Types of Pasta and Dishes with It


pasta_cThere are dozens of different types of pasta and some are more suited to a particular dish than others, but pasta of a similar shape may be substituted in any of the recipes. Here are cooking time and advices for use of different types of Italian pasta: Lasagne, Pappardelle, Tagliatelle, Fettucine, Spaghetti, Spaghettini, Vermicelli, Macaroni, Bucatini, Rigatoni, Penne, Cannelloni, Conchiglie, Fiochetti, Farfalle, Fusilli, Tortiglioni, Lumache, Rotini, Anelli, Pastina, Egg Noodles, Rice Noodles, Transparent (Cellophane) Noodles.

The secret of cooking pasta successfully is to use plenty of water. Allow 1.2 litres (2 pints / 4 3/4 cups) for every 125 g (4 oz) pasta. Bring the water to the boil, add 3 teaspoons oil and 3 teaspoons salt to each 500 g (1 lb) pasta. Then add the pasta. Long pasta such as spaghetti should be fanned out slowly into the water as it softens. Bring back to the boil and continue boiling until the pasta is cooked. To test whether it is done, remove a piece from the water and bite into it. It should be al dente, or slightly firm. If the pasta is to be cooked again in a baked dish, undercook it slightly, as it wilt continue to cook in the oven.

Drain the pasta in a colander, shaking to remove most of the water, but leave a little water clinging to it to prevent it from sticking. Pour the pasta into a warmed serving dish and toss with a little olive oil, butter or some of the sauce which accompanies it. If the pasta is to be served in a salad or reheated in a baked dish, it may be rinsed in cold water and drained.

The cooking times for pasta vary according to its size and shape. Follow the directions below as a guideline for dried pasta, but keep testing during the cooking time, to avoid overcooking. Wholewheat pasta takes longer, and fresh pasta much less time to cook than ordinary dried pasta.


Lasagne (1)

Cooking time: Some lasagne requires no pre-cooking and is layered straight into a dish with sauce and baked in the oven. Other lasagne must be boiled for 10 minutes before being layered with other ingredients.

Uses: Layered with meat, fish or vegetable sauces. May also be rolled round filling, like cannelloni.

Pappardelle (2)

Cooking time: 8 minutes.

Uses: Traditionally served with hare sauce.

Tagliatelle (3) and Fettucine (4)

Cooking time: 6 minutes.

Uses: Similar to spaghetti, but particularly good with creamy sauces which adhere better than heavy sauces. May also be fried.

Spaghetti (5)

Cooking time: 12 minutes.

Uses: Served simply with butter or oil, or with almost any kind of sauce.

Spaghettini (6)

Cooking time: 8 minutes.

Uses: Traditionally served with fish and shellfish sauces. Also good with tomato sauce.

Vermicelli (7)

Cooking time: 5 minutes.

Uses: Very thin vermicelli sold in clusters is ideal for serving with very light sauces. Long vermicelli is used in the same way as spaghetti.

Macaroni (8) and Bucatini (9)

Cooking time: 8-10 minutes.

Uses: Often used in baked dishes, particularly those with a cheese-based sauce.

Rigatoni (10)

Cooking time: 10 minutes.

Uses: Generally used in baked dishes. The ridges help the sauce to cling to the pasta. It may also be stuffed.

Penne (11)

Cooking time: 10 minutes.

Uses: Served with meat sauces, which catch in the hollows.

Cannelloni (12)

Cooking time: Most cannelloni tubes require no pre-cooking and are stuffed directly before baking. If they are to be fried, they should be boiled first for about 7-10 minutes.

Uses: Filled cannelloni may be baked in the oven in a sauce, or topped with butter and grated cheese, and may also be deep-fried until crisp.

Conchiglie (13)

Cooking time: Large shells take about 15 minutes to cook and smaller ones 10 minutes.

Uses: Large shells may be stuffed, and their shape makes a fish filling particularly appropriate. Smaller shells are used in casseroles and soup, and served cold in salads.

Fiochetti (bows) (14) and Farfalle (butterflies) (15)

Cooking time: 10 minutes.

Uses: Ideal for serving with meat or vegetable sauces, which become trapped in the folds.

Fusilli (16) and Tortiglioni (spirals) (17)

Cooking time: 10 minutes.

Uses: Served with substantial meat sauces, which are trapped in the twists. Also good in salads.

Lumache (18)

Cooking time: 10 minutes.

Uses: Similar to conchiglie.

Rotini (wheels) (19) and Anelli (20)

Cooking time: 8 minutes.

Uses: Added to savoury bakes and salads.

Pastina (anellini, ditalini, stellini) (21)

Cooking time: 8 minutes.

Uses: Most often added to soups, but may be used in other dishes.

Egg Noodles (22)

Cooking time: 4-5 minutes.

Uses: Flat noodles are often served in soups. Round ones are served in sauces, and are best for stir-frying. Also served as an accompaniment instead of rice.

Rice Noodles (23)

Cooking time: Simply soak in hot water for 10-15 minutes.

Uses: Served in spicy sauces, soups and stir-fry dishes.

Transparent (Cellophane) Noodles (24)

Cooking time: Soak in hot water for 5 minutes.

Uses: Added to soups or deep-fried as a garnish.

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