For many of us Pasta Types are the basic types that you find in the grocers.
Spaghetti, Penne, Linguine, Lasagna and Rigatoni plus some soup Pastas. The reality is that there are so many Pastas Types volumes can be written about them!
Some are specialized for a particular style of sauce and others are fanciful creations like the Ligurian specialty Corzetti which is shaped and stamped in the form of ancient coins.
The names may be different from what you know or there may be some that are missing that are your favorites. If so, I would love to know so please leave a comment and share!
Dried Pasta is simply created with flour and water. Some types of Pastas have egg, as in Parparadelle egg noodles. Other Pastas are infused with spices, vegetables and even squid ink!
Authentic Imported Italian Pasta legally can only be made with Durham Flour or Durham Semolina. If dried pasta is made with other than Durham flour it will be a softer style Pasta lacking the desired bite when cooked ("al dente" to the touch of the tooth). You will also see pastas made with Buckwheat, Whole Wheat as well as the growing in popularity Gluten Free Pasta.
The origin of pasta can be traced back to the Greeks and is mentioned in Muslim and Christian writings alike.
Contrary to belief, China was not the origin of pasta but rather derived from Arabs who conquered Sicily in the late 7th century. Marco Polo's travels were used by food industries as PR to get people in the United States to eat Pasta. See Wikipedia or lifeinitaly.com for more history.
Italians prefer their pasta cooked "al dente" where some Americans prefer it cooked scotta. (overcooked)
When cooking Pasta I use lots of salted boiling water. I don't add olive oil to my Pasta water, I feel it adds no value. I boil my Pasta (what ever shape it is) to the point where if I bite it gives resistance to my teeth but is not crunchy. The interior of the Pasta will have a slightly under-cooked appearance and texture.
Once finished I drain the Pasta immediately but never rinse it. In then toss the Pasta with a bit of olive oil, only enough to coat the Pasta and prevent it from sticking. This procedure is great for cooking Pasta ahead of time and reheating it when needed either in sauce or in boiling water to bring it back to temperature.
The classic method is to drain the Pasta reserving about a cup of water in the pot and adding that to your sauce.
The water adds back water due to evaporation in cooking as well as adds body to your pasta due to the starch in the pasta water. (as in this recipe Shrimp Fra Diavolo)
As far as what sauces to use with what Pastas there are a few rules. Pasta recipes that call out the shape should be respected as in Spaghetti Arrabiata http://realyrome.com.
This guide to the most popular pasta shapes that follows is courtesy of the National Pasta Association. www.ILovePasta.org.
What Pasta with what sauce?
It is important to choose the Pasta shape to match the style of sauce. It makes a big difference! Here are some suggestions.
Soup Pastas or Pastas for very light sauces
Alphabets, Ditali, Orzo, Abissini, Anelli Rigati, Anellini, Ave Marie, Peperini, Peperini Bucati, Primiera, Puntaletti, Semi Melone, Stellette, Filini, Risino, and Pastini
Angel hair, Capellini, Spaghetti and Vermicelli
Use for light buttered broths, light tomato sauces, light pestos or oil sauces or very light cream sauces.
Narrow Ribbon Pastas
Linguine, Tagliatelle, Taglierini , Riccetta, and Trenette
Use for light buttered broths, light tomato sauces, light pestos or oil sauces or very light cream sauces as well.
Parparadelle, Virgole, Fiocchetti,and Lasagna
Use for meat ragus, thick tomato and cream sauces
Cannelloni, Manicotti, Elbow Macaroni, Gramignetta, Penne, Rigatoni, Tubetti Zitoni, Tortigliona, Rigatini and ziti
Use for hearty tomato and meat sauces, vegetable ragus, and thick besamella sauces—the cut and holes in the pasta are created to carry the sauce.
Thicker Tube Pastas
Ditalini, Penne, Rigatoni, Tubetti, Mezza Zita, Tubetti Reginella, Tubetti Rigati, Tubetti Zita, Denti Elefante, Mezza Zita, Penne Rigate, Penne Sedanini, Mezze Penne, Mezze Penne Rigate, Penne Zita, Mezzi Rigatoni, Pennine, Pennine Rigate, Sedanini, and Ziti
Use for baked dishes, the thicker walls of the Pasta hold up well when baked and may also be par cooked for reheating.
Agnolotti, Ravioli, and Tortellini
Use for sauces that are light cream based, a simple tomato sauce or the popular buttered brown butter sage broth to let the filling flavor come through.
Fancy Shaped Pastas
Conchiglie, Conchiglioni (shells), Farfalle, Farfallette, (bow ties), Orecchiette (ears), Radiatore, Ruote (wagon wheels), Chifferetti, Chifferi Trenne, Gigli, Gnocchi, Lumachette, Siamesi
Twisted shapes for example like Fusilli, Gemelli, Cavatappi and Rotini
Use for heavier sauces or sauces where you want the Pasta to catch more of the sauce