12 Types of Noodles You Should Have in Your Pantry (Plus What to Make with Them)

Venture beyond penne

types of noodles: dry fusilli, penne and farfalle, side by side
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You love eating pasta…but did you know that the type of noodle you use is just as important as salting the water? We don’t just mean we prefer rigatoni to ziti: Traditional Italian pasta dishes are based on a highly scientific equation of sauce + noodle shape = deliciousness, and the type of sauce—loose! creamy! chunky!—is largely what dictates the noodle choice. So you can stock your pantry with all the essentials, we’ve come up with the 12 types of noodles you should always have on hand, from twirl-worthy spaghetti to teeny-tiny anelli—and ideas for how to use each one to its (deliciously) full potential.

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12 Types of Noodles at a Glance

Read on for more details.

  • Spaghetti
  • Cavatappi
  • Tagliattelle
  • Penne
  • Maccheroni
  • Farfalle
  • Conchiglie
  • Fusilli (aka Rotini)
  • Anelli
  • Rigatoni
  • Lasagna
  • Ziti
types of noodles: spaghetti
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1. Spaghetti

You say “spaghetti,” we say, “truly versatile and in our pantry at all times.” The name comes from the Italian word for twine, and it’s a staple for many classic pasta dishes like carbonara, cacio e pepe and aglio e olio. If you’ve ever seen numbered boxes of spaghetti in the grocery aisle, those refer to the pasta’s thickness; the smaller the number, the thinner the spaghetti.

Use it in: Long, thin pasta begs for lighter cream- or oil-based sauces, but classic tomato works too. You can’t go wrong with one-pan spaghetti and meatballs.

Swap it: Angel hair is like spaghetti but thinner, spaghetti rigate has ridges and bucatini is thicker and hollow. All make excellent replacements for spaghetti.

types of noodles: cavatappi
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2. Cavatappi

Cavatappi, or corkscrew, is basically a helix-shaped version of macaroni. It’s a relatively new type of noodle, only dating back to the 1970s (and it was actually invented by Barilla).

Use it in: You’ll find cavatappi used most frequently in tomato-based pasta dishes, especially ones with cheese. But we wouldn’t say no to thinking outside the box (heh) with this avocado and black bean pasta salad.

Swap it with: Fusilli is similarly corkscrewed, and macaroni shares a tubular shape.

types of noodles: tagliatelle
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3. Tagliattelle

Tagliatelle translates to “to cut” and the long, flat ribbons are often cut by hand in their home region of Emilia-Romagna. The texture is usually porous and rough, and while you can find it dried, it’s particularly delicious when made fresh.

Use it in: The most traditional sauce pairing for tagliatelle is Bolognese, but any meat sauce will work, as well as creamy and cheesy sauces.

Swap it with: Fettuccine is almost identical but slightly narrower.

types of noodles: penne
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4. Penne

Maybe the most ubiquitous noodle on the block, the tubular pasta is named after a pen or a quill, because it was intended to imitate the shape of fountain pens when it was created. You’ll find two main types: lisce (smooth) and rigate (ridged). Its tube shape makes it a match for all kinds of sauces.

Use it in: Penne is ideal for loose, creamy sauces and recipes with finely diced ingredients, as well as stuffed or baked dishes, like this penne with five (or six) cheeses.

Swap it: Mezze rigatoni is short and wider; paccheri is very wide and smooth.

types of noodles: maccheroni
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5. Maccheroni

Is maccheroni just the fancy, Italian word for macaroni? Yes, yes it is. The short, tube-shaped pasta comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes—some are ridged, curved or pinched at one end—depending on how it was extruded. We won’t dive too far into its etymology, because all you need to know is that the name is thought to originate from the Greek root for “blessed.”

Use it in: Gooey, creamy, cheesy sauces are a match made in heaven for maccheroni’s hollow insides. Ten-minute macaroni and cheese in a mug, anyone?

Swap it: Mini penne is a similar size and shape; conchiglie is equally good at catching sauces

types of noodles: farfalle
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6. Farfalle

Whether you call it bowties or butterflies, farfalle is one of the oldest and most popular pasta shapes still around. It comes in a wide range of sizes, but the medium variety is most common in Italy and beyond.

