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To reach pasta perfection every time, you need to give some more thought to your pasta and sauce pairings. Not all sauces and pasta are equal or go together well, and when you're pairing most types of pasta and sauce, your main concern is aligning the texture of the two ingredients.

There are no hard or fast rules on what specific sauce to pair with each pasta shape, but if you follow our guidelines you will be able to create an even better flavourful dish. If you have seen all these different shapes and sizes on the shelves of your favourite store, but are unfamiliar with them, we have the answer with a quick crash course on all these pastas.

Long and Thin Noodles

Thin pasta shapes like Spaghetti, Angel Hair, and Capellini tangles up beautifully and gives some texture to counteracts the smooth, light sauces. They should generally not be overwhelmed with heavy sauces as the noodles will get lost in the sauce or you risk noodle breakage if you use a too-heavy sauce.

Best paired with: Carbonara, White Wine and Clams, Marinara, Brown Butter, and Oil-based sauces.

Long and Thick Noodles

While they still don't hold up well to heavy sauces, thicker pasta shapes such as Linguine, and Bucatini are the perfect canvas for just about any sauce thrown at them. You can try pairing them with a rich, creamy sauce and because they are shaped much wider, they can handle the heftiness without being overwhelmed. For a classic Italian dish, simply fold a pesto sauce into your linguine, and voila you have an amazing and easy dish to serve.

Best paired with: Ragu, Alfredo, or Bolognese

Ribboned Pasta

Thanks to their larger surface area, flat noodles like tagliatelle and pappardelle can handle thicker pasta sauce as well as those studded with meat or vegetables. The noodles' wavy edges will envelop the heavy meat morsels.

Best paired with: Bolognese and Ragu

Short and Tubular Pasta

Rigatoni and penne serve as wonderful vessels for thicker pasta sauce. These cylinder-shaped, hollow centered pastas are perfect to hold chunky ingredients and heavy sauces. It is a diner's delight if small pieces of meat and vegetables are found nestled inside the pasta.

Best paired with: Alfredo, Bolognese, Ragu, and spicy Arrabbiata

Twisted Pasta

Twisted noodles such as rotini and fusilli possess little nooks and crannies that capture and hold the sauce and make them perfect for locking in flavour. These shapes work well with sauces that contain small bits of meat, cheese, or vegetables or lighter and smoother sauces will also work fine since they can be coated easily. They also serve as a base ingredient in pasta salad and soup, where they mingle with thin dressings or broths.

Best paired with: Pesto, Marinara, and Carbonara

Shell Pasta

Shell-shaped pasta meshes well with a wide variety of sauces, as long as you consider the size of the shells. Try pairing them with either hefty creamy or chunky vegetable sauces, and as they hold the sauces extremely well you will get a burst of flavour with each bite taken. You can also pair them with sauces like pesto or olive oil and garlic sauce.

Best paired with: Pesto, Marinara, Alfredo

Large and Wide Pasta

If your aim is to load your pasta with not just a heavy sauce, but also layers of cheese, vegetables, and meat, then wide pasta is your best choice. The biggest challenge is to decide either to layer or to stack. Lasagna let you opt to stack with alternative layers of pasta, sauce, and filling. For a stuffed option, you can turn to large shells or manicotti. Try filling them with a blend of ricotta and mozzarella and then topping them with marinara sauce.

Best paired with : Bolognese, Béchamel an Marinara.

Stuffed Pasta

Another element of flavour is brought together with stuffed pasta. Not only do filled portions of pasta like tortellini and ravioli provide a chewy pasta texture, but the centerpiece of the stuffed pasta also carries a unique flavour and you want your sauce to complement, and not overpower it. Some tried and tested combinations include mushroom-filled ravioli with a brown butter sauce or ricotta tortellini in a simple yet bright marinara.

Best paired with: Sage Brown Butter, Marinara, Butter and Garlic, Mushroom Cream Sauce

Understanding pasta sauce and shape pairing is just one example of the work that goes into creating an aesthetically pleasing dish. Once you have mastered pairing the right pasta with the right sauce you are free to experiment and add your personal touches to create your pasta dish

If you are craving more Italian or would like to explore the world of taste, texture, and aroma, you may enjoy our Italian-inspired fun cooking class on Wednesday, 9 November at 18h00 to learn how to cook like an Italian. Enquiries can be sent to or WhatsApp us at 072 645 5167


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