Pairing pasta with sauce can be hard, especially once the pasta isn't spaghetti. I mean, everyone knows that spaghetti noodles go with tomato sauce, but what goes with gemelli? Ask these questions no more! Here is your complete guide to the most common pastas and what they are best paired with.


pasta, spaghetti, spinach, sauce, linguine
Amanda Olivero

Linguine is a long ribbon like pasta. It is very similar to spaghetti, so much so that they can be interchanged. It is most commonly served with creamy and smooth sauces, like alfredo. Linguine is very versatile though and can be used in almost any dish. Here is a linguine take on classic Fettuccine Alfredo.


pasta, tagliatelle, macaroni
Benjamin Martin

Pappardelle are similar to linguine, but are much wider. They are a super heavy duty pasta that are perfect for strong sauces, such as a cream and bacon sauce. Pappardelle pairs especially well with meat sauces. For a more experimental take on this pasta try it with seafood.


tortellini, ravioli, dumpling, pasta, dough
Natalie Beam

Shells come in a variety of sizes and look just like they sound. Larger ones can be stuffed and the tiny ones are great for chunky soups. Regardless of size though, their open shape and ridged exterior makes them perfect for thick and chunky sauces. Try shells in a beef and heavy tomato sauce like this recipe.


macaroni, corn, cheese, vegetable
Kirby Barth

Macaroni are little elbow shaped pastas. Their tubular structure makes them great for thick, creamy sauces. Macaroni is almost always found with a cheese sauce, but it is also great is pasta salad. Macaroni is far more versatile than just mac and cheese.


pasta, macaroni, wheat, carbohydrate, spaghetti, penne, tagliatelle
Morgan Goldberg

Rotini are small twisted pastas. They are relatively delicate and can't hold up to thick sauces. They are most commonly found in salads and any dish with a light sauce. Try a drizzle of oil and some seasoning. They are also sold in a variety of colors to spice up your potluck pasta salad.


penne, pasta, sauce, tomato, basil, vodka, tomato sauce
Bailey Grayson

Penne comes in two different varieties, one has a smooth exterior and the other has ridges. The tubular shape of penne makes it great for thick, rich sauces. Sauce will cling better to the ridged penne which makes it great for chunky sauces, especially a hearty tomato sauce. A great example of a perfect penne dish is Noodles and Company's Penne Rosa.


rice, cereal, risotto, vegetable, pilaf, corn, brown rice
Kathleen Lee

Orzo are small grain-like pastas that closely resemble rice. Because they are so small, they don't stand up to sauces well. For this reason, they are often used in pasta salads and in soups, like this Italian Orzo Spinach Soup. Serve orzo in a broth for soup or with a little oil in a pasta salad.


vegetable, pasta, spaghetti, sauce, meat
Max Bartick

Rigatoni are a fat tubular pasta. Their ridges and wideness makes them great for rich, chunky sauces. They are most commonly used with meat sauces. They are especially great in bolognese dishes like this one.


sauce, pasta, vegetable, meat, spaghetti, macaroni, penne
Jake Popescu

Gemelli are a thin, twisted pasta that are usually about an inch or so long. Their shape makes it easy for them to hold sauce, but they are still rather delicate. They are best used for smooth and lighter sauces, like this red pepper sauce.


egg, huevos rancheros, tomato, sauce, fried egg, cheese
Alyssa Modos

Ravioli are pasta pockets, usually filled with cheese, that are about the size of a half dollar coin (if those even exist anymore). The filling is typically robust and the outside is too smooth, making them unable to withstand a rich and heavy sauce. That's why they are most commonly served with a simple butter sauce or a light tomato sauce.

Bonus: Gnocchi

gnocchi, vegetable, sauce, meat, legume
Katie Zizmor

Gnocchi, my absolute favorite pasta, are made from potatoes and are shaped like little clouds. They are great in rich but smooth sauces such as pesto or a light tomato sauce.

#SpoonTip: Make your own gnocchi at home to feel like a culinary genius.

Choosing the right pasta for any dish can be a challenge. But the more you know about each pasta and what they pair best with, the less you'll be asking yourself which sauce to use.