15 Types of Pasta to Try in Italy on Vacation

September 22, 2023

Discover the different types of pasta in Italy – from beloved classics to unique regional varieties. Explore Italian pasta culture!

Pasta lovers around the world unite! Italy, the birthplace of this beloved staple, boasts an incredible array of pasta types that can make your head spin. This comprehensive guide will unravel the intriguing world of pasta in Italy. From the famous classics like spaghetti and lasagna to the lesser-known treasures of regional cuisine, we’ll explore it all. So, put on your chef’s hat and dive into the tantalizing world of Italian pasta.

Different types of pasta noodles in Italy: Exploring Italy’s Pasta Culture

Pasta, a culinary delight loved by people worldwide, comes in many shapes and sizes. From comforting classics like spaghetti to exotic varieties like farfalle, the world of pasta is a treasure trove waiting to be explored. In this detailed guide, we’ll delve into the fascinating universe of pasta, discovering various types, their origins, and the perfect ways to enjoy them. So, grab your fork and prepare for a mouthwatering journey through the diverse world of pasta.

Types of Pastas in Italy

1. Spaghetti – The Timeless Classic
2. Penne – A Versatile Choice
3. Farfalle – The Butterfly-Like Elegance
4. Fusulli – The Spiraled Charm
5. Rigatoni – Hollow Tubes of Goodness
6. Linguine – The Long and Elegant
7. Orzo – The Rice-Like Charm
8. Fettuccine – Wide and Wonderful
9. Rotoni – The Spiraled Beauty
10. Cavatappi – The excellent texture
11. Pappardelle – The Broad and Silky Elegance
12. Orecchiette – Little Ears of Puglia
13. Gnocchi – Pillows of Potato Goodness
14. Lasagna – The Layered Beauty
15. Cannelloni – The Tube of Versatility

1. Spaghetti – The Timeless Classic

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Spaghetti is perhaps the most iconic pasta variety, adored by people worldwide. Its long, thin, cylindrical shape is perfect for twirling around your fork. People typically serve it with various sauces, but the classic pairings are spaghetti alla carbonara or aglio e olio. Don’t miss the opportunity to savor this quintessential pasta in Italy.

One of Spaghetti’s greatest attributes is its versatility. It pairs well with various sauces, from simple olive oil and garlic to complex meat-based ragù. Its ability to complement various flavors and ingredients makes it a canvas for culinary creativity.

Different regions of Italy may have unique pasta dishes and sauces, but people commonly use versatile spaghetti throughout the country. Whether you’re in the northern regions like Lombardy and Piedmont, the central regions like Tuscany and Lazio, or the southern regions like Campania and Sicily, you’ll find spaghetti on menus and in home-cooked meals. The preparation of spaghetti and the sauces it’s paired with can vary widely from one region to another, showcasing the rich diversity of Italian culinary traditions.

Italy’s classic pasta, spaghetti, is commonly found in Sicilian dishes you can try during a Sicily tour and vacation.

2. Penne – A Versatile Choice

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Penne pasta’s cylindrical shape with angled ends, resembling a quill or pen, gives it its name (“penne” means “pen” in Italian).  People commonly use versatile penne pasta in various Italian dishes. Different regions of Italy may incorporate penne into their regional cuisine, preparing it with a wide range of sauces and ingredients. Whether you’re in the northern regions of Italy like Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna, the central regions like Umbria and Marche, or the southern regions like Calabria and Puglia, you can find penne pasta dishes on menus and in home-cooked meals. The preparation and sauces may vary from region to region, showcasing the diversity of Italian culinary traditions.

Penne is easily recognizable by its straight-cut, tubular shape with a diagonal cut at each end. This design is not just for aesthetics; it serves a functional purpose. The hollow center and diagonal cuts make Penne an excellent sauce-capturing pasta. Whether you’re indulging in a creamy Alfredo or a chunky marinara, Penne ensures that every bite is flavorful.

3. Farfalle – The Butterfly-Like Elegance

The Butterfly, Like Elegance -Farfalle
The Butterfly, Like Elegance -Farfalle

Farfalle pasta achieves its butterfly or bowtie shape by pinching the pasta squares in the center, making it easily recognizable. This distinctive design adds visual appeal and serves a practical purpose. The folded center allows Farfalle to hold onto sauces beautifully, ensuring each bite perfectly combines pasta and flavor.

