Pairing the right pasta for your sauce

Pairing the right pasta for your sauce

From the glistening spaghetti in a buttery perfection to the rich tomato sauce wrapping itself on the ridges of the fusilli, every pasta has its pair-fect type!

Did you know that there are more than 50 distinct varieties of pasta in the world? And, that each one has a sauce that's perfect for it? From long pasta, short pasta, tube pasta, flat pasta, shelled pasta and sheet pasta; with each varying pasta, understanding the consistency of sauce it requires is key. For example, there are some shapes and textures of pasta like penne or fusilli that hold thicker sauces very well, while others are more suited to be baked. On world pasta day, we've divided the categories for you for a simpler understanding of pairing pasta with sauces.


1. Tube-like Pasta- Penne, Macroni, Rigatoni, Cannelloni, Ziti

These types of pasta are tube-like with a hollow centre that can accommodate a good dose of the sauce. So, if you're looking for a saucy pasta in every bite, this is your go-to. They are a match made in heaven with either chunky tomato sauces or a simple marinara or a spicy Arrabiata sauce. Recipes with these sauces and pasta can easily be baked, sauteed or tossed. Elbow pasta like macaroni is mostly used to make mac and cheese but it could suitably be used for pasta soups too.


2. Thin Pasta- Spaghetti, Angel Hair

Some of the other spaghetti-like pasta like Angel Hair or Capellini work best when paired with tomato or a garlic and oil-based sauce (Aglio Olio being the most popular recipe) that comes under the lighter sauce category. These thin, noodle pasta are delicate and therefore heavier or creamy sauces could just weigh them down. Usually, this pasta is prepared with a gentle toss and swirl method, without breaking it apart.


3. Ridge Pasta- Penne, Farfalle, Fusilli, Orecchiette, Rigatoni, Cavatelli

With a sturdier body, this variety of pasta traps the goodness of the sauce in its textured ridges and curves. This variety is perfect for baked pasta recipes and tastes best when cooked al dente. If you love chunkier and meaty sauces like ragu, the ridges and holes in these make for a great pasta pairing. Even cheesy and creamy sauces like Alfredo and Bechamel make for an indulgent dinner treat on weeknights.


4. Flat Pasta- Fettucine, Linguini, Tagliatelle, Parpadelle

Pasta like fettuccine, linguine, tagliatelle and pappardelle are slightly thicker than spaghetti or angel hair pasta and fall under this category. Therefore, they can hold up hearty and meaty sauces very well. Often this category of pasta pairs well with creamy sauces like Alfredo sauce, whose base is very likely to be a bechamel sauce. Pesto and peas is a classic combination for tagiatelle & parpadelle, the thicker version of these flat noodles. Most often than not, restaurants are seen serving a linguine or fettuccine pasta with seafood like clams or pippies that are lighter in body.


5. Sheet Pasta- Lasagne

If you love making pasta at home, you know that one always start by making a sheet pasta, which eventually could become a lasagne sheet, after drying it out. Lasagne is a popular layered recipe which is baked in a casserole and uses sheet pasta. It can easily be loaded with meat minces, chunky pieces of vegetables, marinara or bechamel sauce and even pesto sometimes.


6. Stuffed Pasta- Ravioli, Tortellini, Conchiglie, Agnolotti, Pansotti, Cannelloni

What's the best part of this pasta? That it can be stuffed with anything you like; meat mince, vegetables or cheesy pestos. Pasta like conchiglie and Agnolotti can easily be baked in a casserole with heaps of cheese on it, while others like ravioli and tortellini can be pan-seared in buttery sauces or dunked in broths for a great soup.


Types of Sauces:

1. Tomato-based

Popular sauces like marinara and arrabiata have a rich tomato flavour. Since the tomatoes are either blended or left chunky, it warps well with spaghetti and coats well on ridged pasta.

2. Butter/Oil-based

The taste of this sauce lies in its simplicity as it is herbaceous and garlicky at the same time. Aglio Olio is the perfect example of spaghetti or angel hair noodles glistening in butter or olive oil, infused with the garlic, herbs and chilli flakes.

3. Pesto-based

Made with the oh-so-popular and fragrant, basil leaves, this herb-based sauce is vibrant and sits well with corkscrew pastas like fusilli. When mixed with cream cheese or ricotta, it makes for a great filling for the shell pastas like conchiglie and orecchiette. Basil pesto is also a great pasta salad accompaniment to bring out the freshness in the dish.

4. Cream or cheese-based

Heard of Alfredo and bechamel sauce? They are high on cheese and milk which makes them so rich, creamy and a pure indulgence. Sometimes cream cheese sauces are combined with tomato or pesto sauce to turn it a notch down and break away from the richness of it. This sauce is almost perfect with all types of pasta; be it tagliatelle, a thick noodle pasta, orecchiette, a shell pasta or a farfalle, a ridged pasta!

5. Meat-based

Two of the most popular meat-based sauces would be Bolognese and Ragu. These are high on minced meat like beef which is simmered in tomato sauce. Wide ribbons like (the thickest in the noodle category) pappardelle and lasagne pair well with Bolognese. While Ragu goes well with spaghetti too. The major difference between the two is the consistency. Chicken pasta is usually served with pieces of seared or grilled chicken.

6. Alcohol-based

Wine based sauces are rare in India but when done well, they taste spectacular with both butter and tomato-based sauces. A splash of wine adds a lot of complexity to the flavours of the pasta. Any long and thin pasta like spaghetti or angel hair is recommended for a wine-based pasta.

7. Vegetable-based

You can make a vegetable-based pasta using both butter garlic sauce or a creamy one. Vegetables like zucchini, mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes make for a delicious addition to the otherwise plain pasta.

Shreya Jalavadia

Shreya Jalavadia

Think of her as a delicacy. She could be a red sauce penne pasta or refreshing strawberry smoothie. A little sweet, quite tangy and unapologetic on the palate. Her soul is that of a gastronome, mind of an illustrator and heart of a writer. She uses these ingredients to plate up tasty stories about food at India Food Network as an Associate Editor. Be it her blogs, articles, reviews or food shows; she promises a wholesome affair.

Next Story