If you've ever tossed delicate angel-hair pasta with
a thick, hearty sauce, you know some
pasta pairings are better than others. We've grouped
the various shapes, suggested some
sauces they work well with, and included a recipe.
Long and Thick
* Fettuccine nests, Bucatini, Fusilli, Fettuccine
* Best with: Hearty or assertive sauces, such as meat
or cream-and-cheese are best.
* Tomato-Cream Sauce.
Bring two 14 1/2-oz cans pasta-ready tomatoes to a boil.
Add 1 cup heavy cream; heat through.
Toss with 1 lb hot cooked fusilli.
Long and Thin
* Vermicelli, Capellini, Capellini nests, Spaghetti
* Best with: Simple, light tomato sauces or soupy shellfish
ones--anything that won't
overwhelm the pasta.
* Spicy Dried Tomato Sauce.
Cook 1 Tbsp minced garlic in 1/2 cup olive oil 2 minutes
Add 1/2 cup sundried tomato pieces,
1/4 tsp each crushed red pepper and salt, then
1 1/4 cups chicken broth. Simmer 3 to 5 minutes.
Toss with 1 lb hot cooked capellini.
* Elbow macaroni, Penne rigate, Cut ziti, Rigatoni,
* Best with: Chunky meat and vegetable sauces. Also
in baked pasta dishes.
* Red Pepper-Ricotta Sauce.
Cook 1 lb penne, adding 2 cups frozen green peas the
last 2 minutes.
Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water.
Add the water,
15 ounces ricotta cheese,
a 7-oz jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped,
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper.
Toss and serve with Parmesan cheese.
* Pennette, Acini di pepe, Orecchiette, Tubettini, Conchiglette,
* Best with: Soups and vegetable side dishes in which
the vegetables are cut small.
* Pasta and Bean Soup.
Simmer 3 cups chicken broth,
a 15-oz can chick-peas and
1/2 cup orzo until orzo is cooked through.
Garnish with chopped parsley and a drizzle of olive
* Ruote, Radiatore, Farfalle, Conchiglie, Rotini, Rotelle,
* Best with: Chunky sauces easily caught in the ridges
and cups. Also great for pasta
salads and baked dishes.
* Ranch Pasta Salad.
Toss 1 lb cooled, cooked Radiatore with
1 cup Ranch dressing,
2 cups quartered cherry tomatoes,
1 cup cooked shredded chicken, and
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper.
What's in a Name?
Next time the kids shout, "What's for dinner?"
tell them little worms with meat sauce.
Stars, peppercorns and, yes, even little worms are all
English translations of the Italian
names for various pasta shapes. And while Italians have
more than 200 recognized
shapes to choose from, we rarely see more than 50 on
this side of the Atlantic. Here's a
guide to 35 of the most widely available pastas, from
acini de pepe to ziti.
Acini de pepe peppercorns
Anelli little rings
Bucatini little hollows
Cannelloni large reeds
Capellini fine hairs
Ditalini little thimbles
Elbow macaroni dumplings
Farfalle bowties or butterflies
Fettuccine small ribbons
Fettuccine verde small green ribbons
Fusilli twisted spaghetti
Linguine small tongues
Mafalda girl's name
Manicotti small muffs
Mostaccioli small mustaches
Orecchiette little ears
Penne quill pens
Perciatelli small pierced
Rigatoni large grooves
Rotelle spiral shaped, larger than rotini
Rotini spirals or twists
Ruote wagon wheels
Spaghetti a length of cord
Stellini little stars
Tagliatelle cut noodle
Tripolini little bows
Tubetti little tubes
Tubettini tiny tubes
Vermicelli little worms
As a rule, pasta doesn't freeze well. The best shapes
for freezing are those used in baked
recipes. For best results, prepare the dish, then freeze
it. To bake, thaw in the refrigerator
and bake as recipe directs.
Make Over Your Own Pasta Recipes
Fat-cutting tips from our Test-Kitchen Experts
When a sauce is thickened with butter and flour and/or
lots of heavy cream, switch to
chicken broth and milk and thicken them with cornstarch.
Try reduced-fat cheeses. Or cut down the amount of full-fat
cheeses and beef up flavor
with a small amount of Parmesan.
Cut down the amount of any bacon called for, use ground
turkey instead of beef and
turkey, Italian sausage instead of pork sausage.
Add extra vegetables--carrots, peppers, mushrooms to
meat sauces so there's less meat
Pasta is easy to cook well, but it's just as easy to
end up with a pot of library paste if you
ignore the basics.
Use a large pot and plenty of water. While cooking,
the pasta needs to circulate freely.
The general rule: Four to six quarts of water per pound
Bring the water to a rapid boil before you add the pasta.
Cover the pot at this point. The lid will hold in the
heat and help the water boil more
Add the pasta slowly. For "short goods," such
as macaroni, stir the boiling water with a
long-handled spoon while pouring in the macaroni. When
cooking long pasta, such as
spaghetti, hold the bundle at one end and gradually
bend the pasta around the inside of
the pot as it softens, then stir. Keep the water boiling
and stir it now and then so the
pasta doesn't stick together or settle in a lump on
the bottom. Add salt to the water if
Keep the pasta moving and the pot uncovered. Adjust
the heat so the pasta keeps
boiling (and moving), but not so high that it cooks
too fast. Since covering the pot holds
in heat and may cause the pasta to boil over, leave
the lid off at this point.
Set a timer as soon as the pasta is boiling. Check the
package for the recommended
cooking time, but set your timer for two or three minutes
less to avoid overcooking the
Check for doneness. Remove a piece of the pasta, rinse
it quickly with cold water so you
don't burn your mouth, then bite into it. Perfect pasta
should be slightly firm in the
center. If it's not quite cooked, set your timer for
an additional minute and test again. If
the pasta is to be baked in a casserole, cook it slightly
firmer than pasta to be eaten right
Pour the cooked pasta into a colander set in the sink.
To help empty shapes that may
catch water, pick up the colander and swirl or shake
the pasta several times. If pasta will
be served right away with a sauce, just drain and serve.
If it's headed for a salad or
casserole, rinse with cold water to stop the cooking
process. A very small amount of
butter or olive oil tossed lightly with the pasta will
also help keep the strands separate.