One of the most endearing qualities of Pasta Farfalle is its playful appearance. It’s not just about taste but also about the joy it brings to your plate. Farfalle’s unique shape invites creativity in the kitchen, making it an excellent choice for both traditional and innovative recipes.

People throughout Italy enjoy farfalle pasta, demonstrating the rich and varied Italian pasta culture. This pasta variety is not limited to a specific region in Italy.

4. Fusilli – The Spiraled Charm

The Spiraled Charm - Fusilli
The Spiraled Charm – Fusilli

Pasta Fusilli features a tightly coiled, spiral-shaped structure. These spirals are visually appealing and serve a functional purpose in holding onto sauces. The nooks and crannies created by the spirals make Fusilli an excellent choice for both creamy and chunky sauces. This versatility sets it apart from other pasta shapes.

One of the key attractions of Pasta Fusilli is its adaptability. Fusilli can be the canvas for your culinary creativity, whether you’re a fan of red sauces, creamy sauces, or a medley of fresh ingredients. Its ability to hold onto flavors and textures makes it a popular choice in both traditional and contemporary Italian cuisine.

Fusilli is not associated with a specific region in Italy; it’s a pasta variety enjoyed throughout the country, contributing to the delicious tapestry of Italian cuisine. While embarking on a personalized Southern Italy tour, you’ll have the opportunity to savor dishes that showcase the delectable pairings of fusilli, often served as the primo course during both lunch and dinner.

5. Rigatoni – Hollow Tubes of Goodness

ItOne of the best pasta in Italy is Rigatoni
One of the best pasta in Italy is Rigatoni

Rigatoni is characterized by its large, ridged tubes. These ridges are not merely for aesthetics; they serve a practical purpose. They capture and hold onto sauces exceptionally well, ensuring that every bite is infused with flavor. The shape of Rigatoni sets it apart from other pasta varieties, making it a standout choice for a wide range of dishes.

One of Rigatoni’s most appealing qualities is its adaptability. It complements various sauces, from the hearty and meaty to the creamy and cheesy. Whether you’re a fan of classic Italian recipes or enjoy experimenting with flavors, Rigatoni provides a versatile canvas for culinary creativity.

Rigatoni is a type of pasta that is popular and widely enjoyed throughout Italy. It is not limited to a specific region but is used in various Italian dishes across the entire country. You often embody the robust flavors unique to Italian cuisine during your Italy travels, especially when on an Amalfi Coast and Sicily itinerary.

6. Linguine – The Long and Elegant

Pasta Linguine - Originated in Liguria Region, Italy
Pasta Linguine – Originated in Liguria Region, Italy

Linguine is a type of pasta that originated in Italy, particularly in the Liguria region. The name “linguine” itself derives from the Italian word “lingua,” which means “tongue,” because linguine is flat and long like a tongue. This pasta’s design pairs perfectly with a wide range of sauces and ingredients, making it a versatile choice for various dishes.

Linguine is traditionally associated with Ligurian cuisine and frequently appears in dishes from this region. Liguria, situated in northwestern Italy, gains fame for its coastal cities like Genoa and the Italian Riviera, and it’s renowned for its fresh seafood and herb-infused sauces. Linguine’s flat shape allows it to pair beautifully with various seafood-based sauces and pesto, which are prevalent in Ligurian cooking.

7. Orzo – The Rice-Like Charm

Pasta Orzo Dish
Pasta Orzo Dish

Orzo pasta gets its name from the Italian word for “barley,” which it closely resembles in shape and size. Its small, rice-shaped grains make it a versatile ingredient in both savory and sweet dishes. Despite its diminutive stature, Orzo adds a delightful texture and flavor to a variety of recipes.

One of Orzo’s most appealing qualities is its adaptability. It seamlessly transitions from savory dishes to sweet desserts, making it a versatile addition to your culinary repertoire.

Orzo is believed to have been first created in Italy, where it has been a part of Italian cuisine for centuries.

