The Serious Eats Guide to Pasta Shapes

Overhead image of a large variety of pasta shapes

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

In researching the seemingly endless catalog of Italian pasta shapes for her exhaustive Encyclopedia of Pasta, food historian Oretta Zanini De Vita identified more than 1,300 names for shapes of fresh homemade and factory-made dried pasta. Italy’s micro-regionality and Italians’ general aptitude for verbal creativity can account for some number inflation of pasta shapes—for example, in the small province of Viterbo, just outside Rome, the shape lombrichelli is known by 28 different names, depending on what town you’re in. Even so, there are still a lot of pasta shapes out there.

In our daily lives, most of us don’t need to carry around a cheat sheet for identifying all the alter egos of a particular pasta shape for making dinner, but it never hurts to know that the bucatini you’re looking to pick up at the store for making amatriciana may be packaged as perciatelli. Maybe you just love the sound of the word “cavatappi” and wanted to know what it means (corkscrews!). Or perhaps you just loved the look of radiatori when you were perusing the pasta aisle at the supermarket, and were wondering what sauce to pair them with. If you’ve ever experienced any of these common pasta ponderings, I’m happy to introduce you to the Serious Eats pasta glossary.

Here, you’ll find a catalog of commercially made dried pasta shapes that can be found for purchase in shops and online from purveyors like our friends at Gustiamo (I tracked down and purchased every one of these pastas). At this time, the glossary is limited to dried pastas made with durum wheat semolina flour and water (no egg-based pastas, fresh or dried). Along with names, photos, and English translations for shapes, we have provided pairing suggestions for each shape, and will continue to update and expand the list over time. We hope you enjoy this pasta reference page! Obviously there are many, many more shapes to add to this list, because there is always more pasta out there to discover. Let us know what your favorite shapes are, and the ones you would like to see added to the glossary.

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Post Author: MNS Master

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