Pastas come in various shapes and styles to give different textures. When cooking pasta dishes, it is important to match the pasta noodle and the sauce type for them to bind together well, and the pasta to absorb the sauce better. On the other hand, getting the pasta and sauce pairing wrong can affect its overall texture and taste.
So how do you get the right combination of pasta shape and sauce?
In general, wider pastas goes well with richer and heartier sauces, while thinner pastas pair better with simple, cream-based sauces.
Here are some classic pasta and sauce pairings that can’t go wrong:
Best sauces for thin and long pasta
Long pasta strands, such as spaghetti, linguine, and vermicelli, are usually wound up using a fork and eaten. These pastas should be paired with light sauces, such as tomato, cream, or oil-based sauces, which will coat the pasta strands evenly and not weigh them down. For instance, simply fold a pesto sauce into your linguine strands, and voila, you’ve got a classic Italian dish. Add in some sautéed shrimps and garnish with basil leaves for a finishing touch.
Thinner pasta variations such as vermicelli or capellini are also suitable for cold pasta dishes. Toss these pastas together with flavoured oils and aromatics and top it off with herbs or citrus zest to add colour and dimension to your dish.
Best sauces for flat, long ribbon pasta
Flat and long ribbon pasta have a larger surface area and pairs better with rich and hearty sauces because more sauce can coat the pasta. You also want to take note of the pasta width when choosing the matching sauce as these can capture bits or slices of ingredients when swirled up with a fork.
In general, thin and flat pasta noodles pairs better with simple seafood or tomato-based sauces. On the other hand, thicker pasta noodles, such as the width of tagliatelle, matches well with a thick and meaty ragu mix sauce, which helps the sauce “spreads” better on the tongue.
Sauces for shell pasta
Shell pastas holds sauces within their structure to give a burst of flavour with each bite. They pair best with rich, hearty, or creamy sauces, or chunky vegetable sauces. You can even add in small chunks of ingredients in your sauce. Just make sure they are small enough to be enfolded within the shell pasta.
As an example, conchiglie works great with soups and the larger shells can be stuffed with meat, vegetables, or cheese for a fun twist.
Best sauces for twist and spiral pasta
The nooks and crannies in twist and spiral pasta noodles make them perfect for locking in flavourful sauces, or dense sauces with chunky or finely chopped ingredients. Lighter and smoother sauces will also work fine, since they can be coated easily for a wholesome (google some vocab). You should consider how wide or narrow the curves and twists of the pasta are and match the sauce accordingly.
One example is the corkscrew-shaped fusilli. It generally goes well with tomato-based sauces topped with chopped basil and grated parmesan. You can also toss the pasta in salads with smoked salmon, chopped tomatoes, olives, and capers.
Sauces for short tube pasta
The versatility of tubular pasta means that they can be used for a variety of dishes. Their hollow centres are perfect for hold chunky ingredients and hearty sauces. The larger the tube, the greater their ability to hold chunkier ingredients.
Some pastas, such as penne or rigatoni have ridges, which allows cream-based or braised-meat sauces to coat the pasta. You can even use them in stuffed for baked dishes as well. If you are stuffing your pasta, be sure to choose ingredients that can hold well, such as cheese, nuts, or shredded braised meat that is made using demi glace sauce.
Best sauces for stuffed pasta or pasta ripiena
The centrepiece of stuffed pastas is the filling, which already contains lots of flavour. Be it ravioli, tortellini, or cappelletti pasta, you want your sauce to complement the flavour of the filling and not overpower it. A simple oil-based or light butter sauce usually pairs well with these pastas.
Ultimately, pasta dishes are the “stile libero” for freestyling, and its versatility lets you customise them to match your menu. Once you have mastered pairing the right pasta with the right sauce, you are free to add your personal touch and experiment to create your own pasta dish.