Your Pasta & Sauce Pairing Cheat Sheet

How texture, size, and flavor can help pair pasta shapes with sauces.

With so many pasta shapes out there, selecting the right one can make you feel like a kid in a candy store. Luckily, the kind of sauce you’re planning to make can help narrow down the type of pasta you should be using! While it’s true that you really can’t lose when combining pasta and sauce, certain shapes are ideal for different preparations. Many pasta shapes are specifically designed to cradle and complement specific ingredients, whether it’s tubular pasta with ridges designed to take on thicker, creamier cheese-based sauces, or thinner noodles that pair well with oil-based and generally lighter sauces. Check out some introductory tips on how to choose your pasta shapes below:

TUBULAR

Cylinder-shaped pastas like rigatoni or penne are great for capturing thicker sauces. The outsides have ridges carved into them, which means extra surface area to cradle that sauce. This also makes them great for dishes like baked ziti or casseroles, which can be easily filled with a mix of sauce and anything from cheese to vegetables!

Shapes: Penne, Rigatoni, Ziti, Orecchiette, Campanelle, Cannelloni, Elbow

Sauces: Alfredo, Bolognese, Pasta Alla Norma, Vodka Sauce, Arrabbiata

STUFFERS

Typically with stuffed pastas like ravioli and tortellini, the filling is based on creamier cheeses — ricotta, mozzarella, and burrata, for instance. Sometimes meat and veggies are added to serve as accents to the rich sauces coating the exterior. Fun fact: ravioli is the first pasta dish Chrissy learned how to make in culinary school, and she also recreated that same dish during a trip to Italy!

Shapes: Ravioli, Tortellini, Conchiglie, Cappelletti, Gnocchi 

Sauces: Sage Brown Butter, Marinara, Butter & Garlic, Mushroom Cream Sauce

SQUIGGLY

Squiggly-shaped pasta, like fusilli and rotini, originated by rolling and setting spaghetti around thin rods to dry and create twisted shapes. The corkscrew shape is designed to hold any sauce thrown at its curvatures, particularly thicker sauces and even grated cheese, since they can easily stick to the twisted ridges.

Shapes: Rotini, Fusilli, Cavatappi

Sauces: Mac & Cheese, Marinara, Pesto, Vodka Sauce 

THIN NOODLES

These noods tangle up beautifully with many types of sauce, making them the United Nations of pastas! Because they’re so light and thin, this shape particularly works well with simple, oil-based sauces, like puttanesca, or creamier sauces, like Chrissy’s Spicy Miso Pasta. Just be careful not to overwhelm thinner noodles (like capellini) with hearty sauces like ragu or bolognese, as the noodles will get lost in the sauce!

Shapes: Capellini, Spaghetti, Linguine, Bucatini

Sauces: Pomodoro, Carbonara, Cacio e Pepe, White Wine & Clams, Amatriciana, Butter & Garlic, Pesto

THICK NOODLES

Just like thinner pasta noodles, these thicker, wider ribbons are the perfect canvas for just about any sauce thrown at them. They’re typically paired with heavier sauces since they’re shaped much wider, and can handle the heftiness without being overwhelmed. Thicker noodles tend to also be made with an egg-based dough, and serve as carriers of creamier flavor that pair well with richer sauces like alfredo or ragu. 

Shapes: Fettuccine, Tagliatelle, Pappardelle, Lasagna

Sauces: Ragu, Bolognese, Alfredo 

Endless Pastabilities Spiral Journal
Endless Pastabilities Spiral Journal
$14.00

This kitchen journal can handle a few splatters, thanks to a wooden cover that's easy to wipe down when things get messy. Use it to jot down recipe notes and ideas (Chrissy's own sketches and note-to-self are included inside), love notes, shopping lists, and shower thoughts. The first few pages feature a reference guide with go-to conversions and measurements—add to it as you go, and when you've used all the pages, save all the good ideas you've documented inside.

The Stir-Anything Wooden Utensil Set
The Stir-Anything Wooden Utensil Set
$24.00

Grab the slotted spoon to stir and al dente-test pasta, the spatula for slicing and serving quiche and crumbles, and the spoon for everything else. Carved from olive wood that ages beautifully, these utensils also level up a tablescape—use them for serving salad, spicy slaw, and spaghetti. Olive wood has a natural oil finish, for stain resistance, a little shine and a lot of use. Use the flat, spatula-style utensil to divvy and serve quiche, brownies, berry crumbles and other treats best served warm.

You may also like

Get inspired in the kitchen

cook
chill
dine

See What We're Cooking up

Sign up for the newsletter to be the first to know about new recipes and when items drop in the Cravings shop!

Sign Up

By signing up you agree to receive recurring automated marketing messages from Cravings. View Terms and Privacy.

© Cravings by Chrissy Teigen 2022.
All rights reserved.