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Take a trip to the birthplace of one of the world’s most iconic foods with our rundown of the most popular types of pasta to try in Italy – or, if you can’t travel, to try at home.
Guided by Roxana, a writer and passionate foodie who has lived in Rome for over two decades, this curated list gives you a pasta type for all occasions and suggestions for the best dishes and pairings to enjoy it with.
Types of Pasta
Classic Pasta Types
Spaghetti is probably the most popular pasta type in Italy and worldwide. The long pasta is very versatile and is used across Italy in many pasta recipes. You’ll find spaghetti in various sizes, including the thinner spaghettini and the thick spaghettoni.
Whether with tomato sauce, clams, or Carbonara, you can’t go wrong with spaghetti. Just don’t cut them or use a spoon when in Italy!
Bucatini is a type of pasta similar to spaghetti but thicker and with a hole running through the middle. Bucatini is widespread in the Lazio region, especially in Rome.
The most popular recipe that uses this pasta is Bucatini all’amatriciana, with guanciale, pecorino cheese, and tomato sauce. Try it on your next trip to Rome.
Linguine is another type of long pasta, but unlike spaghetti, it’s flat. In Italian, linguine means “little tongues,” but don’t mistake linguine for fettuccine. Linguine is thinner and uses no egg in the dough.
Typically, most linguine pasta recipes are with fish and seafood. Some of the most popular dishes are linguine with shrimp and “al nero di seppia” (with squid ink).
Reginette means “small queens” and is a type of long pasta with wavy edges. Another name for this pasta type is Mafaldine.
Both names come from Princess Mafalda of Savoy, since the pasta was dedicated to her. This pasta type is widespread in Naples and the Campania region and is often made with Neapolitan ragù, a traditional meat sauce.
Vermicelli is a pasta type very similar to spaghetti, except for the size and how it’s packaged. In Italy, vermicelli is slightly thicker than spaghetti, whereas, in other countries, it’s typically thinner.
Unlike spaghetti, vermicelli is wrapped into small balls. Vermicelli recipes are usually simple, with just a few ingredients, like tomato sauce or lemon juice.
Penne is probably Italy’s most versatile and popular pasta for at-home cooking. Penne pasta comes in the shape of small cylinders with the extremities cut at an angle.
Penne can be smooth (lisce) or ridged (rigate). The pasta type was invented in 1865 by pasta maker Giovanni Battista Capurro. You can cook penne with any sauce, and a popular dish to look out for is penne alla vodka, made with cream, tomato sauce, and vodka, believe it or not!
Farfalle means “butterflies,” though one can argue that this pasta looks like bow ties. The pasta type dates to the 16th century when it became widespread in Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna.
Finding farfalle on a restaurant menu is not common, but this pasta type is popular for home cooking. Pair it with vegetable and fish sauces.
Rigatoni is a type of ridged, cylindrical pasta, larger than penne. The word rigatoni comes from rigato, Italian for “ridged.” This pasta type is most common in central and southern Italy.
When in Rome, try the rigatoni alla pajata, with veal entrails. It may not sound inviting, but this pasta recipe is one of the most popular in Rome. In Sicily, try rigatoni alla Norma with eggplant and salted ricotta cheese.
9. Mezze Maniche
Mezze maniche translates to “half sleeves,” and it’s a type of short cylindrical pasta, similar to rigatoni but shorter. Mezze maniche pasta is ridged, allowing for sauces to stick better.
This pasta type is popular with tomato sauce, meat-based sauces, and vegetables. In Rome, mezze maniche is often used for carbonara.
This helical-shaped pasta is great for holding onto any sauce. Though not very popular in restaurant dishes, fusilli is a versatile pasta type found in any Italian home.
Whether with tomato sauce, vegetables, or creamy sauces, fusilli are always a good idea. This pasta type is also popular for cold pasta salads.
Conchiglie means “shells,” and it’s a pasta variety generally used for pasta salads, fish-based sauces, and baked pasta recipes. As the name suggests, this pasta is shaped like a seashell.
In the Campania region, a bigger variety of this pasta, called conchiglioni (big shells), is often paired with meat sauce, ricotta, and spinach, or tomato sauce and mozzarella.
Paccheri is a variety of pasta in the shape of large but short tubes, usually with a smooth surface. Paccheri is a popular pasta type in Campania, especially in Naples.
The name comes from the word pacca, which is a term that describes a slap given in a friendly way, usually on someone’s shoulder. The name may be due to the particularly large size of this pasta. You’ll often find paccheri in restaurants with seafood or meat sauces.
