaghetti, known as angel hair pasta, is also very popular, and the cooking time for that is 5-8 minutes.  Both of these types lend themselves to a relatively quick cooking time and can be garnished with a variety of other food groups such as vegetables, meatballs, and various cheeses and sauces. 

Penne: Penne is another form of pasta that is usually seen in the form of short and hollow tubes. Penne with ridges on the outside, known as Rigate, is the most popular.  The name Penne is derived from the Latin word for pen or quill, given that the shape of penne resembles that of a quill tip.  Penne can sometimes be confused for Ziti, but Ziti usually has a smooth exterior and is not cut diagonally – this makes it easier to distinguish the two. Penne is usually best when paired with hearty tomato or meat-based sauces such as Ragu, with the ridges capturing more sauce as part of the dish.

Farfalle: Farfalle is another popular type of pasta, also known as bowtie or butterfly pasta.  Farfalle is usually best when paired with cream or tomato sauces, and is also commonly used in other dishes such as pasta salads or soups.  Different vegetables can be used to change the color of the pasta, such as using beetroot or spinach. The cooking time for Farfalle is similar to that of spaghetti – 10-12 minutes.  The beautiful shape can be used to spice up the look of any pasta dish at a dinner party or event. 

Orecchiette: This is a lesser-known type of pasta but can be found in most grocery stores. This pasta, named for its resemblance to “little ears” in Italian, is usually served with broccoli rabe and pairs well with vegetable sauces.  It is made in southern Italy and handmade by women in the region using a knife to create the indent and the thumb to invert it.  Due to its indentation, it can hold a significant amount of sauce.  

Rotini: Rotini is another common type of pasta found on grocery store shelves.  Like Farfalle, Rotini can be used in salads and soups to add some carbs and a different texture to a lighter dish.  When served traditionally, Rotini is usually paired with an oil-based lighter sauce such as pesto that can nuzzle itself in the twists and turns of this pasta.  Rotini is sometimes interchanged with Fusilli in the US, but the process of making the two is slightly different. Fusilli is twisted into a coil from a straight shape, while Rotini is extruded in the twisted shape.  

This is just the tip of the iceberg – the land of pasta is vast with a rich history.  But, this guide should equip you for the next time you walk into a grocery store with the do’s and don’t with each of the pasta on the shelves.  Hopefully, your next school lunch or dinner party just got a little brighter! 

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