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The English word pasta generally refers to noodles and other food products made from a flour and water paste, often including also egg and salt. Less frequently, the term macaroni is used for the same products.

Pasta can also denote dishes in which pasta products are the primary ingredient, served with sauce or seasonings. The word comes from Italian pasta which means basically "paste", and by extension "dough", "pasta", or "pastry" as in "small cake". As recently as 1918 the English word "paste" was used instead of or alongside the Italian pasta[1]. Today the word "pasta" is reserved for Italian-style noodles in English-speaking countries, while the word "noodle" has a more general meaning.

Dried Italian-style pasta is made from durum wheat semolina or flour, which gives it a light yellow color. Asian-style noodles as well as most fresh noodles are made from regular (non-durum) wheat flour. Some pasta varieties, such as Pizzoccheri, are made from buckwheat flour.

Gnocchi are often listed among pasta dishes, although they are quite different in ingredients (mainly mashed potatoes) and mode of preparation.

Pasta is made either by extrusion, where the ingredients are forced through holes in a plate known as a die, or by lamination, in which dough is kneaded, folded, rolled to thickness, then cut by slitters. Fresh Pasta cooks quickly and has a delicate taste, but spoils quickly due to its high water content. Dry Pasta generally contains about 7% moisture, which makes it shelf stable for about a year.



Pasta was developed independently in a number of places around the globe (though some anthropologists dispute this). In each of these places, the local grain was the primary starch in the diet. Grains are normally consumed as a gruel or grain paste. Pasta noodles were developed as an alternative to a gruel or bread. Pasta noodles can be created in places where there is no oven, nor enough fuel to support an oven. In contrast, bread requires a great investment in time and effort to create. Any place you can have something dry, you can have pasta noodles.

The earliest known records of noodles in Europe are found on Etruscan tomb decorations from the 4th century BC. It is often (incorrectly) stated that Marco Polo introduced pasta to the West when he brought noodles to Italy from China, but pasta was known in Europe for many centuries before his voyage.

Thomas Jefferson is credited with bringing the first macaroni machine to America in 1789 when he returned home after serving as ambassador to France.


Common pasta sauces include pesto (a green sauce, usually from oil and basil), marinara (a red tomato-based sauce), and alfredo (a white cream sauce).

In Italy, pasta with sauce (sugo) is often called "pastasciutta" ("asciutta" means "dry," indicating that the pasta is not served in broth).

Pasta varieties

The only basic difference between these names is the shape of the pasta. The most common varieties are in bold.

Shaped Pasta

  • Campanelle - small cones (from the Italian for "bell")
  • Casarecci - short lengths rolled into an "S"
  • Cavatelli - sea shell shaped with rolled edges
  • Conchiglie - sea shell shaped
  • Conchiglioni - large stuffable sea shell shaped
  • Creste di galli - short curved and ruffled
  • Farfalle - bow tie or butterfly shaped Image
  • Farfallone - larger bow ties
  • Fiori - shaped like a flower
  • Fusilli - short lengths of twisted pasta
  • Fusilli Bucati - a more spring shaped variety
  • Gemelli - two short stands of pasta twisted together
  • Gigli - cone or flower shaped
  • Gramigna - short curled lengths of pasta
  • Lumache - snail shaped
  • Lumaconi - jumbo Lumache
  • Maltagliati - flat roughly cut triangles
  • Orecchiette - bowl or ear shaped pasta
  • Pipe - larger versions of macaroni
  • Quadrefiore - square with rippled edges
  • Radiatori - shaped like radiators
  • Ricciolini - short wide noodles with a 90-degree twist
  • Rotelle - wagon wheel shaped pasta
  • Rotini - pasta twisted into a spiral
  • Spiralini - more tightly-coiled fusilli
  • Strozzapreti - rolled across their width
  • Torchio - torch shaped
  • Trofie - thin twisted pasta

