Have Fun with Pasta Shapes

Making pasta for dinner can be a fun family affair. From the playful combinations of cheeses and toppings to the slurping of noodles, pasta is an easy crowd-pleaser. Now, dinner can be even more entertaining if you teach your kids about all the different shapes, sizes and purposes for pastas.

From cavatappi to farfalle, pasta is created in different shapes and sizes for very specific purposes. Flat pastas are used for cream sauces so as not to overwhelm the palate, and round pastas hold tomato sauces for the perfect bite. Size is also important: Thin pastas are better for oil-based sauces while thicker bowl-shaped pastas hold heavier sauces.

Below you’ll find a beginner’s guide to pastas, and don’t forget to add your best Italian accent while describing dinner at the table.


Pappardelle is a wide, flat egg noodle that originated in Tuscany. Because the noodles are so wide and hearty, they are used in meat-based, creamy sauces like a stroganoff.


These macaroni noodles look like little corkscrews with tight spirals. They’re used mainly with creamy, thick or chunky sauces.


These classic, long and round noodles are perfect for tomato and meat sauces. However, spaghetti is a special type of noodle that can also be used with thin sauces because they’re easy to “tangle” and catch more sauce per bite.


Long and flat, fettuccini are thick noodles that hold heavy sauces. Take your classic fettuccini alfredo, for example: that dense sauce is what the noodle was made for.


Linguini are long and flat, existing somewhere on the spectrum between a fettuccini and spaghetti. Their small size and flat shape make them perfect for cream-based sauces.


Campanelle means “bellflowers” in Italian, referring to its fluted shape. It’s also sometimes called gigli. The unique shape is perfect for thick sauces and cheese-forward dishes such as casseroles.


Like campanelle, orecchiette’s name comes from its appearance. In Italian, orecchiette means “little ears,” which is exactly what these noodles look like. Small, round and domed, orecchiette pairs well with heavy meaty sauces because their bowl-like design catches bits of meat and broth with every bite.


A favorite classic, ravioli hold cheese, meat, veggies, seafood and spices in their pouches. Ravioli packs so much flavor that they are served in sauce, alone, with olive oil or even fried.


Everyone knows these bow ties, and they can blend in and be used in almost any dish due to their thin but complicated design that can hold heavy sauces or be served simply with olive oil.


Conchiglie are commonly referred to as “shells” in most menus. Thin and rounded, conchiglie can be used in soups and pasta salads. With their thin, dome-like shape they make a great macaroni-and-cheese base.

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