If spaghetti and elbow macaroni are what you tend to order or reach for, then step out of your comfort zone and try some different types and shapes of pasta in your favorite Italian dishes. Most of these pastas are available widely in restaurants and grocery stores, so don't be afraid to ask for them. You may also find that buying distinctively shaped pasta makes the meal better, as different types may hold sauces differently.
Seven types of pasta that you should try are:
If you are ordering or cooking a dish with spaghetti, choose fusilli, instead! Fusilli are long, spiral-shaped noodles that are a lot more fun than spaghetti!
When a recipe calls for elbows, go a little bit crazy with Cavatappi. Cavatappi are pasta corkscrews that hold rich sauces like Alfredo and cheese sauces well, as the sauce gets trapped inside each tasty corkscrew.
Another pasta option to try is Orzo. Many people mistake orzo for rice, but it is actually a small, granular pasta that is used in a lot of salads, soups, and fillings.
Switch out your usual spaghetti for the far-more-interesting bucatini; bucatini is long, hollow strands of pasta that soaks up thin sauces, like marinara. This is also a great choice for dishes with oil or butter-based sauce, like pasta pomodoro.
Campanelle are frilly and ruffled, so they grab on to heavy, meaty sauces. The cone shape also makes a pretty presentation in soups or salads.
Orecchiette pasta looks like tiny little ears, and it holds sauces, finely diced veggies, and cheese crumbles perfectly. These miniscule 'cups' also work well in pasta salads, as they tend to hold oil-based dressings well.
Gnocchi are light, little potato dumplings that are served like pasta, with sauces and sides. These tiny pillows are often boiled in salted water and served with heavier sauces that could prove too robust or rich for semolina pasta. Gnocchi are also found served simply with a brown butter sauce.
You should have no problem finding many of these seven suggestions in dried form at your favorite market or grocery store. Others, like gnocchi, are often sold in the deli or refrigerated in specialty stores.
The next time you are out at an Italian restaurant, take a detour from your usual choices and try a pasta that you may have never had. Look for these seven tasty and interesting pastas when you shop and dine, and discover for yourself the tasty difference the right shaped pasta makes!