Tubular Pasta

  • Bucatini - hollow spaghetti
  • Calamarata - wide ring shaped pasta
  • Calamaretti - smaller Calamarata
  • Cannelloni - large stuffable tubes
  • Cavatappi - "S" shaped macaroni
  • Cellentani - corkscrew shaped tube
  • Chifferi - short and wide macaroni
  • Elbow macaroni - bent tubes
  • Elicoidali - slightly ribbed tube pasta
  • Fagioloni - short narrow tube
  • Garganelli - square egg noodle rolled into a tube
  • Gomiti - wide "C" shaped pasta
  • Macaroni - any narrow tube pasta
  • Maccheroni - longer macaroni
  • Maccheroncelli - hollow pencil shaped pasta
  • Maltagliati - short wide pasta with diagonally cut ends
  • Manicotti - large stuffable ridged tubes
  • Mezzani - short curved tube
  • Mezze Penne - short version of penne
  • Mezzi Bombardoni - wide short tubes
  • Mezzi Paccheri - shorter version of paccheri
  • Mostaccioli - longer version of penne
  • Paccheri - large tube
  • Pasta al ceppo - shaped like a cinnamon stick
  • Penne - medium length tubes with diagonally cut ends
  • Penne rigate - penne with ridged sides
  • Penne Zita - wider version of penne
  • Pennette - short thin version of penne
  • Pennoni - wider version of penne
  • Perciatelli - thicker bucatini
  • Rigatoncini - smaller version of rigatoni
  • Rigatoni - large and slightly curved tube
  • Sagne Incannulate - long tube formed of twisted ribbon
  • Trenne - penne shaped as a triangle
  • Trennette - smaller version of trenne
  • Tortiglioni - narrower rigatoni
  • Tuffoli - ridged rigatoni
  • Ziti - long narrow hose like tubes
  • Zitoni - wider version of Ziti

Strand Noodles

  • Angel Hair - thinner than vermicelli, thicker than capellini
  • Barbina - thin strands often coiled into nests
  • Capellini - even thinner than angel hair; thinnest spaghetti-like noodle
  • Chitarra - similar to spaghetti, except square rather than round
  • Ciriole - thicker version of chitarra
  • Fedelini - thinner than spaghettini, thicker than vermicelloni
  • Fusilli lunghi - very long fusilli
  • Spaghetti - long, round, and thin. Thinner than spaghettoni, thicker than spaghettini
  • Spaghettini - thinner than spaghetti, thicker than fedelini
  • Spaghettoni - thicker than spaghetti
  • Strangozzi - square in cross section
  • Vermicelli - thinner than vermicelloni, thicker than angel hair
  • Vermicelloni - thinner than fedelini, thicker than vermicelli

Ribbon Pasta Noodles

  • Bavette - narrower version of tagliatelle
  • Bavettine - narrower version of bavette
  • Fettuce - wider version of fettuccine
  • Fettuccine - ribbon of pasta approximately one centimeter wide
  • Fettucelle - narrower version of fettucine
  • Lasagne - very wide noodles that often have ridged sides
  • Lasagnette - narrower version of lasagna
  • Lasagnotte - longer version of lasagna
  • Linguettine - narrower version of linguine
  • Linguine - flattened spaghetti
  • Mafalde - short rectangular ribbons
  • Mafaldine - long ribbons with ruffled sides
  • Pappardelle - thick flat ribbon
  • Pillus - very thin ribbons
  • Pizzoccheri - ribbon pasta made from buckwheat
  • Reginette wide ribbon with rippled edges
  • Sagnarelli - rectangular ribbons with fluted edges
  • Stringozzi - similar to shoelaces
  • Tagliatelle - ribbon fairly thinner than fettuccine
  • Taglierini - thinner version of Tagliatelle
  • Trenette - thin ribbon ridged on one side
  • Tripoline - thick ribbon ridged on one side

Micro Pasta

  • Acini di pepe - small spheres of pasta
  • Alphabets - pasta shaped as letters of the alphabet
  • Anelli - small rings of pasta
  • Anellini - smaller version of anelli
  • Chilopitta - a squared-shaped pasta
  • Conchigliette - small shell shaped pasta
  • Corallini - small short tubes of pasta
  • Couscous - small granular pasta
  • Ditali - small short tubes
  • Ditalini - smaller versions of ditali
  • Farfalline - small bow tie shaped pasta
  • Fideos - short thin noodles
  • Filini - smaller version of fideos
  • Funghini - small mushroom shaped pasta
  • Occhi di pernice - very small rings of pasta
  • Orzo - small rice shaped pasta
  • Pearl Pasta - spheres slightly larger than acini di pepe
  • Quadrettini - small flat squares of pasta
  • Risi - smaller version of orzo
  • Seme di melone - small seed shaped pasta
  • Stelle - small star shaped pasta
  • Stelline - smaller version of stelle
  • Stortini - smaller version of elbow macaroni
  • Trachana - star shaped pasta
  • Tubetti - longer version of ditali
  • Tubettini - smaller version tubetti

Stuffed Pasta

Commercial Pasta

See also

External links

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