Did you know there are over three hundred different shapes of pasta (and if you want to learn more about where their funky names come from, check out this link)? With so many different varieties, how do you decide which shape to use, besides just spinning around in the grocery aisle and landing on the first kind of pasta you see? Here is a short guide to pairing the perfect pasta shape with different sauces. 

Lighter Cream Sauces

Meal, plate, Dinner, pasta, cheese, parsley
Josi Miller

As a general rule of thumb, light sauces can go with "daintier" pasta types while heavier sauces need more robust noodles. If you're making a light mushroom cream sauce or light alfredo, you can opt for fettuccine, pappardelle (wide fettuccine) or spaghetti. If you prefer a non-stringy noodle shape, farfalle (bowtie) would be your best option. 

Seafood Sauces

sauce, spaghetti, pasta, vegetable
Shalayne Pulia

Seafood sauces can come in white or red sauces; the key here is not to distract from the seafood. If you're making a fri diablo or scallop pasta, you'll want to go with angel hair, spaghetti, or rice noodle. 

Tomato Sauce (without meat)

sauce, vegetable, penne, pasta, salad, eating, carb
Caroline Ingalls

Is there a reason why tomato sauce is always associated with spaghetti? Probably because spaghetti is a somewhat light shape that doesn't get heavy when doused in sauce. If you're more of a penne person like me though, that's a perfectly acceptable answer here. 

Pesto Sauce

pesto, herb, spinach, pasta, parmesan, garlic
Caroline LeGates

You'll want to choose a pasta shape that can encapsulate the flavor of the pesto; orecchiette is a good option. These round shapes have the surface area you need to capture the pesto-y goodness and also provide a little bit of texture. 

Bolognese or Ragu

sauce, spaghetti, pasta, carbohydrate, basil, spaghetti bolognese, tomato, meat sauce, beef, macaroni, meat
Gabriella D'Ambra

Meat sauces are heavy, so you'll want a robust noodle to help move things along. Penne, bucatini, and tubini have plenty of totally tubular surface area for these types of sauces. 

Butter-based or Oil-based Sauces

ravioli, sweet
Mackenzie Patel

Let the filled pasta be the star of the show here. Sage-butter is one type of sauce that can go a long way; you'll want to be careful not to over-saturate your pasta. Ravioli and tortellini can be elevated by the flavors in sage butter, but also can become almost rancid if the sauce overpowers the rest of the dish.  

Heavy Cheese Sauces

macaroni, cheese, pasta, sauce
Alex Weiner

There's a reason why macaroni is the ideal choice of many mac & cheese enthusiasts! Macaroni has narrow tubes, so it can absorb heavy sauces much better than other, more dainty, noodles. You can also use macaroni in pasta salads and soups!