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Pasta is a simple and wonderful foodstuff. It’s up there with pizza, gelato, and tiramisu as one of the great culinary inventions to come out of Italy.
Some believe that Marco Polo brought it back from the Far East, and some even say it’s of Greek or Arabic origin – and there’s probably some truth there – but whether or not it was truly invented there, pasta’s home is Italy. In fact, it’s so close to the heart of Jamie’s mentor, the legendary Gennaro Contaldo, that he believes pasta to have a place in everybody’s diet.
A basic pasta dough is one of the ultimate low-fuss-high-reward recipes, and the shape it takes after this makes all the difference to how it’s served. With a twist, roll and tuck, or judicious dimple or twiddle, a wholly different kind of dish will emerge. Who would have thought?
The Italians, that’s who – and here are a few of their masterpieces.
There’s a reason spaghetti is so widely loved: the satisfaction of chewing on a beautiful bundle of noodles, twirled carefully around your fork, is a thing of beauty. Spaghetti is usually served with loose, sweet tomato sauces; no sauce at all, in the case of the famous Roman spaghetti Cacio e Pepe (literally cheese and pepper); or the very light but punchy flavoured broth you get with a good spaghetti vongole.
Penne are tubular, and cut on an angle to resemble the nib of an old feather quill. Ridges help thicker tomato or vegetable sauces cling to the pasta, ensuring the right ratio with every piece – whether it’s a classic carbonara with a gorgeous veggie twist, or an indulgent affair made with butternut squash and pancetta.
Conchiglie and Orecchiette
These little guys are shaped like shells and ears, respectively, and their cup-like forms help to hold heavier, predominantly vegetable-based sauces made with raw tomato, or broccoli and anchovy down in the deep south of Italy. The sauce packs in the cups nicely, which also means that these shapes are perfect for a pasta bake.
Linguini is very like spaghetti, but its flattened shape makes it lie a little more luxuriously on the plate. The extra surface area also helps it hang onto light sauces made with cream or seafood.
Imagine a bigger, fatter spaghetti that’s hollow right through the centre, and you’ve got bucatini: a traditional favourite for thick, ragu-style sauces. The hole means that the gravy from a meaty sauce will make its way into the noodles – Italian genius!
Spirali and fusilli
These pastas are curly like corkscrews. If you really want to differentiate between them, fusilli is a little tighter, but there’s not much in it. They’re great for the same thing: coarse sauces (especially those with chunks of meat) that can get trapped in the screw threads. Gennaro’s recipe for four-cheese pasta bake with hunks of ham is also a great way to use spirali.
These are shaped like butterflies with crinkly edges. The “wings” hold sauces wonderfully, and they’re also perfect for cold pasta salads. Best of all, kids love them.
Macaroni are tiny tubes. They don’t need to hold sauces because they’re often found swimming in minestrone, or in a cheese sauce ready to be baked. Macaroni is small, modest and unfancy, but has become one of the world’s favourite pastas thanks to the simple mac ‘n’ cheese (a dish which can become a showstopper with a simple twist or two).
Like penne, rigatoni are tubes with ridges on the outside, but they’re bigger and cut square rather than at an angle. They’re great with chunky veg sauces, and are often used for baking in gratins down in the south.
Lasagne, whether traditional, meat-free, or made with beautiful crispy duck, must be one of the world’s favourite dishes. The traditional way to make is not with dried pasta sheets, as has become commonplace, but with delicate sheets of fresh egg pasta, which I urge everybody to try at least once. However, you can buy fresh pasta sheets everywhere these days, and their uses go further than just lasagne: they can be rolled into cannelloni, or cut into gorgeously silky pappardelle with a wiggly roller or pizza cutter.
Cannelloni is in the same pasta family to lasagne, and is usually paired with the same ingredients. The only difference is that with cannelloni, the sheets are rolled around the filling, rather than layered up with it. This looks very different upon serving, and makes for a real difference in texture. Cannelloni is nowadays available dried and already in tubular form, which means filling simply has to be stuffed in and baked.
Ravioli is a delight; a small sheet piece of pasta, folded over a dollop of stuffing and pinched together to form a delicate parcel. The stuffing could be meat, veg, fish or cheese – anything goes. Sauces vary from light herb butters to proper heavy ragus. Filling and sauce are designed to compliment each other, with just a tender sheet of egg pasta keeping them separate until the last minute, when you lift the little envelope to your mouth and blend it all together.
Pappardelle are wide ribbons of egg pasta, normally reserved for heavy, gamey ragus, and made things like wild mushrooms, wild rabbit or wild boar. Lovely chunky bits from the sauce get trapped between the flat noodles and it almost eats like a lasagne. Jamie’s Southend-stylee pappardelle uses sausage meat, aromatic herbs, and plenty of Parmesan for a rich and stunningly satisfying dish.
Tagliatelle is to fresh egg pasta what spaghetti is to dried. It’s the big favourite in Northern Italy, and although in the UK we eat Bolognese sauce with “spag”, Italians traditionally eat it with a lovely fresh tagliatelle, making for a slightly more elegant dish than we’re used to. It’s also often served with the cheesy, buttery sauces Italians that from the north love so much, and especially with fresh basil pesto in Liguria. Tagliatelle has a soft and unchallenging texture and, when served simply with fresh asparagus, tomato, and basil, is perfect kids.
Tagliarini is tagliatelle’s little sister. The fine and delicate egg noodles require minimal cooking time, but deliver a wonderful melt in the mouth silkiness when eaten. Usually this pasta brought out for very special occasions, and is paired with delicate fresh fish in the summer or delicious white truffles in winter. Gennaro, in his Pasta Book, pairs colourful peppers and beautiful parma ham with tagliarini for an explosively colourful dish.
