Rigatoni, fettuccine, linguine, oh my! Pasta is an Italian staple food and the many different types can vary based on region. Some noodles are ideal for some sauces but not with others. Reading through a pasta menu can be confusing, and if you’re unfamiliar with Italian cuisine, you may not know what to expect when you place your order. Here we’ll highlight some of the most popular noodles so you know what you’re ordering and what to buy while shopping!
How to Cook Long Noodles
- Spaghetti – Arguably the most well known of all the pastas, spaghetti is a thin, long noodle that is best prepared with tomato-based sauces. Think spaghetti and meatballs.
- Fettuccini – This noodle is long, but wide and flat. It’s most commonly served with hearty, thick cream sauces such as alfredo. However, it’s fairly versatile and can also pairs well with a garlic and oil sauce.
- Linguine – Lying somewhere between fettuccine and spaghetti, linguine is long and wide. It’s not round and it’s not flat — it’s more of an oval shape in section. It’s often served with seafood and light oil-based sauces rather than hearty, thick cheese and tomato sauces.
- Angel Hair – Angel hair pasta is a very thin, long noodle — about half the width of spaghetti. It’s best used with light and oil-based sauces, best served with seafood and sauteed vegetables.
Cooking with Shaped Noodles
- Rigatoni – This pasta is tube-shaped with ridges along the side, sometimes forming a spiral pattern so they can better soak up and retain thick sauce such as pesto or thick cream sauces.
- Lasagna – Lasagna noodles are used to create one of the most popular italian dishes ever to be beloved by a cartoon cat. The noodles are long and flat, usually about 4 inches thick. Lasagna noodles are layered between spreads of hearty meat (or vegetarian) sauce and ricotta.
- Penne – Penne pasta is one of the most versatile noodles in the Italian inventory. It’s a tubular pasta, similar to rigatoni but smaller. But unlike rigatoni, it does not have ridges to retain thick sauces. It can be used in soups and with pasta sauces of virtually any kind.
How to Cook With Dumpling Shaped Pasta
- Ravioli – Another extremely popular Italian dish, ravioli can be either square or circular-shaped. They act like small pockets stuffed with meat and cheese, sealed and topped with any sauce.
- Gnocchi – These hearty noodles are potato-based, small dumplings about half the size of your thumb. They can be served with any type of sauce.
- Tortellini – Round and hearty, these noodles are usually stuffed with cheese and are served with any number of creamy, cheesy or tomato sauces. They can also be served cold with oily sauces or even in pasta salads.
These are just some of the more popular noodles within the realm of Italian cuisine. Though there are many more to explore, you’ll find all of these on Italian restaurant menus and you’ll know what to expect. And if you don’t feel like cooking tonight, stop on by and let the experts do it for you!