Pasta with spring vegetables

How to pick the perfect pasta shape for your dinner

October 25 marks World Pasta Day - here's how to celebrate the food in all its glory

By Rebecca Shepherd, 25 October 2017
How to pick the perfect pasta shape for your dinner

Whether it's tossed in olive oil and perfectly seasoned, mixed in a rich Bolognese sauce or simply topped with some delicious cheese - pasta will forever reign supreme when it comes to eating a satisfyingly bowl of comfort food. 

According to the history books, the versatile Italian staple first made its way onto our ancestors' plates in 1154. Fast forward more than 800 years and the easy-to-cook food has cemented its place in history with restaurants far and wide serving up a range of dishes featuring different shapes and sizes of pasta. But the different designs of pasta aren't just there to look good on your plate. 

"All pasta shapes are designed to carry sauces in different ways," food assistant, Vanessa Graham, tells us. "Traditionally, in many parts of Italy, pasta is the focus of dish, and the sauce is just the dressing, as opposed to how we eat spag Bol in the UK with heaps of meaty sauce piled on top."

As a rule of thumb, larger pasta shapes work better with thicker, often meaty sauces whereas thinner shapes like lighter, creamy sauces. From farfalle to penne and our beloved spaghetti too - here's our round up of our favourite pasta varieties, what dishes they work best in and why. 


Often referred to as the bow-tie-looking pasta, the name farfalle is derived from the Italian word farfalla. Vanessa says, "the 'e' at the end of the word is the Italian feminine plural ending, making the meaning of the word 'butterflies'." This type of pasta works well with rich tomato or cheese sauces because it has a small pasta shape with a large surface area - helping to stick to the sauce. Try making this rich cheesy recipe with a pea & ham sauce


The long, thin, cylindrical, solid pasta has held a place in our hearts since the famous Bella Notte scene in The Lady and the Tramp. Although us Brits serve it up with Bolognese sauce it actually pairs better with creamy or oil-based sauces. The sauce sticks nicely to the pasta so you can enjoy each mouthful with the right amount of spaghetti and sauce. Try it in our classic carbonara with crispy bacon and Parmesan. 


Larger and thicker pasta shapes can stand up to bigger, richer flavours like a slow cooked ragu (you have to try our pulled pork version). The large pieces of tagliatelle or pappardelle can also pick up the sauce, meaning you're not left with lots of sauce at the end of your meal. Try using one of the larger varieties of pasta the next time you make a Bolognese and see if you like it!


These short quills are hollow helping to hide and pick up lashings of sauce inside the shell. Penne is therefore a great pasta to serve with fairly thick creamy or tomato-based sauces and works wonders in pasta bakes and pasta pies as the little tubes can stick together and hold their shape, much like Rigatoni. Try our butternut squash pasta bake, which has been topped with breadcrumbs and Cheddar.

Feeling inspired to create a pasta dish? Make sure you stock up on everything you need at Asda or pop into your local store.