Use it in: Farfalle pairs with creamy sauces, meat sauces and anything that will nestle itself into its nooks and crannies. Thanks to its chewy texture, it’s also a beloved choice for cold pasta dishes, like this salami, artichoke and ricotta pasta salad.

Swap it with: Fusilli has the same sauce-grabbing abilities; radiatore has a similar chewy bite.

types of noodles: conchiglie
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7. Conchiglie

Conch shells…conchiglie…get it? These shell-shaped guys are pros at picking up all sorts of sauces in both their hollow insides and ridged outsides.

Use it in: Pair conchiglie with thick, creamy sauces to ensure every bite is delicious. Or stock up on jumbo shells and make this spinach and cheese-stuffed number.

Swap it: Conchigliette is a miniature version of conchiglie; maccheroni pairs with similar sauces.

types of noodles: fusilli
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8. Fusilli (aka Rotini)

Thanks to its nooks and crannies, fusilli falls into the same category as farfalle; it just also happens to have a Seinfeld episode named after it. The corkscrew-like pasta is ideal for picking up bits and pieces in chunkier sauces. Fun fact: What Americans know as fusilli is actually called rotini.

Use it in: Since its grooves are relatively small, fusilli pairs best with small, finely chopped ingredients, like pesto or Ina Garten’s baked pasta with tomato and eggplant.

Swap it: Fusilli bucati is a similar corkscrew shape with a hollow center.

types of noodles: anelli
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9. Anelli

You might not know it by name, but you’ve probably had it in a can of Spaghetti-Os. Anelli translates to “small rings,” and it’s part of a group of tiny pasta shapes called pastine, which are ideal for bulking up simple, brothy soups.

Use it in: Italians often use it in soups, salads and baked pasta dishes, but we wouldn’t fault you for making homemade Spaghetti-Os.

Swap it with: Ditalini are smaller and chubbier; farfalline are adorable tiny bowties.

types of noodles: rigatoni
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10. Rigatoni

Rigatoni is popular in Sicily and Central Italy, and you can probably guess that the name means “ridged.” Rigatoni is a pantry staple because it’s versatile and pairs easily with kid-friendly meat sauces (or just plain old butter).

Use it in: Its ridged sides are ideal for picking up grated cheese, which is why we like to use it in place of ziti in this easy one-pan baked ziti. Its wider width makes it a fine pair for hearty, chunky meat sauces.

Swap it with: Mezze rigatoni is shorter; penne rigate is skinnier; ziti is smoother and narrower.

types of noodles: lasagna
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11. Lasagna

Lasagna (plural lasagne) is wide, flat and essential for making, well, lasagna. It’s thought to be one of the oldest types of pastas, dating back to the Middle Ages.

Use it in: Lasagna isn’t really used for anything but the eponymous casserole, but the dish has as many variations as there are pasta shapes. Ragu and bechamel are common, but spinach-based sauces, ricotta and other vegetables are equally tasty.

Swap it: Unfortunately, there aren’t any pasta shapes similar to lasagna. What can we say? She’s one in a million.

types of noodles: ziti
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12. Ziti

Ziti is a tubular, hollow noodle with a smooth exterior. Unlike penne, it's cut straight instead of diagonally. With a name that comes from the Italian words for bride and groom, ziti is traditionally served as the first course at a wedding.

Use it in: Baked ziti or any casserole, but you can also simply dress it with any chunky sauce. Its hollow center is great for catching meat, tomatoes and just about any filling.

Swap it: Rigatoni is very similar, except it has sauce-catching ridges on the outside. Mostaccioli and penne are also solid substitutes. Ditalini is a lot like ziti as well, only very short and bite-size (making it ideal for soups). Bucatini has the same tube shape, but is much longer and thinner, making it a great substitute for saucy dishes (casseroles, less so).


Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...

taryn pire

Food Editor

Taryn Pire is PureWow’s food editor and has been writing about all things delicious since 2016. She’s developed recipes, reviewed restaurants and investigated food trends at...