The dried pasta options at the store can be bewildering. Do you want corkscrews, stovepipes, or little ears tonight? Perhaps a big dish of priest stranglers—that’d be strozzapreti in Italian. There are reasons that pasta exists in so many forms: It’s partly regional (Italian cities big and small always seem to have a specialty pasta), but it’s also practical: Certain pastas are best eaten with certain sauces. Others work well with a wide variety of sauces—the workhorse pastas, like farfalle.
The general rule is that delicate noodles are for delicate sauces while heartier noodles are for heartier sauces, but similar to wine pairing, it’s not always that simple. So here’s a guide to help you sort it all out. And if you can’t tell your radiatore from your penne, we’ve got pictures. Of course, if this is too much pasta structure for you, we won’t snitch if your gemelli ends up in a seafood sauce.
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