Africhef for great South African Recipes and South African Cooking

Types of Pasta

When to use the different types of Pasta and why

SPAGHETTI {Ital. 'little strings'} the most popular of all pastas. Best with tomato or cream sauces. Not to be used in pasta salads.

Substitutes; linguine (wider) spaghettini (thinner) fettuccine (flat spaghetti) vermicelli (very thin) or angel hair (unbelievably thin).

VERMICELLI {Ital. 'little worms'} similar to spaghetti only thinner. Use with very light sauces or break up the rods and use in soups.

Substitutes; capellini (thinner) angel hair (as above)

FUSILLI = SPIRALLI = spirals This type of pasta is shaped like screws or springs.

It is perfect for pasta salads and for bulking out casseroles. Also good with thick sauces.

TUBETTI These little tubes are wonderful in minestrone or other Italian style soups.

Substitutes; ditali, cannaroni, penette, or other small soup pasta.

PENNE Short tubes cut on the diagonal make it easy for your delicious sauces to run inside.

My favourite pasta, penne is so versatile that you can use it with sauce, in a casserole, soup, pasta salad or even in baked dishes.

PENNE RIGATE has ridges, the better to hold sauces.

Substitutes; mostaccioli (shorter, wider tubes), ziti (break if too long), rigatoni, elbow macaroni (use 30% less) elicoidali, ditali or fusili.

MACARONI = MACCHERONI These little tubes of pasta used to be made by wrapping the dough around knitting needles – not whilst knitting.

The term is now used for any small tubular pasta, all of which go well with chunky sauces.

Elbow macaroni is curved and is traditionally used for macaroni cheese

Substitutes; farfalle, conchiglie, penne, rigatoni, fusilli, gemelli, ruote, ziti (broken), perciatelli (broken).

CONCHIGLIE = SHELL PASTA Resembling conch shells, this pasta is often served with tomato or meat sauces or in pasta salads.

Smaller shells, for soups, are called conchigliette, whilst a larger version, for stuffing, is called conchiglioni

Substitutes; lumache, fusilli, gemelli, farfalle, radiatore, penne, macaroni, rigatoni, ziti, ruote, cavatelli

FARFALLE = BOW TIES This cutely shaped pasta is often served in pasta salads or in chunky sauces.

Smaller ones are called farfallini whilst larger ones are farfallone

Substitutes; conchiglie, radiatore, fusilli, any tube pasta.

Small, square pillows of pasta that was traditionally stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach.

Today you can find them in delicatessens with many weird and wonderful fillings. Beef seems to be the most often seen.

Ravioli are usually topped with a tomato or cream sauce and grated parmesan, pecorino or romano cheese.

Be careful when cooking as over-cooking causes them to disintegrate.

Smaller ravioli are called ravioletti and one on its own is called raviolo

TORTELLINI Little circles of pasta that are filled with meat or cheese. A larger version is called tortelloni

Ideal for clear soups but also used with tomato or cheese sauces.

Substitutes; agnolotti, cappelleti, ravioli.


Yellow = egg (pasta all'uovo)

Green = spinach (pasta verde)

Red = tomato / carrot (pasta rossa)

Black = squid ink (pasta nera)

LASAGNE Is available in both fresh and dried forms.

The fresh is much nicer but the dried version is easier to use for most people.

I use it myself, for speed, and find that it makes a perfectly good dish.

Used according to directions, it's hard to tell the difference.

There is a multitude of pasta shapes available at your supermarket – experiment.

That's one of the pleasures of pasta cooking – experimentation.

You can call pasta anything you like, it won't talk back



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