There are hundreds of different types of pasta, and the soft, cooked noodles are presented in various dishes. Used in everything from macaroni and cheese to fettuccine alfredo, each type of pasta has a distinct shape and size that sets it apart from the others. Pasta can either be freshly made and refrigerated, or dried--allowing it to be stored for up to two years.
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Long pasta is generally any pasta noodle that comes in long strands and can be easily twisted around a fork. Spaghetti is perhaps the most common example of long pasta. Others include linguine, which is a narrow and flat noodle (although it may also be categorised as a ribbon pasta); vermicelli, a thin and fine variation of spaghetti; and bucatini. Spaghettini, capellini, bigoli and pinci are also classified as long pastas.
Ribbon pastas are similar to long pastas, but the ribbon category features flat-cut pastas exclusively. Fettuccine is the standard ribbon pasta. It is usually made fresh with eggs, and each strand is approximately 1/5 to 1/4 inch wide. Lasagne is a common ribbon pasta that is layered with vegetables, meat and sauce to make dishes, such as lasagne. Other ribbon pastas include tagliatelle, pappardelle and scialatielli.
Tubular pasta comes in many shapes, sizes and cuts, but all of the noodles resemble hollow tubes. Penne, a pasta cut on the diagonal, is a basic tubular pasta. Rigatoni is a larger, ridged version of penne, while ziti is the miniature version. Manicotti and elbow macaroni are also common tube pastas. Other tubes include cavatappi, garganelli and maccheroni.
There are many ways to shape and form pasta, so there is a seemingly endless variety of shaped pastas. Prominent examples are the bow tie-shaped farfalle, the corkscrew fusilli, spiral-shaped rotini and wagon wheel-shaped ruote. Other varieties include ditallini, conchiglie (shells), orecchiette, cavatelli and pastina.
The stuffed pasta category includes pastas that are filled with meat, vegetables and/or cheeses, as well as gnocchi--a dumpling-style pasta. Perhaps the most common stuffed pasta is ravioli. The name has become a kind of generic term for many flat, stuffed pastas. Mezzalune is a half moon-shaped variation of ravioli, and tortellini is made by filling circles of pasta, folding them over and wrapping around a finger. Additional varieties of stuffed pasta include agnolotti, tortelloni and culingiones.
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