The meal of the gods. The undisputed comfort food. A bowl of absolute bliss. Whatever your preferred name for italian food, it’s an unwavering staple among Brits, with two-thirds voting for pasta and Italian food, in general, as their favourite cuisine.
While the most popular pasta shape in the UK is officially fusilli, if you stick to these heavenly spirals you may be missing out on quite a lot. According to Italian food connoisseurs Pasta Evangelists, there are so many different types of pasta that you could quite easily try a new one every day of the year. With plenty to choose from, we thought we’d kick your pasta discovery journey off with seven shapes you probably haven’t tried before — and definitely should.
To start you off easily, gemelli is pretty much a fancy version of fusilli. The name translates to ‘twins’ in Italian, and indeed, the shape looks like two identical strands of pasta coiled around each other in a loving embrace. The name is a ruse though, as the shape is actually made from one long piece — but that won’t stop you from enjoying it. It’s a particularly strong contender on the sauce holding scale, so it can be tried with any option of your choosing, from anchovies, tomato and mascarpone sauce to sweet sausage and spinach.
Named after Princess Mafalda of Savoy’s beautiful curls, this tentacle-looking pasta shape is a long, ribbon-like option that catches sauce using squiggly edges. Delicate sauces would work wonderfully with this shape, as it is extremely tactile and provides texture on its own. A simple vodka sauce can complement it wonderfully. Alternatively, a nice, indulgent ragù will do the trick.
Conchiglie’s posh cousin, cavatelli is a shell-like pasta meaning ‘little hollows’. Uniquely, some Italian regions add ricotta cheese to the dough, making these bun-shaped works of art even more fluffy and delicious. For a traditional flavour, try adding broccoli rabe and garlic along with your cavatelli.
Campanelle (or bellflowers) pasta is akin to a cone with ruffled edges. It is beautiful as it is delicious, with each bite packing a mouthful of sauce contained in the waves of the shape. The Tuscan pasta is customarily enjoyed with venison ragù, and who are we to argue with tradition?
This Sardinian pasta will send you right to the coast of the Mediterranean. Shaped like thin, ribbed shells, they literally mean ‘dumplings’, deriving from the Latin mallolus. For Sardinians, this is more than just pasta — it represents festivity and special occasions, so much so that the dough is sometimes infused with saffron. For an authentic taste of the shape, you should give malloreddus alla campidanese a go.
An ode to the famous Pompeii volcano, the relatively modern vesuvio pasta is inspired by the view of the natural marvel. Its spiral-like form is reminiscent of a spinning top, and will go great with any sauce you enjoy with your fusilli, thanks to its similar yet more sophisticated silhouette. It can particularly be enjoyed alongside sauces from Campania, as the vesuvio pasta type is now exclusively made in this region.
7. Creste di Galli
A Neapolitan classic, creste di galli is tubular and ear-shaped with a ruffled outside edge, perfect for catching meaty sauces. Its title comes from a rooster’s comb, and can work perfectly in soups and casseroles. If you’d like to elevate your simple mac and cheese, this shape is also a fantastic alternative.