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Types of Pasta

Pasta may very well be one of the most popular carbohydrates in the culinary world! It can be served on its own with a drizzle of olive oil, or it can be topped off with a savory sauce. You can even add noodles to casseroles, soups, and salads. With so many types of pasta, it may be difficult to decide which noodles to use in your various dishes. We’ve provided a guide to walk you through some pasta basics, so you can choose noodles of the proper shape, size, and texture for your complementary sauces.

Dry Pasta vs. Fresh Pasta

Dry pasta is made from semolina flour and water. These ingredients are mixed into a paste and then pushed through molds and cut into different types of pasta shapes. Once the dough has been shaped, it is put through a drying process that extracts all the moisture. Since dry noodles contain no moisture, they have a longer shelf life than fresh noodles, and they can last up to two years if the packaging is unopened.

Dry pasta can also be cooked al dente, whereas fresh pasta has a softer texture once it's been cooked. This makes the dry type best suited when making soups, casseroles, and dishes with heartier sauces because its firm texture will hold up better with the other ingredients.

Fresh pasta is typically made from white flour, and eggs are substituted in place of water to provide extra moisture. These noodles can be made fresh in-house with a pasta machine or cutter. The shaped noodles are then left out to partially dry. Once you're ready to cook your fresh noodles, simply rehydrate them by boiling them in water, like you would with dry noodles.

Since fresh pasta is softer than dry pasta once it has been cooked, it's best served with delicate sauces, olive oil, or creamy cheese. The soft texture of the fresh noodles won't be overpowered when used with these lighter ingredients.

Glossary of Terms

If you've ever looked at a recipe or Italian menu, you may have been confused by some of the vocabulary used to describe pasta. Before we start going over the types of pasta noodles, it's important to understand some basic terms you'll run into.

  • Al dente. Meaning “to the tooth” in Italian, this term refers to fully cooked pasta that is still a bit firm, which gives it an appealing texture.
  • Alfredo. A white sauce made with cream, butter, parmesan cheese, and black pepper.
  • Asiago. Asiago is a popular hard Italian cheese that’s used for grating. Add it to sauces or use it as a garnish.
  • Bolognese. Bolognese is a ragu pasta sauce native to the Bologne area of Italy. Traditionally, it contains finely chopped meats, onions, celery, carrots, and tomato paste.
  • Carbonara. Carbonara is a white cream and pork pasta sauce.
  • Colander. A colander is a kitchen tool used to drain water from your pot of cooked pasta.
  • Durum. Durum is a hard wheat that’s high in protein and gluten. It also has a low moisture content and a long shelf life.
  • Ini and Oni. If you’re trying to choose between fusillini, fusilli, and fusillioni, the name of the pasta type that ends with the suffix –ini will be the smaller version, and the name of the pasta type that ends with the suffix -oni will be the larger version.
  • Pomodoro. Pomodoro is simply a meatless tomato sauce.
  • Rigate. The term rigate means “with ridges.” These noodles have greater texture, so they’ll cling to sauces, seasonings, meats, and vegetables when lifted from the plate.
  • Semolina. Semolina flour is the course flour used to make dry pasta. It’s made from the high-protein durum wheat.
  • Soffritto. This cooking term means “under-fried.” Typically, vegetables are lightly fried in oil before they’re added to the sauce for further cooking.

Types of Pasta Noodles

Type of Noodle Description
Angel Hair Pasta 1 lb. Bag - 20/Case

Angel Hair


Description: Very fine, delicate strands

Cooking Time: 3 – 5 minutes

Best for: Tossing with light sauce

Ideal sauces and ingredients: Light tomato, olive oil, light cream, butter, seafood

Available sizes: 1 lb.

Medium Egg Noodles - 10 lb.

Egg Noodles


Description: Very hearty, rich in flavor, and deep in color

Cooking Time: 6 – 8 minutes

Best for: Adding into thicker stews, soups, sauces, and casseroles

Ideal sauces and ingredients: Thick stews, stroganoff, butter, chicken broth

Available sizes: 10 lb.

Fettuccine Pasta - (20) 1 lb. Bags / Case - 20/Case

Fettuccine


Description: Long, flat egg noodles that are about 1/4" wide

Cooking Time: 10 – 12 minutes

Best for: Tossing with sauce

Ideal sauces and ingredients: Alfredo, cream, cheese, meat, seafood

Available sizes: 1 lb.

1 lb. Linguine Pasta Bag - 20/Case

Linguine


Description: Long, flat noodles about 1/8" wide

Cooking Time: 10 – 12 minutes

Best for: Tossing with sauce

Ideal sauces and ingredients: Tomato, pesto, olive oil, seafood

Available sizes: 1 lb.