Tagliatelle is one of the most widespread types of fresh egg pasta. Tagliatelle pasta is traditional to the Emilia-Romagna and Marche regions.
These flat, long pasta ribbons can be served with various sauces but are most often paired with ragù alla Bolognese (Bolognese sauce). You’ll also find tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms (boletus) and truffle, especially in the Marche region.
Tagliolini is a thinner version of tagliatelle, also made with egg dough. This fresh pasta type is popular in Molise and Piedmont, where it’s called tajarin.
Just like tagliatelle, tagliolini is also used in various recipes, usually light sauces and sophisticated ingredients like truffle. Try the traditional tajarin al tartufo bianco di Alba, with white truffles from the Piedmont city of Alba.
Fettuccine is a pasta type similar to tagliatelle but slightly thicker and wider. This pasta variety is popular in Roman and Tuscan cuisine.
You may have heard of fettuccine Alfredo, a dish made with butter and parmesan sauce born in Rome but popular mainly in the US. In Italy, fettuccine is served with meat and tomato sauce, especially ragù.
This traditional Tuscan pasta type is a much wider version of the fettuccine, between two and four centimeters. Like the other fresh pasta types, pappardelle is made with egg dough.
Pappardelle is usually served with dense sauces, often made with game, especially boar and hare. Pappardelle pasta is also commonly served with porcini mushrooms.
17. Spaghetti alla Chitarra
This fresh egg pasta is typical of the Abruzzo region, but you can find it in many places across Italy. The name of this pasta variety, which translates to “guitar spaghetti,” comes from the tool used to cut it, called a chitarra, since it’s made with a set of strings.
Traditionally, the spaghetti alla chitarra is served with a meat sauce, usually a ragù with beef, lamb, or pork.
Another popular type of fresh pasta in Italy is the world-renowned lasagna. Although it’s also available as dry pasta, fresh lasagna is typically used in Italy. The rectangular flat pasta sheets are alternated with sauce and other ingredients and baked in the oven.
The most popular dish is lasagna alla Bolognese, made with the typical Bolognese meat sauce. However, you can find various lasagna recipes in Italy, including vegetarian options.
Cannelloni is made from the same pasta sheets of lasagna but is rolled into big tubes and stuffed with various ingredients.
The most popular cannelloni stuffing is minced meat, but you may also find it filled with spinach and ricotta cheese.
Maltagliati means “badly cut” because this pasta is of various shapes. The origin of maltagliati dates back to the preparation of the tagliatelle in Emilia-Romagna.
Traditionally, after cutting the tagliatelle, the leftover pasta was cut into stripes and squares of various sizes and used to make soup.
Depending on who you ask and what region of Italy you are in, gnocchi, which are technically dumplings, may or may not be considered pasta.
However, because gnocchi are often used as pasta and considered pasta in many regions, we thought it more than worthwhile including it.
These small dumplings made with potatoes, flour, and egg became famous in the late 19th century. Gnocchi can be served with any meat and tomato sauce or even just with butter and cheese.
Gnocchi is widespread all over Italy. In Campania, gnocchi alla sorrentina come with a tomato and mozzarella sauce. While in Piedmont, you can eat gnocchi al Castelmagno, made with the local Castelmagno cheese.
Ravioli is the most popular variety of stuffed pasta, not just in Italy but also in many other countries. The pasta type consists of two squares of pasta dough sealed together and stuffed with various ingredients.
A popular ravioli filling, especially in Rome and surrounding areas, is spinach and ricotta cheese. In Sardinia, you’ll find ravioli with ricotta and lemon rind. Ravioli are served with tomato sauce or butter and parmesan.
Another popular stuffed pasta, tortellini are smaller pasta dumplings filled with a mix of meat, usually prosciutto crudo (cured ham), pork, and mortadella. Tortellini is a typical pasta from Bologna and Modena but is used all over Italy.
The most popular recipe is tortellini in brodo, commonly served on Christmas Day. This simple dish consists of adding tortellini to a hot meat broth.
Cappelletti is very similar to tortellini, except for the stuffing. You will usually find cappelletti stuffed with various types of meat, including chicken, pork, and beef. Some varieties contain ricotta cheese or a mix of cheeses.
The word cappelletti means “small hats,” referring to the shape of the pasta. They are usually bigger than tortellini and made from a thicker dough.
Agnolotti is a traditional pasta from Piedmont, very similar to ravioli. Traditionally, agnolotti were pasta dumplings stuffed with leftover meat roast mixed with vegetables and cheese.