You can see Gennaro show you how to make a few of these pasta shapes at home on Food Tube below.
What’s your favourite kind of pasta, and what do you pair it with?
The Ultimate Pasta Guide: All Shapes And Sizes Defined
So you’re sweet on spaghetti and fond of fettuccine while penne and fusilli are cupboard staples but there are actually hundreds of pasta shapes, each uniquely suited to particular dishes.
Here are some of the most useful and unusual ones, presented in partnership with the Italian Trade Commission.
Acini di pepe
Meaning “peppercorns” in Italian, these tiny pasta balls are perfect in light soups and broths.
Ever wanted to make a healthy version of Spaghetti-Os for your kids? Then you’ll need anelli, a name that translates as “small rings.” Sicilians make a baked pasta dish called Anellini al forno that combines pasta with meat ragu, peas and cheese.
What happens when a thick spaghetti pasta crosses a straw? You get bucatini — a thick spaghetti noodle with a hollow centre that’s best served in an Amatriciana sauce, a simple tomato sauce.
This ridged, corkscrew-shaped pasta is perfect for sauces made with finely chopped ingredients. That’s because each ingredient latches on to the crevices of the pasta, making for the perfect bite each and every time. Try it carbonara with pieces of Italian-made Pancetta .
Usually just called “seashells” or “shells” in English, this type of pasta comes in various sizes. Small shells (conchigliette) are great for soups and pasta salads while the larger ones (conchiglioni) can be stuffed with a meat or vegetable filling.
Also known as bow-tie pasta, farfalle is a versatile pasta— it can stand up to a thick, chunky sauce, and kids love it in soups. Use tri-colour farfalle to make an eye-catching pasta salad dressed with Italian-made Balsamic Vinegar from Modena PGI and Pecorino Romano PDO.
Long before it was a much-maligned Ben Affleck-Jennifer Lopez movie, gigli was a flower-shaped pasta from Florence with a name that means “lily.”
Shaped like small snail shells, lumache works well with thick, chunky sauces.
They look like tiny, shallow bowls but their name actually means “little ears.” Try them tossed with broccoli, garlic and Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
The name of this twisted, tubular pasta means “priest strangler.” According to legend, hungry clergymen wolfed it down, sometimes with unfortunate consequences.
Frustrated that your homemade pasta dishes don’t taste quite like those at your favourite Italian restaurant or ones you remember fondly from your trip to Italy? The secret lies in authentic Italian-made ingredients — cured meats, balsamic vinegar, cheeses, extra virgin olive oil, pasta and so much more. Learn more here.
Ah penne, the classic pasta shape. Campania is a southern region of Italy and is home to Naples, Mount Vesuvius, and the beautiful Amalfi Coast. Campania is known as one of the best regions for food with some of the best fresh fish, pizza, and espresso. Its most famous pasta, penne, means ‘pen’ or ‘quill’, accurately reflecting the slanted shape of the cylindrical pasta. Penne is perfect for cheesy, saucy pasta bakes. Try out this simple penne with balsamic sauce recipe.
Accompaniments and Preparations Index
These shapes work best in baked casseroles such as Winter Greens Lasagna or Baked Radicchio and Mozzarella Pasta: Bucatini, Ditalini, Fusilli, Fusilli col Buco, Fusilli Napoletani, Gemelli, Gigli, Jumbo Shells, Lasagna, Lumaconi, Macaroni, Manicotti, Orzo, Penne Lisce (a.k.a. Mostaccioli), Penne Rigate, Radiatore, Riccioli, Rigatoni, Rotelle, Rotini, Sfoglia, Spaghetti, Spaghetti alla Chitarra, Spaghettini, Trenette, Tubettini, Ziti
These pastas are best with delicate butter- and oil-based sauces, such as sage brown butter or aglio e olio: Campanelle, Capellini (a.k.a. Angel Hair), Farfalle, Fettuccine, Fusilli, Fusilli col Buco, Fusilli Napoletani, Gemelli, Gigli, Linguine, Macaroni, Malloreddus, Penne Rigate, Spaghetti, Spaghetti alla Chitarra, Spaghettini, Tagliarini, Ziti
Use more delicate sauces such as cacio e pepe or green garlic cream sauce with the thinner noodles in this list, and a robust sauce such as one made with Robiola Bosina cheese for the more substantial noodles: Campanelle, Capellini (a.k.a. Angel Hair), Casarecce, Cavatelli, Conchiglie, Farfalle, Fettuccine, Fusilli, Fusilli col Buco, Fusilli Napoletani, Gemelli, Jumbo Shells, Lasagna, Linguine, Macaroni, Penne Lisce (a.k.a. Mostaccioli), Penne Rigate, Rigatoni, Rotelle, Rotini, Spaghetti, Spaghetti alla Chitarra, Spaghettini, Tagliarini, Ziti
Pair these pastas with chunky meat sauces such as Wild Boar Ragu or Ragu alla Bolognese: Campanelle, Casarecce, Cavatelli, Conchiglie, Farfalle, Fettuccine, Fusilli, Fusilli col Buco, Fusilli Napoletani, Gemelli, Gigli, Jumbo Shells, Lasagna, Linguine, Lumaconi, Macaroni, Malloreddus, Manicotti, Orecchiette, Pappardelle, Penne Lisce (a.k.a. Mostaccioli), Rigatoni, Rotelle, Rotini, Sfoglia, Spaghetti, Spaghetti alla Chitarra, Spaghettini, Strozzapreti, Ziti
