What’s the Best Pasta Shape for Your Sauce? Here’s Why It Matters

Pasta is a go-to dish across the Mediterranean, of course, but love for this Italian specialty stretches around the world. According to the Italian Pasta Organisation, nine out of 10 Americans love pasta, as well as more than 95 percent of English people. In fact, across the US, England, Germany, and France, most of the population eats some form of pasta at least once a week. But when it comes to really acing pasta, it turns out, the type of sauce you choose for each shape does make a big difference.

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Can you use any pasta with any sauce?

While you can, of course, use any pasta you like with any sauce you like, certain shapes are better suited for specific types of sauces due to their texture, size, and shape. 

“It’s important to pair the correct type of noodle with a particular type of sauce so that the sauce can bind to the pasta or allow the pasta to absorb the sauce dependent on its style,” Chef Barry Tonkinson, Director of Culinary Research & Development at the Institute of Culinary Education, told Delish in 2019. “Different pasta shapes and styles add a good contrast in texture to the sauce you’re using.”

For example, long thin pasta shapes, like spaghetti, work well with smooth, light sauces. But a chunkier, heartier sauce is usually better suited to a shorter tubular shape, like a penne or a rigatoni.

Below, we’ve listed seven of the most popular pasta shapes and the best sauces to pair them with, plus delicious vegan recipe ideas. 

7 pasta shapes and the best vegan sauces to pair them with

VegNews.Red Lentil Marinara SpaghettiAshley Madden

1 Spaghetti

While plenty of people love spaghetti bolognese (or spag bol, as it’s commonly referred to in the US), in Italy, long, thin spaghetti pasta shapes are usually paired with simple yet flavorful sauces. A classic marinara, made with ripe tomatoes, garlic, onions, and aromatic herbs, for example, is the perfect accompaniment. Aglio e olio is another popular choice, which is a basic mix of sautéed garlic, red pepper flakes, and olive oil.
Try it in a recipe: Vegan Red Lentil Marinara Spaghetti

VegNews.MushroomFettuciniAlfredoLauren Toyota

2 Fettucine

When it comes to fettuccine, you can’t beat a rich, creamy, smooth alfredo sauce. The sauce is undeniably more popular in the US than in Italy, but it does have Roman origins (fun fact: it was invented in the 20th century by restauranteur Alfredo Di Lelio). While Alfredo is usually made with butter, heavy cream, and Parmesan cheese, it’s easy to make a vegan version (find out more below!).
Try it in a recipe: Mushroom Fettuccine With Cashew Alfredo

VegNews.CreamyLemonPastaFrancesca Bonadonna

3 Tagliatelle

Thanks to its wider, flatter surface, tagliatelle is a great choice for heartier, thicker sauces. Bolognese is one option, but creamier sauces also work well. Tagliatelle is often used in carbonara recipes, which is similar to alfredo in many ways, as it’s also made with butter and parmesan. The key difference is that carbonara is made with eggs (but again, it’s simple to make a vegan version using ingredients like kala namak, for example!).
Try it in a recipe: Vegan Buttery Lemon Pasta With Cashew Cream


4 Rigatoni

With its large, ridged, curved tubes, rigatoni is the perfect vessel for a chunky sauce. Again, bolognese is a great choice. But a thick vegetable-based sauce, like the sweet potato sauce below, is another delicious option. Spicy arrabbiata, pesto, and creamy alfredo are also tasty choices for rigatoni.
Try it in a recipe: Vegan Cajun Coconut Sweet Potato Rigatoni With Kale

VegNews.EasyBrusselssproutspastaLauren Toyota

5 Linguine

Linguine is usually paired with seafood sauces. One popular option is clam sauce, for example, but any light, fresh, zesty, aromatic sauce will work with this flat, thin, and tender pasta. Again, aglio e olio is a delicious option, and a white wine-based sauce (as demonstrated in the recipe below!) works beautifully, too.
Try it in a recipe: Easy Vegan Brussels Sprout Linguine in White Wine Sauce


6 Penne

Another popular tube pasta, penne is smaller than rigatoni, making it the ideal shape to capture bold flavors, like that of a spicy arrabbiata sauce, for example (penne arrabbiata is actually a traditional Italian dish, hailing from Rome!). A similar dish called penne puttanesca, which comes from Naples, is made with ingredients like tomatoes, black olives, capers, garlic, and herbs. Learn how to make it below.
Try it in a recipe: Vegan Penne Puttanesca With Salty Olives and Capers

VegNews.SpinachRavioliSo Vegan

7 Ravioli

Ravioli shapes are essentially small parcels or dumplings, filled with delicious ingredients like mushrooms, meat (which can be vegan!), or spinach (fun fact: the word “ravioli” derives from the Italian word riavvolgere, which means “to wrap”). To let the filling shine, it’s best to opt for a simple sauce for ravioli. Pesto, marinara, and butter sauces are some of the best options for this kind of pasta.
Try it in a recipe: Creamy Vegan Spinach Ravioli With Cashew Cheese Filling