Pasta Shapes

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

Pasta shapes, very numerous and still proliferating, include:

  • Agnolini, a stuffed egg pasta of Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna, initially made in semicircular form, but with the corners of the semicircle bent round to form little rings; often eaten in brodo.

  • Agnolotti, see ravioli.

  • Anolini, tiny stuffed pasta from Emilia-Romagna, half-moon shaped, with a stuffing which always includes meat.

  • Bavette, bavettine, thin oval spaghetti.

  • Bigoli, a thick spaghetti from Venice. Anna del Conte (1987) remarks that this is the only traditional form of pasta made with wholewheat flour; and that duck eggs are often an ingredient of the dough.

  • Bombolotti, a short cylindrical form with a smooth exterior.

  • Bucati, bucatini, very thin tubular pasta.

  • cannelloni.

  • Capelli d’angelo (‘angel hair’), capellini (‘little hairs’), the thinnest form of the spaghetti family.

  • Cappelletti, small stuffed pasta which are twisted into a shape something like a small three-cornered hat (cappelletti means ‘small hats’). Cappellacci are similar but larger.

  • Conchiglie, shell-shaped pasta with a ribbed surface, like cockles. Conchiglioni are larger and conchigliette are smaller.

  • Elbow macaroni, an American term for short, curved macaroni.

  • Farfalle, resembling butterflies. Farfalloni are bigger butterflies, while farfalletti (stricchetti in Bologna) are intermediate in size.

  • Fettucine, a ribbon pasta which is usually slightly narrower than tagliatelli, of which it is the Roman form. Fettuccia means ribbon.

  • Fusilli, a spiral kind of spaghetti, twisted like a corkscrew. Fusilli bucati are similar but here it is a thin tubular form which is twisted.

  • lasagne.

  • Lingue di passero (‘sparrows’ tongues’), the smallest version of bavette. Linguine are in the same group, between bavettine and bavette in size.

  • Lumache, like snail shells. (Chiocciole are also this shape.)

  • Maccheroni (usually spelled ‘macaroni’ in Naples, whence it came, as in Britain—see macaroni). Maccheroncini are smaller.

  • Maccheroni alla chitarra, best described as ‘square spaghetti’, produced in Abruzzi by pressing a sheet of fresh pasta through the special cutting device called chitarra (meaning zither).

  • Maltagliati, pasta shaped like long narrow triangles or diamonds, roughly produced (the name means ‘badly cut’).

  • Mille righi, meaning ‘one thousand stripes’, one of numerous variations on the theme of rigatoni, see below.

  • Orecchiette, meaning ‘little ears’, of the shape indicated by the name.

  • Pappardelle, short pieces of broad ribbon pasta.

  • Pastina perbrodo, a general term for the numerous kinds of small, quick-cooking pasta which are especially suited for serving in broths. These include alphabet pasta (alfabeto), especially popular with children.

  • Penne, short pieces of macaroni cut diagonally at both ends like pen nibs or quills. Pennette are tiny, pennine are small, and pennone are the larger version.

  • ravioli.

  • Riccie, meaning curly or rippled, is an adjective rather than a noun and can be applied as an epithet to many forms of pasta—thus lasagne riccie are lasagne with one or both sides ripple edged. Riccini are small ‘curls’ of pasta which may be both twisted and ripple-edged. Ricciolini are even smaller such curls.

  • Rigatoni, tube-shaped pasta with a ridged exterior.

  • Rotolo, a substantial form of pasta made by covering a flat sheet with filling and then rolling it up like a swiss roll. A speciality of Emilia-Romagna.

  • Sedani, meaning ‘celery’, a S. Italian sort of macaroni, ridged like celery and often used in short pieces for soup.

  • spaghetti. Spaghettini (diminutive form).

  • Tagliatelli, a popular ribbon pasta whose home terri-tory is Bologna and whose counterpart further south, in the region of Rome, is fettucine (see above). Tagliolini and tagliarini are in the same family, as their names suggest.

  • Tortellini, a kind of stuffed pasta which may be round or square; in effect cappelletti twisted in a different way (modelled, according to legend, on Venus’ navel). Tortelli are larger.

  • Tortiglioni, a tubular pasta with spiral ridges (hence the name used by some manufacturers, elicoidali).

  • Trenette, a pasta from Liguria which is like tagliatelli (although the dough used is somewhat different) and is always dressed with pesto.

  • Vermicelli, a thinner version of spaghetti, especially in S. Italy. The word means ‘small worms’.

  • Zite/ziti, a tubular pasta (like maccheroni) associated particularly with Naples. Zitoni are a larger version.