The most popular ways to serve agnolotti are with a roast meat sauce, with butter, sage, and parmesan, with meat ragù, and with meat broth.
Lastly, pansotti is a type of half-moon or triangular ravioli traditionally filled with leafy greens such as spinach or chard. Other stuffings include ricotta cheese and a mix of green vegetables, including lettuce, cabbage, and arugula.
Pansotti is traditionally from Liguria, where it’s usually served with a nut sauce. An alternative way to serve it is with oil or butter and sage.
Orecchiette is the most popular pasta type in Apulia but is also common in the nearby region of Basilicata. The round, concave shape resembles an ear, hence the name that translates to “small ears.”
A must-try dish in Apulia is orecchiette con cime di rapa, made with turnip greens and anchovies.
This elongated, thin fresh pasta is typical of the Liguria region. The most popular recipe that uses this pasta is trofie al pesto, with the traditional Genovese basil pesto. Like the orecchiette, this is a fresh pasta type without egg, made with water, flour, and salt.
Aside from pesto, trofie pairs well with many sauces, including both vegetable to meat sauces.
Pizzoccheri is a pasta type similar to the tagliatelle but made with 80% buckwheat flour. The pasta variety is from Valtellina, a valley in Lombardy.
The most popular recipe that uses this pasta is pizzoccheri alla valtellinese, with potatoes and cabbage. This heartwarming dish is perfect on a cold winter day.
Strozzapreti is a short, fresh pasta typical of Emilia-Romagna, Umbria, and Lazio. You can have strozzapreti with any kind of sauce, from vegetables to meat sauces.
The name is humorous, as it literally translates to “priest chokers.” According to the legend, this pasta type was invented in Emilia-Romagna, where inviting priests for lunch on Sundays was a matter of duty.
Local women made this delicious pasta for hungry priests, who enjoyed it so much and ate it so quickly they choked – one of several ‘myths’ as to how this pasta type got its name.
Cavatelli is a typical pasta of the Molise region, but it became widespread in many southern Italian regions. The short, fresh pasta is slightly rolled on itself and usually ridged so the sauce can stick to it.
This pasta variety pairs well with any sauce. If you want to try a traditional recipe from Molise, go for the cavatelli alla molisana with tomato and arugula.
Trenette is a pasta type typical of Genoa, very similar to linguine. The most common way to serve trenette is with pesto. A typical recipe in Genova includes trenette served with potatoes and green beans.
The pasta is cooked in the same water as the vegetables before mixing everything and, finally, adding the pesto.
Tonnarelli is a version of the spaghetti alla chitarra, popular in the Lazio region, especially in Rome. The most popular pasta recipe is tonnarelli cacio e pepe, made with a creamy sauce of pecorino cheese and black pepper.
Anellini means “small rings” in Italian, which is very representative of the shape of this small pasta variety. Anellini is a typical pasta used in soups, although it’s also used in baked dishes.
This pasta type became widespread in many southern Italian regions around the 1930s.
Alphabet pasta is popular in many countries, not just Italy. This pasta type was likely invented for children. As you may guess, this pasta is used in soups of various kinds.
However, in Italy, alphabet soup is not usually made with tomato sauce. Like most Italian soups, alphabet soup contains a mix of vegetables.
Ditalini is a variety of soup pasta in the shape of small, ridged cylinders. This pasta originated in the Campania region, and the name derives from the thimble used to protect the fingers when sewing, called ditale. Like most small-size pasta, ditalini is used in various soups.
Filini consists of short, thin strands of pasta used for soups. Filini means “small threads,” an apt name because this pasta type is so thin.
The most common way to cook filini is with vegetable or meat broth. You’ll find various brands of filini everywhere in Italy.
Lastly, risi is another popular small pasta variety commonly added to soups. The name comes from its resemblance to rice (riso in Italian). This pasta type cooks much faster than rice, so it’s a perfect option for quick meals.
I very much hope you’re ready to dive in with your fork, spoon, or both, and give as many of these types of pasta as you possibly can a try.
Each type has an important place in Italian cuisine, and all of them demonstrate the versatility, resourcefulness, and creativity of cooking with pasta in Italian cuisine.
There is a wide range of wonderful and popular pasta dishes suggested in this list. Whether you try them in Italy or make them at home, prepare for a hearty feast like no other and take your love of pasta to a whole new place!
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Contributor: Roxana Fanaru is a journalist and writer who has lived in Rome for nearly two decades. She is deeply passionate about Italian cuisine, culture, and travel and writes for a number of publications.