Match the smaller pastas with recipes using finely chopped ingredients, such as this Couscouc salad with zucchini and pine nuts in which you can substitute pasta like acini di pepe or fregula for the couscous. The larger pastas in this list will hold up well with other pasta salad recipes that call for coarsely chopped ingredients: Anelli/Anellini, Campanelle, Cavatelli, Cavaturi, Conchiglie, Ditalini, Farfalle, Fusilli, Fusilli col Buco, Fusilli Napoletani, Gemelli, Macaroni, Orecchiette, Orzo, Penne Rigate, Riccioli, Rotelle, Rotini, Ziti
Try anything from a Watercress-Walnut Dip or arugula pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, and pine nuts to parsley, walnut, and black olive pesto with these shapes: Bavette, Capellini (a.k.a. Angel Hair), Casarecce, Conchiglie, Fettuccine, Farfalle, Fusilli, Fusilli col Buco, Fusilli Napoletani, Gemelli, Linguine, Orecchiette, Trofie
These shapes are ideal for scooping up pieces of seafood try them with this San Marzano red clam sauce or clams and chorizo: Bavette, Calamari, Capellini (a.k.a. Angel Hair), Casarecce, Farfalle, Fettuccine, Linguine, Spaghetti, Spaghetti alla Chitarra, Spaghettini
Brothy soups are made even better when a handful of pasta is thrown in. Try these in Minestrone, Pasta e Fagioli, or as a substitute for the rice in this chicken soup: Acini di Pepe, Anelli/Anellini, Capellini (a.k.a. Angel Hair), Cavatelli, Ditalini, Farfalle, Fregula, Fusilli, Fusilli col Buco, Fusilli Napoletani, Gemelli, Orzo, Pastina, Rotelle, Stelline, Tubettini
The more delicate noodles pair well with simple sauces, such as a Basic Tomato Sauce or raw tomato sauce (marinate tomatoes and garlic in oil for a few minutes, then toss with cooked pasta and torn basil), while the more substantial noodles hold up nicely when prepared all’Amatriciana or paired with caramelized tomatoes and sausage: Bavette, Bucatini, Calamari, Capellini (a.k.a. Angel Hair), Casarecce, Conchiglie, Farfalle, Fettuccine, Fregula, Fusilli, Fusilli col Buco, Fusilli Napoletani, Gigli, Jumbo Shells, Lasagna, Linguine, Lumaconi, Macaroni, Malloreddus, Manicotti, Orecchiette, Paccheri, Penne Lisce (a.k.a. Mostaccioli), Penne Rigate, Radiatore, Riccioli, Rigatoni, Rotelle, Rotini, Sfoglia, Spaghetti, Spaghetti alla Chitarra, Spaghettini, Trenette, Ziti
Try these pastas with an assortment of vegetable sauces, from Eggplant-Pepper Tomato Sauce to beet greens and feta or broccoli, prosciutto, and toasted breadcrumbs: Campanelle, Capellini (a.k.a. Angel Hair), Casarecce, Cavatelli, Cavaturi, Conchiglie, Farfalle, Fettuccine, Fusilli, Fusilli col Buco, Fusilli Napoletani, Gemelli, Jumbo Shells, Lasagna, Linguine, Lumaconi, Macaroni, Manicotti, Orecchiette, Paccheri, Penne Lisce (a.k.a. Mostaccioli), Penne Rigate, Rigatoni, Rotelle, Rotini, Sfoglia, Spaghetti, Spaghetti alla Chitarra, Spaghettini, Strozzapreti, Trenette, Ziti
This post was originally published by Chowhound Editors on May 12, 2008.
Pasta types by region
Region: Veneto, north Italy Pasta: Bigoli
Description: Thick, noodle-like spaghetti, often made from wholewheat flour, butter and duck eggs. Like other long, thin pasta, this is best served with light seafood sauces, cream- or oil-based sauces.
Region: Emilia Romagna, north Italy Pasta: Strozzapreti
Description: The name for these short twists translates as ‘priest strangler’ – inspired by the legend that greedy priests would eat the strozzapreti, given to them by locals, so quickly that they might choke on it. Serve with light, smooth sauces that will cling to the twists – pesto would work well.
Region: Liguria, north Italy Pasta: Trofie
Description: These small, rolled pasta shapes are traditionally served the Genovese way with pesto, green beans and potatoes.
Region: Tuscany, central Italy Pasta: Gigli
Description: Gigli translates as ‘lilies’- this fluted pasta is specifically from Florence, where the lily is the local emblem.
Region: Abruzzo, central Italy Pasta: Chitarra
Description: Chitarra means ‘guitar’, and this long thin pasta is cut using a harp-like tool. The fresh pasta dough is pushed through the fine strings to cut it into strands. Serve with silky cream- or oil-based sauces.
Region: Campania, southern Italy Pasta: Penne
Description: Meaning ‘pen’ or ‘quill’, penne is cut on an angle to resemble its namesake. It’s ideal for holding rich tomato or meat sauces, or in pasta bakes.Region: Puglia, southern Italy
Description: Orecchiette or ‘little ears’ are traditionally served with broccoli rabe, anchovies, chilli and garlic.
The Pasta Lovers Guide to Pasta Recipes: The Ultimate Pasta Cookbook and Pasta Sauce Cookbook
Nothing is more satisfying than a steaming bowl of tender noodles slathered in a thick red sauce or some creamy Alfredo. Pasta is a very versatile food that can be made in a variety of shapes and flavors then paired with an unlimited number of sauces to create some very tasty dishes. If you are curious to learn more about pasta, this easy pasta cookbook is the perfect plac Nothing is more satisfying than a steaming bowl of tender noodles slathered in a thick red sauce or some creamy Alfredo. Pasta is a very versatile food that can be made in a variety of shapes and flavors then paired with an unlimited number of sauces to create some very tasty dishes. If you are curious to learn more about pasta, this easy pasta cookbook is the perfect place for pasta lovers like you to start.
