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Top ten pasta shapes

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Spaghetti

This is undoubtedly one of the most popular pasta shapes in the world, most likely because its texture and size is neither too thick or too thin.

This is the ideal pasta for sauces based on olive oil, which are so often tomato-flavored. The world also loves meatballs with spaghetti. 

Orzo

Orzo is incredibly popular throughout the Mediterranean - it is strictly a "pastini" (tiny pasta). It looks, at a glance, very similar to rice. Unlike most pasta, Orzo absorbs flavor very quickly. It works really well in soups or stews and, with the starch rinsed off, makes the basis of a great salad.

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Fettuccine

Fettuccine is "long pasta" and makes thick ribbon. This pasta holds its shape well in both creamy and tomato-based sauces. Ordinarily this pasta isn't used for very chunky sauces.

Italians serve fettuccine with lashings of salted butter and freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano.

Fusilli

This is the well-known spiral pasta. Its really easy to eat with a fork, but it is rarely found fresh and is very difficult to make this fresh pasta at home.

 

Because of the gaps that the spiral generates, this is a pasta that is often used with small-chunk meaty sauces that can wrap itself around the curls. 

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Lasagne

Lasagne is typically used either flat in layers, or curled into tubes to make cannelloni or manicotta pasta.

There is also a dish called Lasagne, which layers the pasta sheets with ground meat, and with a rich cheese sauce, topped with a crust of parmigiano.

A nice vegetarian version layers the pasta with sautéed vegetables and with either a tomato or pesto base, and still with a cheese sauce or a yogurt layer.

Penne Pasta

Penne comes smooth "lisce" and ridged "rigate" - the latter being much more popular. 

Typically, penne is served with a ground meat sauce (or spicy tomato) that can seep inside the tubes and coat the ridges.

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Tagliatelle

Tagliatelle is wider then fettuccine but narrower than pappardelle. It is often found flavored with spinach. It is usually served long enough to wind around a fork.

In Italy, bolognese sauce is often served with tagliatelle (tagliatelle al ragu).

Orecchiette

Shaped like little ears, orecchiette is beautifully easy to eat.

To stick with tradition, serve orecchiette with green vegetables (broccoli, Brussel sprouts, kale) in a light cream sauce.

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Rigatoni

Like penne, rigatoni is tubular, and bigger than penne. (Strictly, penne will have a pointed end, like a quill, but rigatoni will not.)

Rigatoni is at its best when baked with delicious accompaniments (meat, veal, bacon, tomatoes, mushrooms) and topped with mozzarella and parmigiana

Ravioli 

Ravioli are stuffed parcels of pasta. In northern Italy, ravioli are usually filled with meat, but in the southern half of the country, meat can be substituted with fish and mint. In both cases, the ravioli is smothered in a sauce (ragu, or tomato). If the filling is delicate, then the sauce could be brown butter and sage to avoid overwhelming the flavor on the inside. 

This is a good vegetarian option, too. 

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