What is the difference between types of pasta?

Each type of pasta is differentiated by its function and shape. Long pasta like spaghetti, noodles or angel hair; short pasta such as penne, screw (fusilli) and gravatinha (farfalle).

There are also oriental noodles such as lamen-type noodles and rice noodles that use rice flour instead of traditional wheat flour.

Dough type Feature Ideal for
Spaghetti Long pasta More traditional, thin and cylindrical shape. ·         Noodles

·         More liquid sauces

Linguine Long pasta Shape flatter than spaghetti. ·         Noodles

·         More liquid sauces

·         Seafood

Noodles, fettucine, tagliatelle and pappardelle Long pasta Very flat shape. They usually form a nest. They vary according to the width. ·         Light sauces that can adhere to the dough.
Vermicelli (“angel hair”) Long pasta Thinner cylindrical shape in nest. ·         Sweets (vermicelli)

·         Soups

Bucatini (“furadinho pasta”) Long pasta Cylindrical shape, thicker than spaghetti and has a hole in the middle like a straw. ·         Very liquid sauces that can enter the dough.
Penne Short pastry Short, hollow, pointed shape and with grooves for the sauce to adhere. ·         Sauces thick and with pieces.

·         Preparations in the oven (eg gratin).

Rigatoni Short pastry Thick and short cylinders, with a groove to adhere to the sauce. ·         Sauces thick and with pieces.
Fusili (“screw noodles”) Short pastry Screw shape (helical). ·         Salads

·         Light dishes

Farfalle (“tie”) Short pastry Butterfly shape (farfalle, in Italian) or bow tie (hence the nickname “tie”). ·         Salads

·         Light dishes

·         Thick sauces

Chifferi (“snail” or “elbow”) Short pastry “L” shape, cylindrical and hollow. ·         Mac and cheese
rice noodle Oriental pasta Format similar to noodles, pasta made with rice flour. ·         Oriental dishes

·         Light dishes

Lamen Oriental pasta Thin, curly shape, quick cooking. Known as noodles or oriental noodles. ·         Very liquid sauces.

·         Preparations with vegetables

Ravioli Stuffed dough Pastel format, filled with meat, cheese or vegetables. ·         Liquid sauces that match your filling.
Capeletti and Tortellini Stuffed dough Filled dough with square or triangular closure and union of the ends in an annular shape. ·         Liquid sauces that match your filling.
Jiaozi Stuffed dough Dough stuffed in the form of pastry, can be baked or fried. ·         Served with soy sauce .

The different types of pasta are produced using a dough made from wheat flour or semolina and water. Some types of pasta can carry eggs.

Long pasta

Long pasta is generally accompanied by sauces that are not too thick. Since it has a large contact surface, it should be served with more liquid sauces that can adhere better to the pasta.


Spaghetti is the most traditional type of pasta. It has a cylindrical shape and is made from a mixture of flour and eggs, it can vary according to its thickness, being classified by a numbering in which the numbers 7 and 8 have the most common thickness.

Spaghetti represents about two-thirds of all pasta consumption in the world

Spaghetti is the most versatile type of pasta, despite being a long pasta, it is found in various preparations. It is the preferred type for traditional pasta.

In addition to traditional sauces, it is suitable for salads, starters or just cooked with garlic and oil.


Linguine, unlike spaghetti, is not so cylindrical. Its shape is a little more flattened, but in general, they fulfill the same function.

The linguine has a shape between the epagette and the noodles

Noodles, fettucine, tagliatelle and pappardelle

These types of long pasta have a flattened structure and vary in width.

Noodles are the narrowest of the kind of pasta

This type of pasta is indicated for light sauces, as they adhere very well to the pasta.

As for the width, in general:

  • Noodles – 0.3 cm;
  • Fettuccine – 0.5 cm;
  • Tagliatelle – 0.75 cm;
  • Pappardelle – 1.3 cm.

Vermicelli or angel hair

The noodles-type pasta, or angel’s hair, besides being widely used in soups, is also the basis of a sweet that takes its name (vermicelli).

Vermicelli jam has a similar preparation to rice pudding and is usually decorated with cinnamon

Bucatini, the “furadinho pasta”

The bucatini is an adaptation of spaghetti, it has a cylindrical shape, but like some short pasta, it has a hole in the middle, suitable for the sauce to penetrate.

In Brazil, bucatini is better known as “furadinho pasta”

Short Pasta

Short doughs are suitable for thicker sauces or pieces of ingredients that can enter their cavities. Here are some examples.


Penne is a popular example of short pasta. It has side grooves, a skewed tip and an internal space for thick bundles to penetrate.

Penne is a good combination for cheese-based sauces


Similar to penne, rigatoni has the appearance of a piece of pipe, may have grooves to adhere the sauce and varies according to its diameter.

Rigatoni is similar to penne, but does not have its characteristic tip

Fusilli, the screw noodles

Screw pasta (fusilli) is a short spiral-shaped pasta (resembling a screw). It is ideal for lighter preparations, such as salads.

Screw noodles are widely used in salad preparation

Farfalle, “tie noodles”

Farfalle, or “tie noodles”, got its name because of its shape that resembles a bow tie. In Italian, farfalle means “butterfly”. To reach this shape, the still fresh dough is cut into squares and the sides are joined to the center.

Gravatinha pasta accompanies salads or sauces

It is a very versatile type of pasta, it can be used as penne, in thicker sauces or in salads like the “screw”.

Chifferi, snail or elbow

With many names, the chifferi is shaped like a curve. It is very famous in the United States for being the macaroni of the popular mac and cheese .

The mac and cheese American is traditionally made with pasta elbow ( “elbow pasta”)

In Brazil, this type of pasta is known as snail or elbow pasta.

Oriental pasta

According to historians, the noodles originated in China and became popular in much of Asia before reaching Europe. As in Italy, the eastern pasta has many shapes and different ways of preparation.

However, two types of pasta are popular in Brazil.

Rice noodle

Rice noodles have a shape very similar to noodles, but after cooking, they become translucent, giving dishes a special look.

Rice noodles look very different from traditional Italian pasta

People on some diets prefer rice noodles because of their greater nutritional value over traditional pasta.

Lamen noodles

Lamen pasta is very popular in Brazil. Known as noodles or oriental noodles, its short cooking time (3 minutes) has made it a favorite among people who want speed and practicality.

Lamen pasta is usually served with a mild sauce

Stuffed Pasta

Some pastas are normally made, but are used to wrap some type of stuffing before being taken to bake.


The ravioli can be square or pastel. Raviolis can be stuffed with meat, fish or vegetables and receive a sauce on top before being served.

Raviolis are stuffed and closed like pastry

Capeletti and Tortellini

They are stuffed pasta like ravioli, but to close them, join the ends forming a circle. Despite the very similar appearance, capeletti is traditionally stuffed with Italian cheese.

The tortellinis receive the filling, are closed in a triangle shape and then, join the two ends of the base


China also has its version of stuffed pasta. The guioza is stuffed with meat or vegetables and drizzled with a soy sauce.

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