Included in this book you will find:
An introduction to homemade pasta recipes for pasta lovers
A collection of recipes for homemade pasta in an easy pasta cookbook
Recipes for homemade sauces in an easy pasta sauce cookbook
Using the pasta recipes in this easy pasta cookbook you can create an unlimited number of delicious pasta creations. So what are you waiting for, turn the page and get cooking!
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There are hundreds of different pasta shapes out there, to complement hundreds of recipes. Here we've rounded up some of the most common types beyond the store cupboard staples of spaghetti, linguini and fusilli.
Some shapes are very similar to one another, and you may even find that the names for something that looks identical will change from region to region in Italy.
So while it's not a straightforward topic, this guide might help you find new types of pasta to try in your cooking.
Capelli d&rsquoAngelo (Angel Hair)
Type of pasta: Long pasta. Pronounced cap-eh-lee dah-anj-eh-lo.
Description: The thinnest of all pasta, it comes in long, delicate strands and is often used in Asian cooking too. It only takes two minutes to boil.
Best eaten with: Generally speaking, angel hair should be eaten alongside delicate tomato or broth-based sauces the Neapolitans serve it only with shrimp and vegetables. Simply tossed with a glug of good olive oil is nice, too.
Type of pasta: Long pasta. Pronounced boo-cah-TEE-nee.
Description: Coming from the word &lsquobuco&rsquo, meaning &lsquohole&rsquo in Italian, bucatini is thicker than regular spaghetti pasta and is great for twisting round one&rsquos fork. There&rsquos a thin, straw-like hole down the centre of each strand, and this type of pasta originated in central Italy.
Best eaten with: Try bucatini alla&rsquomatriciana when in Rome. The locals love the light, spicy sauce with pancetta and red pepper flakes. Don&rsquot forget to top with a grating of Pecorino cheese.
Type of pasta: Shaped pasta. Pronounced far-FAH-leh.
Description: Farfalle dates back to the 1500s and was first eaten in the Lombardy region of north Italy. Fondly referred to as bow pasta, or butterfly pasta (we think they look more like the former), they are essentially rectangular pieces of pasta pinched in the middle.
Best eaten with: Very versatile this one. Good in cold pasta salads, or warm main meals with a light and creamy sauce. Mini farfalle are made for use in soups, too.
Type of pasta: Ribbon pasta. Pronounced feh-too-CHEE-nay.
Description: Made from flat sheets of pasta, cut into ribbon-shaped strands. Probably one of the most popular pasta shapes, because it provides such a great surface for catching sauces. Some say that fettuccine originated in Rome, although nowadays you&rsquore more likely to find it spelt &lsquofettuccini&rsquo, because of America&rsquos obsession with it.
Best eaten with: Rich and creamy sauces. Fettuccine alfredo, one of the most common dishes to use this pasta, is made with a rich butter, cream, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese sauce. You could also try fettuccine con verdure with seasonal vegetables.
Type of pasta: Tubular pasta. Pronounced CAN-eh-lone-ee.
Description: Translates to &lsquobig reeds&rsquo in Italian. The pasta is formed into large, hollow tubes
Best eaten with: Cannelloni always comes stuffed with something or other &ndash meat, cheese, or a seafood mixture usually, then is covered with a sauce and baked. Extra cheese is scattered on top, like with a lasagne. This pumpkin cannelloni is one of our favourite recipes.
Type of pasta: Shaped pasta. Pronounced roo-OH-tay.
Description: One for the kids. Shaped like wagon wheels, they&rsquore very small so are perfect for little appetites. Sauces will get stuck in the &lsquospokes&rsquo, which are also good for catching peas.
Best eaten with: Perfect in pasta salads, and with chunky sauces.
Type of pasta: Stuffed pasta. Pronounced metz-eh-loon-eh.
Description: Literally &lsquohalf moon&rsquo pasta. Typically it starts with a base of egg pasta, which is rolled out and then cut into circular shapes, and then carefully filled with mixes of varying flavours. Because it&rsquos quite small, mezzelune pasta should cook within a few minutes.
Best eaten with: The filling inside ranges from meats to mushrooms, seafood, or just herbs. Take care not to over-stuff your Mezzelune, as it can be delicate.
Type of pasta: Tubular pasta. Pronounced rih-gah-TOE-nee.
Description: Large, ridged, slightly curvy tubes of pasta, which are the most commonly used in southern and central Italy. The difference between rigatoni and penne is that the latter have angle-cut ends.
Best eaten with: Chunky meat sauces, such as this sausage ragu, because the ridges catch it so well. The entire surface, both inside and out, works to stick to the sauce.
Type of pasta: Shaped pasta. Pronounced con-KEEL-yay.
Description: Eaten in abundance by ever-hungry students, &lsquoshell&rsquo pasta is probably the most popular type in the UK. Jumbo stuffed shells are traditionally found in the south of Italy, where stuffed pasta dishes are favoured.
Best eaten with: A rich ragu (meat sauce), a cream, or cheese sauce. The shell serves as a scoop to collect all those delicious juices.
Type of pasta: Shaped pasta. Pronounced ro-TEE-nee.
Description: Spirals or twists shorter than fusilli pasta, about 1 inch long. It&rsquos a pretty tight spiral, which originates in northern Italy.
Best eaten with: Both fusilli and rotini work well with pesto, because the bunched up spirals can catch even the thinnest sauce. They also work well in pasta salads.
Type of pasta: Small pasta. Pronounced ort-zo.
