Pasta is almost *the* perfect food. It’s inexpensive, filling, and it can be easily adapted for meat lovers, vegetarians, and even gluten-free eaters. Since the pantry essential comes in a dizzying array of shapes and sizes, it can be confusing to know which to pair with what sauce. No need to go rushing off to culinary school to learn the tricks; we’ve got your back. Here are 15 popular pasta shapes and a primo recipe to cook with each one.


1. Orzo With Mint Pesto and Peas: One of the smallest pasta shapes, orzo works best with light sauces made with the freshest ingredients. This dish calls for fresh peas and mint — a classic pairing. It can be served as an entree or side and it’s equally delicious hot or cold. (via My Modern Cookery)


2. Orecchiette With Italian Sausage, Broccoli Rabe, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Olives: “Little ears” are perfectly shaped to hold the most robust sauces. The cupped shape acts like a hundred little spoons, delivering ALL the flavor right to your taste buds in a single bite. (via A Beautiful Plate)


3. Gnocchi Arrabbiata With Bacon and Sun-Dried Tomatoes: Actually little dumplings, gnocchi is made with both semolina and potatoes. The light pillowy shape gives them a toothsome bite that absorb ALL of a delicious creamy sauce and takes it to the next level. (via Savory Tooth)


4. Creamy Three Mushroom Pasta: Not just another spiral like rotini or fusilli, gemelli are two strands of pasta braided together, so they hold sauces exceptionally well. They’re at their best in a dish like this, where the mushroom sauce is the real star of the show. (via Dash of Texas)


5. Spaghetti and Meatballs: Sauces don’t cling to long, thin noodles for very long, so spaghetti is a classic pairing for meatballs. Twirled up on a fork, the strands provide a perfect *bed* for that giant bite of delicious spicy meatball you’re contemplating right now. (via Natasha’s Kitchen)


6. Pasta “Risotto” With Herbed Roasted Chickpeas: Ditalini are traditionally used in soups like minestrone. But their small tube shape also makes them perfect for light, subtle sauces like this, where ALL the notes play well together and no one flavor dominates. (via Half Baked Harvest)


7. Rosemary Mac & Cheese: Elbow macaroni is a compact shape that stands up well to baked pasta recipes. They’re also great with rich, cheesy sauces, like everyone’s fave, classic mac ‘n’ cheese. (via Little Rusted Ladle)


8. Giant Skillet Rigatoni: Big, chunky rigatoni pack a lot of pasta taste into every single bite. They’re great in baked dishes and with sauces that are heavy on the meat and cheese. (via Wry Toast)


9. Spinach and Tortellini Soup: These little meat or cheese-filled rings hold waaaay less filling than, say, ravioli. It makes them perfect in hot soups or cold salads. (via Ciao Chow Bambina)


10. Stir-fried Macaroni with Beef: Medium size tubular shapes pair well with a chunky sauce like this rich tomato and meat version. (via A Taste of Joy and Love)


11. Golden Sun-Dried Tomato Red Lentil Pasta: Twisted rotinis cling to every bit of meat, veg, and cheese you want to hit ’em with. They’re possibly the MOST versatile pasta shape and are great paired with any sauce that has a whole lotta flavor going on. (via Half Baked Harvest)


12. Vegan Baked Manicotti With Kale and Red Wine Tomato Sauce: Manicotti tubes are simply made for stuffing, so they’re almost always used in baked pasta recipes like this manicotti. (via Oh My Veggies)


13. Artichoke Angel Hair Carbonara: Like spaghetti, but cut in finer strands, angel hair pasta is delicious paired with delicate sauces like primavera or this carbonara. When the whisked egg mixture hits the hot pasta it begins to cook on the spot, picking up ALL the salt and smoke of the pancetta — oh, em, gee! (via Dishes Delish)


14. Creamy Pesto Alfredo Fettuccine: The flat side of fettucine gets absolutely *coated* in whatever sauce you add, like a creamy Alfredo. (via Dessert Now, Dinner Later)


16. Farfalle With Creamy Mushroom Sauce: Bow ties are a versatile shape that can be baked, stirred into soups, or used in salads. Their cute shape makes them perfect for dishes where presentation is half the fun. (via Viva la Food)

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