Elbow Macaroni - 20 lb.

Macaroni


Description: Short, C-shaped tubes

Cooking Time: 6 – 8 minutes

Best for: Baked dishes, salads, soups, macaroni and cheese

Ideal sauces and ingredients: Cheese, butter, broth

Available sizes: 1 lb., 20 lb.

Tricolor Penne Rigate Pasta 12 oz. Bag   - 12/Case

Penne Rigate


Description: Small tubes that are typically 2 – 4" long, available in white or tri-color

Cooking Time: 10 – 12 minutes

Best for: Tossing with sauce

Ideal sauces and ingredients: Chunky tomato, meat, cream, vegetables

Available sizes: 12 oz., 1 lb., 20 lb.

Rigatoni Pasta 1 lb. Bags   - 20/Case

Rigatoni


Description: Short tubes about 1 1/2" long and 3/4" diameter, with ridges

Cooking Time: 11 – 13 minutes

Best for: Tossing with sauce, baked dishes

Ideal sauces and ingredients: Chunky meat or vegetable, cream, cheese

Available sizes: 1 lb.

Tricolor Rotini Pasta - (12) 12 oz. Bags / Case

Rotini


Description: Spiral-shaped to retain sauces and ingredients, available in white or tri-color

Cooking Time: 10 – 12 minutes

Best for: Tossing with sauce, pasta salad

Ideal sauces and ingredients: Tomato, cream, vinaigrette, meat

Available sizes: 12 oz., 1 lb., 20 lb.

Shell Pasta - 20 lb.

Shells


Description: Small shell shape with an open cavity that collects sauce, seasoning, and meat

Cooking Time: 10 – 12 minutes

Best for: Baked dishes, salads, macaroni and cheese

Ideal sauces and ingredients: Tomato, cream, cheese, vinaigrette, meat, vegetable

Available sizes: 20 lb.

Spaghetti Pasta 1 lb. Bag   - 20/Case

Spaghetti


Description: Thin round strands that are about 10" long, available in white or wheat

Cooking Time: 9 – 11 minutes

Best for: Tossing with sauce

Ideal sauces and ingredients: Tomato, pesto, meat, seafood

Available sizes: 1 lb., 20 lb.

Ziti Pasta - 20 lb.

Ziti


Description: Medium-width tubes that are at least 2" long

Cooking Time: 10 – 12 minutes

Best for: Baked dishes

Ideal sauces and ingredients: Light tomato, olive oil, cream, cheese

Available sizes: 20 lb.

Pasta Color Comparison

Now that you understand the difference between the various pasta types, you're faced with another decision: color. Like bread, you can also choose between white and whole wheat pasta. We've even thrown tri-color pasta into the mix. Many of our noodle types are available in more than one of these options. But, how do you decide which type to choose for your recipe? Check out the chart below for some tips.
Pasta Color Description

White Pasta


 Made from 100% durum wheat semolina

 Neutral, appetizing color that contrasts well with all types of sauces

Wheat Pasta


 Made from whole wheat flour for higher protein content

 Higher nutritional content than white pasta, making it appealing to health-conscious customers

Tri-Color Pasta


 Offers a mix of white, green, and red noodles for an enhanced visual appeal that’s ideal for pasta salads and kids' meals

 Includes spinach and tomato infused noodles for slight diversity in flavor

Optional Cooking Tips

When creating a pasta-based dish, it’s important to prepare all other ingredients in the recipe, including sauce, vegetables, seafood, and meats, first. Since pasta is best served as soon as it’s cooked, you can simply add the finished noodles to your already-prepared dish. When cooking your pasta, consider some of the optional tips we’ve listed below:

  • Use 4 -6 qt. of water to every 1 lb. of pasta.
  • Boil water and cook pasta in a pasta cooker to eliminate the use of a colander.
  • Add 1 tbsp. of sea salt per 1 lb. of pasta to boiling water to add flavor to noodles.
  • Add 1 tbsp. of olive oil per 1 lb. of pasta to boiling water to prevent noodles from clumping together once drained.
  • While cooking, frequently stir pasta with a wooden spoon to prevent clumping.
  • If you want al dente pasta, set your timer for one minute less than the minimum cooking time specified on the package.
  • Immediately after the timer goes off, fish a few noodles out of the pot using a pasta server or slotted spoon to see if they’re cooked al dente or soft enough for your preference. If done, drain immediately.
  • Rinse cooked, drained pasta in ice water to prevent it from cooking further.

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