Description: Shaped like fat grains of rice,
Best eaten with: Orzo is a versatile type of pasta that can be added to soups and stews, or eaten cold in salads. Good with rich sauces that it can be stirred into and swell up in, absorbing the flavour. Try this recipe for orzo with cabbage, lemon and pine nuts.
Type of pasta: Stuffed pasta. Pronounced rahv-yo-lee.
Description: Little packages of pasta stuffed with any filling you like.
Best eaten with: There are an infinite number of stuffings you could fill ravioli with, and what you stuff it with will dictate the sauce. A diced pork and herb stuffing would go well with a simple tomato and basil sauce, while a four cheese stuffing would sit better with a cheesy white sauce. Try this cheese and spinach ravioli with burnt butter.
This article was originally published in June 2012 and updated in August 2017.
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Know your noodle: The ultimate guide to Asian noodles
Debate rages over who first struck upon the idea of adding water to flour in a ratio of about a third to one, then fashioning the resulting mess into long skinny things that today we call noodles. Was it the Chinese? The Arabs maybe? Or the Italians, via Marco Polo, as many popularly believe? Compelling theories abound and no one knows 100 for sure where the world's first noodle meal was born recent scholarship suggests it was in Persia. But one thing is for sure. They’ve been around for a very long time (an estimated 4000 years) and they don't look like going anywhere fast.
Arguably one of Asia’s most popular foods, you find noodles all over the region - particularly in China, where they’re a daily staple. They turn up in soups, salads, stir-fries, deep fries, stuffed inside flatbreads, spring rolls and fried pastries and incorporated into braises. They’re made from rice flour, buckwheat flour, rice flour, root vegetable and mung bean starches, tapioca flour and even seaweed. Methods of making are divergent - they can be extruded, hand-cut, spun, flung, rolled or shaved from a block directly into boiling water.
Texturally, they vary from mouthfillingly chewy, to silky-smooth-slippery… and everything in between. They’re quick to cook, hard to mess up and universally loved. No really, they are. Have you actually met someone that didn't like a noodle? Us neither. With so many varieties of them though, the world of noodles can get confusing. Here’s the low down on the types you’re most likely to encounter at your local Asian supermarket, or when dining out.
This is the broadest - and potentially most confusing - category of noodles. It encompasses many dried and fresh iterations across every width and length imaginable. Copious brands are spawning inconsistent nomenclature so getting to grips with all the different types can be a curly proposition, particularly when it comes to Chinese wheat noodles. Here are the common types.
Very pale, thick, chewy wheat noodles from Japan. Commonly served hot in soup dishes (though they’re also served cold dishes in summer), they are also a good contender for stir-fries. Their neutral flavour makes them a great foil for strong flavours like soy sauce and ginger. Find them, pre-cooked, in vacuum packs of 200 g portions. Before using they need to be refreshed by soaking for 2-3 minutes in a bowl with plenty of boiling water- use chopsticks to untangle them as they soften then drain them well before using.
Elegant, dried Japanese wheat noodles made very thin by stretching the dough - vegetable oil is used to facilitate this and originally the process was by hand. These days, somen are mainly machine-made. Once formed, the noodles are air-dried. They’re commonly served cold in summer months, with a light dipping sauce based on katsuobushi (better known as bonito flakes) to the side although they’re also served in hot broth and in stir-fries too. Sold in packs of individually bundled portions, you sometimes can even find coloured ones. For example, coloured green with matcha powder, yellow/orange with carrot or egg yolk or pink, from shiso oil.
Very thin, long, dried Korean wheat noodles that are also called mak guksu. They’re used in both hot and cold dishes, particularly soups. They cook quickly, requiring about 3 minutes in boiling stock or water. As in China, Koreans associate long noodles such as these with longevity and it’s considered bad luck to cut them.
A thick, creamy-coloured, chewy noodle that’s a good all-rounder for Chinese recipes, where a substantial noodle is called for. They’re particularly good in stir-fries and hearty soups. These are readily available, fresh or dried, from Asian food stores.
Also called ‘pulled’ noodles, these fresh Chinese noodles are made by the skilful twisting, stretching and folding of dough into strands, using the weight of the dough to form the noodles. The thickness of the noodles varies and depends on how many times the dough is folded. It’s unlikely you’ll be making your own this way as it’s not a simple technique to learn (but you can try our recipe for a knife-cut version), but they’re a common option in Northern Chinese noodle restaurants. They have a chewy texture thanks to the addition of lye water or bicarbonate of soda, which has an alkalising effect. Note that “mian,” or “noodle” in Chinese, can also be transliterated as ‘mein’ or ‘mien’.
Sometimes called ‘ribbon’ noodles, these are a broad, flat dried Chinese noodle. and, depending on the brand, they can have slightly frilly edges. Easily found in Chinese food stores, they’re a commercial emulation of northern Chinese knife-cut noodles, or dao xioa mian, made by hand in China and used fresh. You can find fresh knife-cut noodles in restaurants serving northern Chinese fare.
A Korean noodle celebrated for it’s extreme chewiness, these are made from wheat flour and corn starch and are the star ingredient of a cold dish that has the same name. In it, the noodles are served cold with a variety of finely sliced raw vegetables, boiled egg and a sweet and spicy sauce spiked with plenty of gochujang. Find jjolmyeon frozen, at Korean food stores. Thaw them at room temperature, or in the fridge overnight. They require a thorough rinsing immediately after cooking, to cool them quickly and get rid of excess starch.