8. Fettuccine – Wide and Wonderful

One of the known pasta worldwide is Fettucine
One of the known pasta worldwide is Fettucine

Fettuccine is easily distinguishable by its wide, flat shape, which sets it apart from traditional thin spaghetti. This broad surface area allows Fettuccine to capture and hold onto sauces exceptionally well. Its name, which means “little ribbons” in Italian, reflects its graceful appearance and how it can drape sauces beautifully.

Fettuccine is traditionally associated with Italian cuisine, particularly from the central regions of Italy, including Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany.

One of the most famous dishes featuring fettuccine is Fettuccine Alfredo, which was popularized in Rome. This dish combines fettuccine pasta with a creamy sauce made from butter and Parmesan cheese. It has become an iconic Italian-American classic enjoyed worldwide.

Indulging in your very first bite of lasagna is an unforgettable experience, especially when you’re on one of Zitango’s exclusive itineraries to Emilia-Romagna.

9. Rotini – The Spiraled Beauty

Pasta Rotini - Originated in Italy
Pasta Rotini – Originated in Italy

Rotini is a type of pasta that originated in Italy. Furthermore, its name derives from the Italian word “rotare,” which means “to rotate” or “to twist,” describing the pasta’s characteristic spiral or corkscrew shape.

The history of pasta rotini is deeply intertwined with Italian culinary traditions. This belief traces its origins to Southern Italy, where the warm climate and fertile soil create ideal conditions for wheat cultivation. This region’s pasta-making expertise dates back centuries, making it a cradle of pasta innovation.

One of Rotini’s most appealing qualities is its adaptability. Its spiral shape pairs well with various sauces, from simple tomato and basil to creamy Alfredo or bold pesto. Whether you prefer meat, seafood, or vegetarian, Rotini can accommodate various culinary preferences.

10. Cavatappi – The excellent texture

Pasta Cavatappi - Southern Italy
Pasta Cavatappi – Southern Italy

Cavatappi is a type of pasta that originated in Italy. The name “cavatappi” is derived from the Italian words “cava,” meaning “hollow,” and “tappo,” meaning “cork” or “plug.” This name reflects the pasta’s unique tubular and ridged shape, which resembles a corkscrew or a hollow cylinder with ridges.

One of Cavatappi’s most appealing qualities is its adaptability. Its spiral shape and ridges allow it to capture and hold a variety of sauces, making it a versatile addition to your culinary repertoire. Whether you prefer classic Italian recipes or want to experiment with new flavors, Cavatappi can accommodate various culinary preferences.

11. Pappardelle – The Broad and Silky Elegance

Pasta Pappardelle Tuscany
Pasta Pappardelle Tuscany

Pappardelle is a type of pasta that originated in Italy. Additionally, the name “pappardelle” comes from the Tuscan dialect word “pappare,” which means “to gobble up” or “to eat with enthusiasm.” This name reflects the pasta’s broad, flat, ribbon-like shape, encouraging hearty and flavorful eating experiences.

Pappardelle is traditionally associated with Tuscan and central Italian cuisine, particularly in regions like Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna. It is known for its wide, flat noodles, which create an ideal canvas for the types of pasta sauces rich and robust. Pappardelle often appears in dishes featuring meat-based sauces, like wild boar ragu or hearty beef stews.

Discover innovative approaches to savoring traditional Italian cuisine while journeying with our Rome and the Art Cities of Tuscany, and enjoy Pappardelle al Cinghiale dish when you are in Tuscany.

12. Orecchiette – Little Ears of Puglia

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Orecchiette is a type of pasta that originated in Southern Italy, specifically in the region of Apulia (Puglia in Italian). The name “orecchiette” translates to “little ears” in Italian, and it refers to the pasta’s distinctive shape, which resembles small, concave disks or, as the name suggests, little ears. Orecchiette’s design allows it to cradle ingredients, ensuring each bite is a delightful combination of pasta and flavor.

Located in southeastern Italy, Apulia is known for its agricultural traditions and simple yet flavorful cuisine. Furthermore, orecchiette is a traditional pasta shape in Apulia and has been a part of the regional culinary heritage for generations.

