Matching Pasta Shapes To Sauces

While I have the basics down on what pastas go with what sauces, there are still some that confuse me. I mean, what do you do with a pasta that looks like this?

Or this?

Or this?

And these kinds of questions are important because when you mismatch the pasta with the sauce, it doesn’t work out as a dish. You end up with lumpy textures in your mouth or too much sauce for the pasta or too much pasta for the sauce.
Luckily, Cook’s Thesaurus goes over the different pasta shapes and says what they are used for. On top of that, it mentions other pastas you can substitute for the same function. For example:

Linguine (“little tongues” in Italian) consists of long, slender ribbons of pasta. It’s often served with clams or shrimp. Substitutes: trenette OR fettuccine OR spaghetti OR lo mein noodles

American Test Kitchen simplifies all this by saying you should match the consistency of the sauce to the texture of the sauce. Long thin pastas like spaghetti should have smooth sauces, wider noodles like fettuccine should take thicker sauces like bolognese or Alfredo, tubes and shapes go with chunky sauces, and so on.
Here’s a video explaining it in full:

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3 thoughts on “Matching Pasta Shapes To Sauces”

  1. I loved when my parents made us ‘special’ shapes of pasta growing up. (made as in ‘boiled and served’ not ‘made fresh with dough’) I still have a special place in my heart for ‘wagon wheels.’ It’s like being a pioneer, but without the dysentery!
    And thanks to my dad’s hatred of tomatoes and tomato products, I can safely say that I haven’t met a pasta shape that doesn’t go with butter and parmesan.

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  3. Good explanation! Penne are perfect with silces of zucchini (or any kind of vegetables) and a lot of parmesan, try it!
    …I love the way you say Linguine and Rigatoni !
    (yes I’m italian)
    Ciao !


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