Egg and alkalised noodles
These noodles are all wheat-based and either contain egg (or egg colouring) or look like they do, thanks to the addition of an agent that raises the pH levels, such as lye water. The higher alkaline level encourages greater water absorption into the flour and strengthens the flour’s proteins, resulting in a firmer bite when noodles are cooked. The higher the flour content of the flour, the chewier is the cooked noodle. Higher pH also releases yellow pigments in the flour, which are colourless when pH is neutral. The resulting golden hue is, therefore, in this type of noodle, not from the addition of egg, although they’re often mistaken for, and lumped together with, egg noodles.
A fresh, chewy noodle with a particularly robust texture and deep yellow colour thanks to the presence of alkaline agents, these resemble thick, yellow spaghetti. Popular in Singapore and Malaysia, they’re the basis of famous hawker dishes such as Hokkien mee, curry mee and loh mee. Buy them loose-packed as opposed to vacuumed packed as these are invariably fresher. They just require a quick blanching in boiling water (about 1 minute) before being added to stir-fries or soup dishes.
A Japanese wheat noodle that started life in China, fresh ramen are thin and very long, with a pronounced chew and yellow colour. Their toothsome texture comes from the addition of alkaline salts. The original alkalising agent was kansui, water that’s rich in the minerals sodium carbonate and potassium carbonate these days agents such as lye water are commonly used and can give fresh ramen a slightly funky smell. Ramen is similar to saang mian, a smooth, chewy, slightly soapy-tasting noodle found in Hong Kong and often eaten plain or dressed with a little sesame oil. Buy ramen either fresh (in bags in the refrigerated section of an Asian food store) or dried, in plastic or cellophane packs. They come in a variety of sizes, although most tend toward thinness.
Use to make this miso-based ramen bowl from Sapporo, the capital of Japan's most northerly island.
With a name that means, literally, ‘thin’ noodles, these spaghetti-like noodles actually come in a variety of forms and thicknesses. Maybe the most common are ‘oil’ noodles, which you find, complete with an oily sheen, fresh and pre-cooked in the refrigerator section of Asian food stores. Medium-thick, these have been treated with lye water, or alkaline salts, to give both a distinctive texture (best described as ‘chewy’ and ‘springy’) and a pronounced yellow colour. They can be used in soups, stir-fries and even, when blanched and refreshed, in salads such as Sichuan liang mian, where the cooked noodles are coated in a zingy sesame paste sauce. Then there are the finer, flatter type of you mian, popularly known as ‘wonton’ or ‘Hong Kong’ noodles. These fresh egg noodles have a slightly floury appearance from a light cornstarch coating and require a brief blanching in boiling water before using. Their firm texture makes them a contender for stir-fries (such as chow mein), soups and fried in loose cakes. There is also a wider type of wonton noodle which is good for hearty soups and as an accompaniment for meaty, braised dishes. Their colour ranges from light to bright yellow- the latter will most like have been coloured artificially so do check labels.
Similar to Hong Kong noodles, but thicker, this long noodle can be purchased either fresh or dried. Their yellow colour comes from alkalisation, not egg, and they have a dense, chewy texture that takes well to extended cooking and absorbing robust flavours.
Also called E-fu noodles, these Cantonese wheat flour noodles are pale golden from the use of soda water (or other alkalising agent) in their manufacture. Purchased dried, in large, fried tangled cakes, they’re round, very long and of medium thickness. When cooked they have a chewy-spongy texture. Also called ‘longevity’ noodles and popularly served on birthdays, they’re first boiled before being added to stir-fries, soups or salads.
The huge variety includes (clockwose, from top left) dried egg noodles, buckwheat soba, knife-cut wheat noodles, fresh wheat noodles, mung bean noodles, fresh udon, fresh egg noodles, green bean thread noodles, sweet potato noodles and (centre) soba noodles.
Buckwheat flour noodles
Buckwheat flour is nutritious, containing plenty of fibre, protein and high levels of manganese. It has an appealingly nutty and earthy flavour. Noodles made using buckwheat flour are popular in Korea and Japan. Many commercial iterations contain wheat flour as well as buckwheat, as buckwheat flour lacks gluten and gluten is important for the strength of the noodle. Proportions of flours can vary and the higher the percentage of buckwheat, the better the quality check labels for ingredient information.
Taking their name from the Japanese name for buckwheat, light brown soba noodles are thin and, like many Japanese noodles, are served cold in summer months and make a great salad ingredient. They’re also served hot, either in broth, or drained and with a dipping sauce on the side. Look for dried soba noodles in Asian, Japanese or health food stores.
Paler brown than soba, these dried Korean noodles are made from a combination of buckwheat flour and sweet potato starch (although arrowroot, potato or pea starch are also used). Their name translates as ‘cold noodles,’ hinting at their popular use in cold soups -although they are also used in hot dishes too. They have a sheen, not unlike plastic and are often cut into manageable lengths before serving (they’re very long) in texture, they’re chewy and slightly jelly-like.
A Korean dried noodle made from varieties of acorn flour and a combination of grain flours, including buckwheat. The thickness of spaghetti, they are used in both hot and cold dishes they’re good in any recipe where you’d use soba. There’s also a Japanese version, donguru-men, which contains less acorn flour than its Korean counterpart. Acorns are considered a health food in Korea and the best dotori goksu are the ones with the highest percentage of acorn flour- over 30 per cent is good. These noodles don't take long to cook (3-4 minutes) and they have a nutty, sweetish flavour.
Another large category of noodle, rice noodles come in a range of shapes and sizes, both fresh and dried. They’re made from rice flour and water and their soft texture and mild flavour make them the perfect vehicle for just about any suite of flavours, whether bold or subtle. Culinarily, they’re used across the gamut - in everything from salads to soups to stir-fries, as well as an accompaniment to curries and grills. They cook incredibly quickly and some iterations just need soaking, not cooking. Noodles made with 100 per cent rice flour are gluten-free.
