Pasta for Italians is a serious matter.
Italy is the world leader both in production, with over 3.2 million tons, and in consumption (read eating), with the approximately 24 kg per ”Italian-head” per year.
Each region, has its own recipe and each region has its favorite format among the over 300 shapes of pasta that are on the market.
Although the so-called “magnificent four,” spaghetti, penne, fusilli, and rigatoni are the best sellers and alone occupy 70% of the shopping cart, the other 296 are no less important…
…because everyone gives their best with certain types of sauce and the imagination of pasta makers and chefs cannot be silenced.
Each shape contribute to a different result in consistency, chewiness, palatability, even if very subtle, nevertheless very important.
Which Pasta Shape With What?
There are basic rules for which pasta shape to choose based on the condiment to enhance flavors and textures. And the golden rule is: “the thicker the pasta, the more complex must be the sauce.” Instead go light with thin pasta; the thin spaghetti are better off with clam sauce, or the Aglio & Olio (Garlic & Oil), rather than with ragù.
In general, long pasta can be seasoned with sauces with simple flavors such with cream or vegetable sauces.
Similar to spaghetti but with a much smaller diameter are the angel hair and the taglierini. This type of semolina pasta needs a few minutes of boiling, because being so thin it immediately reaches the cooking. They are usually served with butter and sage, or butter and ricotta.
To make things simple here is a short list:
Bucatini: amatriciana, cacio & pepe, structured sauces with tomato and cheese.
Tagliolini: 💙simple fish sauces, Genoese pesto.
Fusilli: with Neapolitan ragù, meat sauces, ricotta.
Lasagna: sauces rich in meat, cheeses and vegetables.
Maccheroncini: Bolognese ragù, meat sauces.
Pappardelle: This type of pasta—like fettuccine but larger—are my absolute favorite with porcini mushrooms!💙💙
Rigatoni: full-bodied sauces, meat sauce, vegetables, sausage. Also suitable for baked timbales, with meat sauces.
Spaghetti: with tomato sauce (marinara), oil sauces, fish sauces, carbonara.
Ziti: served dry, in timbale or with Neapolitan ragù or meat sauces.
Shells: with tomato sauce, simple sauces, meat sauces, splendid with a sauce tomatoes and peas.💙
Farfalle: simple sauces with oil, or for cold summer pasta.
Striped half sleeves: fresh tomato, carbonara.
Mixed pasta: in broth, soups, pasta and beans. [I do not use mixed pasta. But feel free to use it if you like. It’s a free world 😉]
Orecchiette: turnip greens, tomato and ricotta sauces.💙
Smooth penne: 💙Salmon & cream sauce, light fish and vegetable sauces, cold pasta.
Paccheri: fish ragout, full-bodied vegetable sauces.
Trofie: boiled with green beans and potatoes and then seasoned with the classic Genoese pesto.💙
As an Italian I have my 💙 FAVORITES, and a strong dislike for some type of pasta, and some sauce. I seldom use meat, I favor vegetable sauces, or light sauces. Therefore I tend to have only certain shapes in my pantry.