Italian pasta shapes

There must be more pasta shapes than electronic games; maybe not so many, but there are a lot and each one has its own Italian name.

It is impossible to remember them all. That is why we need a dictionary

Basic dictionary of pasta shapes

The Italian name, which frequently describes the object the shape resembles, that helps, however, to make life more difficult, sometimes the same shape goes by two different names, depending on the manufacturer –think of ziti and penne, or fusilli and rotini.

Pasta can be homemade or produced commercially and often is available in different flavors or colors, seasoned with vegetables – spinach green, tomato or pepper reed, beetroot purple-pink, and wholemeal brown-grey color. Pasta may come in geometrical form, ready to layer or stuff, long and short shapes. Any of them are available fresh or dried and come in assorted sizes.

Buying pasta tips

  • For long pantry life, seek commercially produced dry pasta made from a hundred percent durum wheat or semolina.
  • Select a whole grain kind for higher fiber content.
  • Ward off packets with crumbs, bits, or dust in the bottom. Take them as a sign that pasta might be stale.

Long pasta

There are two common forms of long pasta shapes: strings such as spaghetti, or ribbons from which tagliatelle is an example. The basic ingredients of commercially produced string shapes are often only flour and water, while ribbon shapes frequently contain egg.

Ribbons are the most popular to make at home, because this is the easiest shape to cut, either manually or by machine.

Bavette – ribbons on the narrow.
Bucatini – long, spaghetti-like strands, but they are hollow.
Capelli d’angelo – or angel hair, extremely thin strands.
Capellini – thin strands, slightly thicker than angel hair, they come sometimes in nests.
Fettuccine – little ribbons, literally. They are thin flat egg noodles usually 1/4-inch width, offering other possibilities going from the 1/8-inch of the fettuccelle to the 1/2-inch of the fettucce.
Fidelini – or little faithful ones. This is capellini by other name.
Linguine – very long, narrow ribbons.
Pappardelle – wide ribbons, ready to be gobbled up, which is what its name suggests.
Spaghetti – they are round, thin, long strings.
Spaghettini – a long string between spaghetti and fettuccine.
Tagliarini – long, narrow, paper-thin ribbons.
Tagliatelle – these are long, thin, ribbons, usually containing egg.
Tagliatelle verde – spinach flavored tagliatelle.

Short pasta

This group comprises of a vast assortment of shapes: tubes, shells, spirals, bows, rings and wheels. Most of these shapes are commercially produced, dried pasta, made only of flour and water paste.

Cavatappi – or corkscrew, short, thin, ridged macaroni spirals.
Cavatelli – rolled pasta, typically homemade.
Chifferi – small, curved macaroni.
Chifferi riggati – ridged chifferi.
Conchiglie – shells, typically ridged.
Ditali – or thimbles, small, short macaroni.
Farfalle – butterfly or bow shaped, with ruffled edges. Small ones are farfallini, large ones are farfallone.
Fusilli – little springs, like spiral spaghetti about 1 inch long.
Gemelli – twins. Two short strands of spaghetti twisted together.
Macaroni, maccheroni – tube shaped pasta of various lengths.
Mostaccioli - little moustaches, ridged or smooth tubes about 2-inch.
Orechiette – ear shaped pasta.
Penne – quills, smooth tubes, cut in diagonal.
Penne rigatti – ridged penne.
Strozzapreti – meaning priest choker. Longer cavatelli, usually made and rolled by hand.
Rigatoni – large ridged tubes, or large ridged penne.
Rotini – spirals.
Ruoti – wheel; a cartwheel most likely. In the small, they are rotelle.
Tubetti – or little tubes, small tubes. They can be long, as in tubetti lunghi.
Ziti – thin tubes.

Little pasta

Little pasta –pastina, in Italian- is the one to use for light broths and simple dishes; ideal for children. It comes in an immense variety of amusing shapes, dots, squares, circles, stars, even alphabet. Only a few examples.
Alphabetti – letter shapes.
Ditalini – little thimbles.
Orzo – barley shaped.
Stellini – little stars.

Stuff and layer

Small pasta shapes, such as tortellini, are stuffed with savory fillings, whereas in layered dishes, sheets of pasta are alternated with sauce and filling. The third way are pasta rectangles rolled up with a filling inside, topped with a sauce and baked.

Agnolotti – small and crescent shaped.
Cappelleti – little hats, rounded and stuffed, similar to circular raviolis.
Cannelloni – squared or rectangular, an example of this third way pasta, sometimes, they come as ready-rolled as large tubes.
Gigantoni – huge macaroni tubes, about 2-inch long and 1-inch or more wide. Fill and cook like cannelloni.
Gnocchi – dumplings.
Lasagna, lasagne – pasta rectangles to layer.
Lasagna verde – spinach flavored lasagna.
Lumache – snail. Large and usually intended for stuffing and cook cannelloni style.
Manicotti – long, wide tubes, like little muffs, also used to hold a filling.
Millerighie – ridged tubes.
Tortellini – small and stuffed. When large, they are tortelloni.
Tortelloni verde – spinach flavored tortelloni.
Ravioli – stuffed squares of pasta.
Ridged lasagna verde – lasagna, spinach flavored and ridged.



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