Bee hoon to the Malays, mie fen in Chinese, sen mee in Thai and bahn hoi for the Vietnamese, this popular thin, dried rice noodle is not to be confused with bean thread noodles, which they resemble (i.e. they’re fine, brittle and packaged in bundles). Like bean thread or cellophane noodles, they have a particularly neutral flavour. Find them at any Asian food store and use them in soups, salads and stir-fries, as a base for curries and other sauce-y dishes and an accompaniment to grilled meats such as Vietnamese bun cha. Soak them in boiling water for 6-7 minutes then briefly boil them (a minute is enough), before using. They can also be deep-fried from raw, for use as a crunchy garnish or to form crunchy nests.
Rice stick noodles
A dried rice noodle that’s perhaps most famous as the noodle used in pad Thai. Although on the thin side, it does come in a few different widths, the widest being similar to fettuccine. When cooked, rice stick noodles are elastic and strong, making them a good candidate for stir-frying as they won't break apart. To use, they first require soaking in hot water to soften them, with time-varying amongst brands. If you’re serving them straight up in boiling soup or throwing them into a stir-fry for further cooking, use them straight from soaking. If you want softer noodles, boil them for 2-3 minutes after soaking.
Also called he fen, these are a fresh, flat, wide noodle that is popular in Cantonese cuisine. They’re great for stir-frying but are also used in soup dishes. Sold in plastic bags, try to buy ones that haven't been refrigerated, as this hardens their texture and they’ll break when they’re cooking. They don’t need to be pre-cooked but benefit from a quick rinsing in boiling water to make sure all the strands are separated, before adding them to a wok or soup pot. In Malaysia, they’re called kway teow and are about 1cm wide. There, and in Singapore, they lend their name to the famous stir-fried dish char kway teow. A rounded version is used in laksa lemak (coconut laksa).
Use fresh flat rice noodles in this Char kway teow
This family of (mainly) dried noodle is translucent, with a polished sheen that makes them resemble plastic in their raw state. They’re made using vegetable starches, not flour, and the vegetables range from mung bean, cassava, potato, sweet potato and tapioca to yams. They’re easy to use, but require soaking in hot water to soften them first. Note that these types of noodles are gluten-free.
Bean thread noodles
Also called cellophane or glass noodles, these extremely fine, tough noodles are made from water and bean starch and are sold in wiry, dried bundles. They must be soaked in water until they soften before cooking boiling or stir-frying are the usual methods although sometimes they are deep-fried. They’re used across Asia in myriad dishes, from spring roll stuffings to stir-fries to soups to salads. They absorb flavours and liquid well and require lots of sauce/dressing to truely shine. You might want to cut them after soaking as they’re very long and can be unwieldy to cook and eat.
These Korean noodles look like a thicker version of transparent bean thread vermicelli although they are a different colour (tan-hued) and are thicker, tougher and longer. They’re made using sweet potato starch and are the noodle you find in japchae (a stir fry of sesame oil, beef, vegetables, soy and sugar). Before use, they require soaking in water before cooking (check the packet details as times can vary between brands) then rinsed under cold water. Find them at any Korean food store. Note that there are also Chinese versions, used in Sichuan cooking ad they’re much wider, resembling brownish, clear fettucine.
Use in this quick Japchae, ready in less than 30 minutes
In Japanese, the name of these translucent noodles means “spring rain.” In looks they’re similar to bean thread vermicelli but thicker and, while originally made from bean starch, nowadays they’re most commonly made from potato or sweet potato starch. In Japan, they’re also called ‘salad noodles’ which speaks to their popular use in cold dishes. They’re also a favourite for hot pots, as they don't absorb a lot of liquid when cooked, unlike other noodles. To use, they require soaking first in hot water for 5 minutes then briefly cooking them (1-2 minutes) in boiling water or stock.
Miso barramundi in lettuce cups
Harusame are used to add texture to Miso Barramundi lettuce cups
Used in some Vietnamese dishes, these chewy, translucent noodles are made using tapioca flour, or a mixture of tapioca and rice flour. Find them fresh in plastic bags in the refrigerator section of Asian supermarkets. Thick ones will be labelled bánh canh, while thinner ones are called hu tieu, after the Vietnamese/Cambodian soup noodle dish that features them. You’ll also find them dried, labelled ‘tapioca stick noodle’. Fresh noodles need rinsing in boiling water to separate strands before using. Dried ones require a brief simmering. There’s a similar noodle, originally Cantonese and called lai fun these short and thick dried noodles are made from rice flour and/or tapioca flour and you’ll find these dried or fresh and sometimes labelled “bun bo Hue” noodles.
Made from edible seaweed and native to Japan, these thin, clear ‘noodles’ are gaining lots of attention from the health-conscious. They are nutrient-rich (particularly in iodine), are fat and gluten-free, virtually carbohydrate-free and contain few calories. Lacking any real flavour of their own, they take on the taste of whatever they are added to and are popular in soup, salad and stir-fry dishes. They require no cooking but do need a good rinse before adding them to a recipe. Find them in the health food section of supermarkets or at health food stores.
These aren’t noodles in the traditional sense - they’re more an extruded ‘paste’ in squiggly form. Thin and gelatinous, they’re made from the corm of the konnyaku plant, also known as devil’s tongue yam. ‘Shiratiki’ means ‘white waterfall’, after the ethereal appearance of the noodles. They’re composed of water and a water-soluble fibre called glucomannan, are low in carbs, have zero calories and are gluten-free. They’re most commonly found in wet form, packaged in water inside sausage-like plastic tubes. Once opened they require a thorough rinsing as they have a distinctive smell that can be borderline unpleasant if you’re not used to it. They’re most associated with sukiyaki, a one-pot dish that’s served communally at the table. Ito konnyaku are a thicker version of shirataki.