This pasta’s unique shape allows it to cradle and hold onto sauces and ingredients effectively, making it a favorite in Apulian dishes. Moreover, one of the most famous dishes featuring orecchiette is “Orecchiette alle Cime di Rapa,” which combines the pasta with sautéed broccoli rabe, garlic, and chili flakes, often finished with a sprinkle of grated Pecorino cheese. Consequently, this dish is considered a classic of Apulian cuisine.

One of Orecchiette’s most appealing qualities is its adaptability. It’s concave shape and sturdy texture make it an excellent choice for various sauces and ingredients. Orecchiette can accommodate various culinary preferences, whether you prefer a vegetarian, meaty, or seafood-based dish.

Discover innovative approaches to savoring traditional Italian cuisine on your trip to Italy with our Italian pasta dishes guide.

13. Gnocchi – Pillows of Potato Goodness

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Small, oval-shaped dumplings, typically made from a blend of potatoes, flour, and eggs, easily identify gnocchi. The word “gnocchi” itself means “dumplings” in Italian. Their soft and delicate texture sets them apart from traditional pasta shapes, making them a favorite comfort food in Italian and international cuisines.

One of Gnocchi’s most appealing qualities is its adaptability. These little dumplings pair well with a wide range of sauces, from classic tomato to creamy Alfredo or herb-infused olive oil. Whether you prefer vegetarian, meaty, or seafood-based dishes, Gnocchi can accommodate various culinary preferences.

Gnocchi, the renowned Italian pasta resembling small cork-like dough dumplings, takes center stage in dishes throughout Veneto, a region that encompasses the grace and allure of Venice’s iconic canals, making it a must-visit destination during your Venice tours and vacations.

14. Lasagna – The Layered Beauty

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Lasagna is easily recognizable by its flat rectangular sheets, traditionally made from durum wheat semolina. Additionally, these pasta sheets are the foundation for layer upon layer of delicious ingredients, including sauce, cheese, and various fillings. Consequently, the result is a casserole-style dish that’s as visually appealing as it is flavorful.

Lasagna is a pasta originating in Italy and is an integral part of Italian cuisine. The name “lasagna” refers to both the pasta itself and the layered dish made with it. Lasagna features flat sheets of pasta that people traditionally layer with various ingredients like sauce, cheese, and sometimes meat or vegetables.

The history of lasagna traces back to ancient Greece, where people prepared layered pasta dishes similar to lasagna.” However, it was in Italy, particularly in the regions of Emilia-Romagna and Campania, where lasagna as we know it today evolved.

In Emilia-Romagna, especially in the city of Bologna, lasagna gained fame for its rich and hearty Bolognese sauce, a meat-based sauce crafted with ingredients such as ground beef, tomatoes, and wine. Lasagna alla Bolognese, with its layers of pasta, Bolognese sauce, béchamel sauce, and Parmesan cheese, is a classic Italian dish that has gained international recognition.

One of Lasagna’s most appealing qualities is its heartiness. Each bite combines pasta, sauce, and cheese layers, creating a satisfying and comforting meal. Delve deeper into Italy’s breathtaking Campania region and its seamless connection with the ingredients that define local cuisine as you explore the most romantic places in Italy for couples with our guide.

15. Cannelloni – The Tube of Versatility

Homemade-Cannelloni
Homemade Cannelloni

Cannelloni is a type of pasta that originated in Italy. The name “cannelloni” derives from the Italian word “canna,” which means “tube” or “cylinder. People typically stuff large, cylindrical pasta tubes called cannelloni with various fillings, such as ricotta cheese, spinach, meat, or seafood.

Cannelloni traces its origins back to various regions of Italy, particularly in the central and southern parts of the country. Consequently, this pasta shape has been integral to Italian culinary traditions for generations.

Cannelloni’s versatility in accommodating different fillings and sauces has made it a popular choice in Italian cooking. It is often baked in the oven with a sauce and cheese topping, creating a hearty and satisfying dish.

These are just a few types of pasta noodles found in Italian cuisine. Italy’s diverse regions each have their own pasta specialties and regional dishes, contributing to the rich tapestry of Italian culinary traditions. Explore more ideas and inspiration on how to experience your perfect trip by visiting our Italy tours & vacations to find sample itineraries you can customize. You can also learn more about how to plan your trip with Zitango’s Italy Destination Specialists.


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