Chef Tim Says...

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Chef Tim Says....

Pasta Shapes

I love pasta. In spite of what Dr. Atkins would have you believe, pasta is really good for you -- especially whole wheat pasta. The issue is not carbohydrates, but the portion size of pasta, and by keeping in mind that a serving is 2 ounces of uncooked pasta you’ll do fine.

Ruote Pasta

One of my favorite things is how pasta is named. There’s a lot of reasons for the different shapes, and the most important is how a particular sauce will cling to whatever pasta you’re eating. The best part is that the names almost always have a meaning in Italian. Most commonly it’s what the pasta actually looks like.

Fettuccine means “little ribbons” and fettuccine is a little wider than linguine which means “little tongues.” Spaghetti which is thinner and round is named for “string.”


Penne is one of my favorites and these little tubes resemble a feather or quill and the Italian word for the writing instrument. You’ll find both penne lisce (smooth) and the more common penne rigate (lined). Ziti are long macaroni tubes (originally ziti was 18 inches long). The word comes from zito which is Italian for bridegroom so I’ll leave the derivation of calling an 18 inch tube after a bridegroom to your imagination.

Rigatoni are also tubes but with ridges. The word comes from the verb rigare meaning to draw a line (like the ridges).

In addition to the tongues there’s a lot of other human parts. Orecchiette are little ears, cappelletti look like little hats and capellini is known as angel hair pasta.

Here’s some others but there’s dozens and dozens more shapes. If you have a favorite that’s not included, do send them in and we’ll add them to the list.

Pasta Name Meaning
Orzo Barley
Fusilli Corkscrew
Farfalle Butterfly
Vermicelli Little worms
Ruote Wheels
Radatori Radiators
Lumache Snails
Gigli Lily
Gemelli Twins
Riso Rice
Campanelle Bells
Ditalini Little thimbles
Rocchetti Spool
Riccioli Curl
Rotini Spiral

Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!

Dr. Gourmet
October 1, 2007