Don’t we all love a good bowl of pasta—but did you know that the pasta shapes you choose to fit the nature of your sauce can make a world of difference to your pasta dish? If you didn’t know that already, here’s how to pair pasta shapes and sauces to take your pasta dish to the next level!
Okay, so hear us out. In the midst of your busy schedule and hustle, we know you are just trying to settle down with a quick Bolognese pasta or a basic Carbonara pasta. And with all the hurry and rush to meet certain deadlines for your work, we understand that you won’t put too much thought into the kind of pasta you would use for the sauce you are making. I mean, it is just noodles and sauce, right? True, but not entirely.
Because if you are like most people, you probably didn’t know that each different shapes of pastas blend differently with various types of sauces. Well, how about that! Because you take a look into a proper kitchen where the professionals work, you will know there are reasons why there are so many kinds of pasta shapes in the first place! And being a chef, you don’t just grab any pasta and mix them with any kind of sauce. They consider its shape and how it can suit the sauce, making both elements to complement each other to give you the best of both worlds.
And this includes you too! Because even if you are in a hurry, we want you to enjoy whatever it is that you are making and going to eat later. So, if you want to know how to pair pasta shapes and sauces, you have come to the right place. Buckle up!
Why is pairing pasta shapes and sauces important?
Keep in mind, there are good reasons why you should consider properly pairing the right kind of noodle with a particular type of sauce. According to Chef Barry Tonkinson, who is also the Director of Culinary Research & Development at the Institute of Culinary Education, he stated that matching the correct pasta with a cohesive sauce ultimately helps the sauce to bind to the pasta (that is, letting the sauce coat and hold on to the noodles) and it allows the pasta to absorb the sauce dependent on its consistency. He also mentioned to keep in mind that textures also come into play. You always get a different outcome as you pair the noodles with its sauce. And in those cases where there is a good contrast in texture to the sauce, you will be in for a treat!
There’s that, but there is also using the wrong pasta to go with your sauce. And that can create some confusion in your dish where the pasta gets lost in the sauce or is overwhelmed by the sauce. See, there is this super important fact that pairing the right pasta with the right sauce means getting more flavor and texture in a bite. Not having the right pasta might cause its sauce to slip off and you end up eating noodles that are just bland without the amount of flavor the sauce was supposed to bring. Now isn’t that just frustrating?
Now we are not saying that your pasta dish will suck if you don’t perfectly match up your noodles and sauce. We are just saying, if you are going to put in all the effort for a great dish, then let it be a GREAT dish. A guaranteed one. With that, you want to keep some things in mind!
The general rule about matching the pasta and sauce
Know that whenever you decide to cook something, what people always look forward to is the eating experience—and that includes the way the dish is presented, how it looks, and how it tastes, and how it makes you feel and think while you are eating it and even so, after you are done with it. In this case, you are taking into account of how heavy your pasta is compared to your sauce and making sure both elements come together in harmony. We don’t want too little or too much of something, it is balance that we seek for (though some people might debate about adding too much cheese to pasta but that’s another topic).
Now, let’s see what we have going on with the types of pasta shapes here.
Tubes or tubular pasta shapes such as penne (rigate or lisce), ziti, bucatini, tortiglioni, and tubini are great for soaking up the goodness of sauces! They pair well with thick sauces such as Ragu and Bolognese.
Note that Ragu is not Bolognese though both sauces are made with meat! Ragu, is not just a meat-based Italian sauce and while most people might think of Ragu as a tomato sauce, but it’s actually a meat-based (sauce with only a small amount of tomato sauce added to it. Ragu sauce has more meat and minced elements, specifically minced carrot, celery, and is made with wine, beef broth, and usually a little bit of heavy cream or milk poured in it to lighten the color and enrich its flavor. Think of the tubed pastas as a vehicle that carries all the sauce, yum. The meaty chunks in these sauces are easily mopped up by tube-shaped pastas letting you enjoy more meatiness! Trust us on this. You’ll want to try this pasta and sauce pairing.
Wide, flat, ribbon-shaped pastas are ideal for scooping up creamy and meaty sauces too! Generally, the wider the noodle, the heavier the sauce. Creamy Alfredo sauce? Check. Rich Bolognese sauce? Check.
So, serve this kind of ribbon pasta shapes such as tagliatelle, fettuccine, and pappardelle with rich, meaty sauces. Tagliatelle is a long, ribbon-shaped pasta that’s kind of similar to fettuccine (Some might even say they’re the exact same thing! Also, try out this fettucine in our extra creamy Carbonara Fettucine!). Meanwhile pappardelle is a long, board ribboned pasta that makes it incredibly wonderful for very rich, meaty Ragu sauces. You will have fun slurping up this one!
Also, did you know?
To make your pasta sauce extra luscious and creamy, you can really kick things up a notch by using Rich’s Double Cream—a multi-purpose dairy blend that is versatile and consists of up to 30% fat content which can be used for culinary, pastry, and beverage applications. Read all about it here.
Rod shapes or just long, round pastas, whatever you call it, the examples of these kind of pastas include but not limited to spaghetti, linguine, and angel hair.
These kinds of pastas go best with olive oil-based sauces and tomato-based sauces which coat the noodle completely. You want to go thinner for delicate preparations. One of the most popular types of sauce for these pastas is the marinara pasta sauce. Make your rod-shaped pastas extra delicious with a base of tomatoes, garlic, and Italian herbs and seasonings!
Speaking of olive oil-based sauces, who doesn’t love a good Aglio Olio? This is a no tomato pasta sauce that’s extremely convenient to prepare at home. In fact, you only need garlic and oil for this light sauce and some spaghetti to go with it. While this simple base is often made more complex with some parmesan and chili flakes, you can skip all those and focus on the garlic and olive oil. It’s a sauce you can prepare with limited time and resources. Quick and easy, and satisfying! Let the flavors speak for itself. And if you are looking for something different, check out this quick and easy Dark Seafood Spaghetti for dinner!
We have talked about tubes, ribbons, and rods, but that’s just only a few of the pasta shapes! In fact, there’s plenty more! Because fun fact: It is estimated that there are approximately 350 different types of pasta – and about four times that many names for them!
So, we will talk about twist-shaped or spiral pastas such as the fusilli, trofie, strozzapreti, caserecce and gemelli. Now these types of pasta are great with lighter, smoother sauces which will cling to the twists. Because these spiral pastas have their curves and grooves in each, pesto sauces hold on well to them! Then you have the pastas that you will find under the sea– Not under the sea of course, but there are the shell pastas such as conchiglie and lumachel. These types of shell pastas are usually served with heavy cream or meat sauces, and the larger ones can be stuffed with generous fillings!
What kind of pasta will you be cooking?
The biggest takeaway to all of this? Big, thick, hearty pastas can take big, think, hearty, and robust sauces. And with so many different types of pasta shapes and sauces, we do believe it can be tough to pick a favorite to serve at the table. Don’t worry too much about it though, because now you know how to pair the right kind of pasta with the right kind of sauce.
Want some tips and techniques but don’t know where to start? Begin with checking our Fun Facts section where we share some general, baking, culinary & beverage tips! And whether you prefer some sweet desserts or savory dishes, there’s nothing quite like a food made in the comfort of your home! Why not bookmark our recipes to refer to the many dishes you can try, so you can make your favorites later? Whatever it is, we have got your back with a range of amazing products you can check out and experiment with!