Noodles made by blending some tofu with shirataki, resulting in a bouncier, more slippery noodle than true shirataki. A favourite of low-carb dieters, they come in a variety of shapes that mimics traditional pasta such as spaghetti, angel hair and fettuccine. Look for them in the refrigerator section of health food stores. They’re versatile, working well across all Asian noodles recipes, including soups, salads and stir-fries. They require rinsing and a thorough drying before being cooked for long enough to just heat them through.
Oodles of Noodles includes 31 delicious new recipes - find them all on our interactive map - stories and tips for buying, cooking and storing noodles. Find out more here.
A Visual Guide to the 12 Most Popular Pasta Shapes and What to Make With Them
A favorite among college bros and four-star chefs alike, pasta is the great equalizer of foods. While there&rsquos not much variation in taste when it comes to different shapes, there&rsquos no doubt that some types work better than others in specific dishes. And do you even really know what shape will show up on your plate when you order the fusilli alla vodka? Now you will.
Before you boil, know this: If you follow the directions on the box, you&rsquore overcooking your pasta. You&rsquove probably heard that regardless of shape, pasta should always be cooked al dente (which means &ldquoto the tooth,&rdquo or slightly underdone). However, pasta is typically tossed with hot tomato sauce or scraped into a sauté pan full of sizzling meat and vegetables, which means it continues to cook after it&rsquos pulled out of the water. So in reality, pasta should come out of the water when it&rsquos a few minutes away from al dente. (Unless you&rsquore one of those slap-it-in-a-bowl-with-butter-and-cheese kind of cooks&mdashthen follow your instincts and cook the pasta completely but seriously you should try Bolognese.) Al dente pasta takes about three minutes less than the instructions, but nothing&rsquos as foolproof as fishing out a noodle (or two) and taking a bite.
Take a deep breath you&rsquore about to become a pasta pro. We bet the next time you find yourself in Italy (or at your favorite local Italian restaurant), you won&rsquot have to ask the waiter the difference between conchiglie and orecchiette.
Conchiglie: These small shells have a large opening, which makes them best for dishes where fillings can get stuck inside. Think hearty meat sauces and creamy pasta salads. Oh, and of course, this shape is ideal for mac and cheese too.
Farfalle: Also known as &ldquobow-tie pasta,&rdquo farfalle (which literally translates to &ldquobutterflies&rdquo) works best in dishes with chunks of vegetables or meat. Summer pasta salads with farfalle FTW.
Fettuccine: While &ldquoAlfredo&rdquo is basically fettuccine&rsquos last name, try folding other thick sauces, like creamy tomato with browned sausage or a classic Bolognese (also known as &ldquoragu&rdquo), into these wide, flat noodles. They can take it! Red pepper and nut-based romesco is another acceptable (and encouraged) option.
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Fusilli: A windy noodle full of cracks deserves a sauce that can stick to it, like pesto. And tomato sauce and Bolognese and olive oil and&hellip we could keep going.
Linguine: Ah, linguine. Slurp it up with a light white wine and butter-based sauce and a protein. Shrimp scampi, anyone? If you&rsquore feeling a meal that takes minimal effort, it pairs perfectly with a simple combo of lemon zest, olive oil, and parsley.
Orecchiette: This pasta, which translates to &ldquolittle ears&rdquo in Italian, does well with other bite-size foods, such as broccoli, cauliflower, sausage, and cherry tomatoes. You also can&rsquot go wrong with a quick toss of peas and bacon.
Penne: Make the most of penne&rsquos ridges by throwing them into a casserole with tomato sauce and cheese for a variation of baked ziti. Penne are also known for trapping large squirts of pesto or vodka sauce inside their tubes, and are therefore friends to us (but not our white t-shirts).
Ravioli: Since it&rsquos already full of cheese or lobster or some other combination of rich things, fight fire with fire: Brown butter and sage is probably the only sauce one should ever put on ravioli. However, if you want to be complicated, you could do something with a fresh tomato sauce, which goes with everything.
Rigatoni: Thick Bolognese coats the ridge-covered outside and fills the cavernous tube&rsquos interior, making rigatoni a perfect vessel for consuming as much meat sauce as possible in every bite.
Spaghetti: We&rsquod argue that spaghetti is probably one of the most boring noodles, yet we all still love it. Carbonara (helllllo, creamy cheese sauce with bacon) is the only way to save it. Other decently acceptable sauces, such as tomato (and meatballs) or olive oil-based concoctions, should coat the noodles completely.
Tortellini: Like ravioli, tortellini are filled with cheese or meat, but can stand up to a bit more liquid&mdashwhich makes a great option for brothy soups. Otherwise, these little belly buttons need no more than a simple sauce and possibly a few veggies thrown in for good luck and bit of crunch.
Ziti: The best choice for mac and cheese (and baked ziti, of course)! Here&rsquos why: Ziti&rsquos tubular shape is perfect for trapping cheesy sauce. And just so you know, ziti are actually a type of macaroni, so any recipe that calls for ziti can easily be swapped with elbow-shaped noodles.
Casoncelli come from the town of Bergamo in Lombardy, a region of Northern Italy. This large filled pasta is typically made with fresh pasta folded over meat or a mixture of meat, cheese, raisins, or other ingredients and pressed together to resemble wrapped candy. It is usually topped with a simple sauce of melted butter, pancetta, and sage leaves.
So, tell us: Did we miss a pasta? Which type of pasta is your favorite? How do you prepare it? Let us know in the comments!