Here’s everything you want to know about pasta when your tongue’s tied up like farfalle (we’ll explain that one in a sec).
Angel Hair, Capellini: Super thin, delicate strands. The name in Italian literally means “fine hair.” Pairs well with thin, delicate sauces.
Cappelletti: Small, round and double–folded. Looks like a tiny hat.
Cavatappi: Shaped like corkscrews. These spiral tubes are perfecto for all kinds of sauces, since they hold the flavor in.
Cavatelli: Folded like teeny hot dog buns. Great when filled with chunky sauces.
Farfalle: Call ‘em bow ties or butterflies, they’re strong enough to hold all sorts of thick sauces. Also great for making pasta salad.
Ditalini: These tiny, short tubes are extremely versatile. Known as “little thimbles,” ditalini is a great base for soups or stir–fries.
Orechiette: Small, round, ear shapes. Impress with tomatoes, peppers and goat cheese.
Fideo: Slightly curved, short, thin strands. Used mainly in soup recipes, the fideo is very popular in Latin America.
Fusilli: This totally “twisted spaghetti” goes great with any sauce. Mix with pesto and parmigiano cheese — simple and delicious.
Gigli: Not to be confused with JLo’s disaster film, gigli is wavy–edged and rolled into a flowerlike cone. Ideal for heavy sauces, these “lilies” work well with cream and meat.
Gnocchi: Small dumplings usually made of potato flour. Since they tend to be heavy, use a lighter pesto or tomato sauce to bring out their flavor.
Jumbo Shells: Large shell shapes. Best when filled with cheese (like mascarpone), veggies or meat.
Lasagna: These extra–wide strips are designed for making a meaty, cheesy casserole that says love whether it’s at Grandma’s house or here. Lasagna can always be made ahead of time and kept in the freezer until its ready to eat.
Linguini: Don’t let the fact that its name means “little tongues” in Italian keep you from using these thin, flat noodles. They’re perfect with seafood and light sauces.
Manicotti: Wide, ridged tubes. Stuff with meat, cheese and/or veggies, top with you favorite sauce, add cheese and bake.
Orzo: Tiny grain shapes that look like rice. Great for salads or as a side dish.
Penne: The Little Black Dress of the pasta world, these small tubes go with everything. Thick, chunky sauces are particularly flattering.
Ravioli: Square pillows that can be stuffed with pretty much anything.
Rigatoni: Ridged, short tubes whose features pack in tons of flavor from any sauce.
Spaghetti: Meaning literally “a length of cord,” spaghetti’s somewhat of a player. Best known for its tight relationship with meatballs and tomato sauce, spaghetti experiments with unconventional sauces.
Tortellini: Ravioli’s ring–shaped cousin, this pasta is usually stuffed and can be added to steaming broth for a warmup in the winter.
Elbow Macaroni: Best known as the star of macaroni and cheese, but don’t be afraid to use it elsewhere: add to vegetable soup, bake with parmigiano or top with a vodka sauce.
Vermicelli: Thinner than spaghetti, these “little worms” are versatile.
Ziti: Mid–sized tubular pasta, often found baked with tomato sauce and cheese.