A Guide to Different Italian Pasta Types

Do you know your penne from your pappardelle? Learn to speak pasta with Cucina Vivo’s Dayan Hartill-Law.

From classic spaghetti to rice-shaped risoni, Italy has produced hundreds of different pasta types. But while we know when to reach for the lasagne sheets, when do we go bucatini over linguine? We spoke to Dayan Hartill-Law, chef at Cucina Vivo at The Star Gold Coast to help us tell our tortellini from our tagliatelle



The pasta that we all know and love. Usually 3mm in diameter, long and thin and made from durum wheat. It can be used with any number of sauces, from Bolognese to carbonara to marinara. My favourite is a basic aglio e olio (garlic and olive oil) – quick, easy and delicious.


Italian for “little tongues”, linguine is long and flat and works best with seafood and tomato-based sauces. I love it with crab meat, chilli and sugo.


Bucatini is shaped like spaghetti but with a narrow hole in the centre. It’s my go-to for luxurious carbonara. At the restaurant, we use it to make cacio e pepe which we serve in a flaming wheel of parmesan.


Tagliatelle / Fettucine

Long like spaghetti and linguine but much wider, this versatile pasta is great with Bolognese, pesto, Napoli-based sauces or, my favourite, fresh tomatoes, goat’s feta and basil.


About two or three times wider than tagliatelle, pappardelle is best with oily sauces as it gives it a luxurious sheen. Try it with a ragu made with either boar or duck.


Refers to both the dish and the pasta sheets used to make it. Traditional lasagne will always reign supreme but mix it up by using wavy pasta sheets (they hold the sauce better) and different meats like braised lamb or beef cheeks instead of Bolognese


Similar to lasagne but the sheets are wrapped in a cylindrical shape so they can be stuffed with fillings like ricotta and spinach before being baked in a tray with sugo and cheese.



Small tubes cut into short lengths, commonly in an elbow shape. Used most commonly in macaroni and cheese, I jack mine up with a little braised meat and a toasted breadcrumb top.


Medium-sized tubes cut at an angle to resemble quills. It works really well thrown together with oil and fresh green vegetables, stirred through with pesto and topped with crunchy pangrattato or in pasta salad. I use penne to make trout pasta bake – it’s my son’s favourite.


Large tubes with a ridged exterior. The ridges hold the sauce so this pasta shape works best with chunky meat sauces like Napoli with chilli and chorizo, or creamy and cheesy sauces. The best, in my opinion, is braised lamb shanks with gremolata. 



This corkscrew-shaped pasta was originally made by spiralling spaghetti around rods. Thankfully these days we make it using a pasta extruder. It’s a really versatile shape but I like it in an east-meets-west dish with XO sauce and prawns.



Orecchiette is my favourite pasta as its little ear shape holds a lot of flavour. I love it with pork and fennel sausage, broccoli, chilli and a semi-hard cheese like asiago.


Bow ties or butterflies, farfalle is great with tomato-based sauces but also subs in well for macaroni. I like it with Bolognese – it’s fun and quirky and holds the sauce well.


Shell-shaped pasta. Like orecchiette, the shape holds a lot of flavour. Try it with a braised meat or tomato-based sauce.


Also known as orzo, most people don’t know what to do with this tiny, rice-shaped pasta. But it’s actually really functional. Use it to bulk out minestrone or treat it like risotto.



A filled pasta most commonly found in a square shape although other forms including round or semi-circular are often used. The king of pastas, it can be stuffed with anything from pumpkin, pine nut and sage to lobster and cream or braised rabbit and foie gras.


Similar to ravioli but shaped more like a belly button. Anything goes with tortellini – my favourite filling is ricotta with freshly shaved truffle.