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Types of Pasta Commonly Used for Macaroni & Cheese

Updated February 21, 2017

Comfort food at its cheesiest, macaroni and cheese does not always have to use macaroni noodles. Different shapes of pasta appear in recipes for macaroni and cheese, depending on the type of cheese sauce used and the preparation of the dish. Think outside of the blue box and realise that macaroni and cheese is more than macaroni.

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Elbow Macaroni

Elbow macaroni's name reflects its shape of a tube of macaroni bent as an elbow. These pasta noodles have a fast cooking time, perfect for preparing with a boxed macaroni and cheese product. According to The Nibble, elbow macaroni is the most popular noodle shape for macaroni and cheese. This type of pasta also appears in cold pasta salads and soups.

Conchiglie (Shells)

Miniature shell-shaped pasta resemble conch shells. When cooked with a creamy cheese sauce, the cavity in the pasta captures a bit of the sauce holding it until the diner bites the pasta, getting both the cheese sauce and noodle in one bite, according to The Nibble.


Opt for ziti in baked macaroni and cheese dishes. This pasta, according to All Recipes, stands up well to extended cooking times in casseroles. Types of macaroni and cheese baked in a dish with a crumb topping will require a pasta with a longer cooking time, such as the thicker ziti, to avoid it from turning to mush in the oven. Penne, slightly wider with pointed tips on both ends, can subsitute for ziti in baked macaroni and cheese casseroles.

Fusilli (Corkscrew)

Fusilli, which is shaped like tiny corkscrews, works best with chunky sauces, such as macaroni and cheese with vegetables or meat mixed into it. Start Cooking notes that shaped pastas, such as fusilli, can be versatile enough for any type of sauce. Various regions have their own versions of this corkscrew-shaped pasta, differing in tightness of the spiral and length of the pasta, according to The Nibble. These pasta shapes can be stirred into a cheese sauce on the hob or baked in the oven.

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