In a pinch, you can use most any kind of pasta with most any kind of pasta sauce. Would you turn down meaty, cheesy lasagna sauce poured over bow tie pasta? Of course not. But some types of pasta do pair better with certain types of sauce. Read on for the full scoop.
Angel Hair (photo): The long, delicate strands of angel hair pasta (a.k.a. capellini) are best served in light or creamy sauces. The thin strands can go M.I.A. in chunky, meaty sauces. Recipes.
Bow Tie Pasta (photo): Use bow tie pasta to dress up any dish that calls for small pasta shapes, such as penne or shells. Also known as farfalle. Recipes.
Bucatini (photo): These long, hollow spaghetti-like tubes (a.k.a. perciatelli) are unusual and fun! Try them in casseroles or Asian stir-fries, or tossed with a fresh tomato sauce. Recipes.
Cannelloni (photo): Large, tubular pasta with a smooth texture. Cannelloni is usually boiled, stuffed with a cheese or meat filling, and baked in a sauce, like its cousin manicotti, which is slightly smaller. Recipes.
Capellini: See angel hair.
Cavatelli: See shell pasta.
Conchiglie: See shell pasta.
Ditalini (photo): Medium-sized, very short tubes with smooth sides. Like most short pasta shapes, ditali are excellent used in soups, pasta salads, and to stand up to chunky sauces. Recipes.
Egg Noodles (photo): These noodles add heartiness to soups, stews and casseroles. Recipes.
Farfalle: See bow tie pasta.
Fettuccine (photo): An egg pasta cut into long, narrow ribbons. It is often served with cream sauces, as in the classic Fettuccine Alfredo. You can use fettuccine in any recipe that calls for linguine or spaghetti. Recipes.
Fusilli (photo): This long, thick, spiral-shaped pasta adds an unexpected twist to any recipe that calls for spaghetti. Recipes.
Gemelli (photo): A short, spiral pasta, versatile gemelli works well in hearty sauces, baked dishes, and lighter vegetable pasta dishes. Recipes.
Gnocchi (photo): These chewy little pasta dumplings--traditionally made from potatoes--are usually boiled and served with rich sauces. Tomato-based or herb and butter sauces also work well. Recipes.
Lasagna (photo): The name for this long, wide noodle is also the name for the dish. Lasagna (the noodle) can be both flat or with curly edges. Lasagna (the dish) is amazing. Recipes.
Linguine (photo): These long, flat noodles are slightly thicker than spaghetti. The classic Italian restaurant pairing is clam sauce, but you can use in any dish that calls for spaghetti. Recipes.
Macaroni (photo): A small, tube-shape pasta, macaroni is terrific in creamy casseroles (like macaroni and cheese) or salads (like macaroni salad). Why? Because the creamy sauce flows into the cooked tubes, giving you flavor in every bite. Recipes.
Manicotti (photo): These large-tube shaped noodles are usually filled with cheese or meat filling and baked. The surface of the pasta can be either smooth or ridged. Recipes.
Mostaccioli: See penne.
Orecchiette (photo): A small, bowl-shaped pasta usually combined with vegetables and oil rather than hearty sauces. The tiny indentations in the pasta will catch tasty bits of veggies. Recipes.
Orzo (photo): A tiny, rice-like pasta thats used to add heartiness to soups and salads. Recipes.
Penne (photo): A two-inch long, tube-shaped pasta that is cut diagonally at both ends. Great with chunky meat or vegetable sauces, as bits of the meat or veggies will slide into the pasta tubes. Also sometimes called mostaccioli. Recipes.
Radiatore (photo): Short, squat, ruffled pasta similar to rotini. They look like radiators, hence the name. Like other sturdy pasta shapes, radiatore stand out in hearty sauces or tossed with veggies in a pasta salad. Recipes.
Ravioli (photo): Little square pillows of dough, packed with finely ground or chopped fillings--from cheese to meat to pureed veggies. Serve ravioli with sauce, in soups, or just drizzled with olive oil. Recipes.
Rigatoni (photo): Short, grooved, tube-shaped "riggies" can be used in pretty much any setting, from sauces to salads to baked casseroles. Recipes.
Rotelle (photo): Shaped like wagon wheels (and also sometimes called by that name) these small, round pastas are fun for the kiddos. Use them to liven up goulash or mac and cheese. Recipes.
Rotini (photo): These kid-friendly pastas looked like smooshed corkscrews. Often used for pasta salad since bits of vegetables will cling to the grooves in the rotini. Recipes.
Shells (photo): Shell pasta comes in many different sizes. Stuff large shells with cheese and bake, like you would with manicotti, use medium-sized shells in casseroles and with meat sauces, and use the smallest shells in soups and stews. Also known as conchiglie and cavatelli. Recipes.
Spaghetti (photo): The classic long, thin, cylindrical tubes you know and love. Spaghetti is just thick enough so it doesn't get lost in that hearty family meat sauce recipe, but thin enough to serve with cream sauce, or even with just a light dressing of olive oil and garlic. Recipes.
Spaghettini: See vermicelli.
Tagliatelle (photo): A long, flat, thin noodle, similar to fettuccine. The classical pairing is with meat sauces, but you can use with light sauces as well. Recipes.
Tortellini (photo): Stuffed rings of pasta you can eat with sauce, put in soup, or just drizzle with olive oil. Sometimes sold in different colors, with the addition of beets, tomatoes, or other dyeing agents. Recipes.
Vermicelli (photo): These long strands of pasta are thinner than spaghetti but thicker than angel hair. You can use just as you would either of those. Also known as spaghettini. Recipes.
Ziti (photo): A slender, tube-shaped pasta, ziti stands up to hearty sauces and is great in baked pasta dishes. Recipes.