What Are The Best Pasta Shapes? We Asked Your Favourite Pasta Makers
Tortellini? Farfalle? Tagliatelle? Linguine? Whether you’re the kind of person who rolls out their own fresh pasta on the reg or is just as easily pleased with a bag of dried spaghetti and a few handfuls of cavolo nero, your favourite pasta shape says a hell of a lot about you as a person. Like, for example, if your favourite pasta shape is fusilli: you’re a fucking maniac.
Coming to an agreement on what pasta shape is the greatest of all time can cause some pretty heated debates. Hurl that question into a group chat and I’d advise you to run for cover so you can watch the cannelloni carnage ensue from a safe distance.
In an attempt to get to the bottom of things (and to confirm my own ardent belief that macaroni is bullshit) I’ve asked a load of London’s top pasta dons what their favourite pasta shapes are to try and gather some sort of consensus on what the greatest shape of them all is. Read their answers below to find out if your favourite pasta shape made the cut.
Gaia Enria – Founder And 'sfoglina' At London Pastificio Burro E Salvia
“Though I come from Piemonte, where other shapes are famous, the one shape I adore making and eating is tortellini. It was the very first pasta I learnt to make with the amazing 'sfoglina' (the traditional pasta ladies) in Bologna, so there is first of all an emotional element attached: the memories of when I started the Burro e Salvia project. It is probably the most complicated and time consuming shape, but it holds the most delicious filling of Parmigiano, Parma ham and mortadella. It is usually served in a broth, perfect on chilled winter days, but at Burro e Salvia we serve it with a Parmigiano cream sauce instead, and it is unmissable.”
Masha Rener – Head Chef Of Lina Stores
“My favourite pasta shape would definitely be something classic that you can do anything with. My go-to fresh pasta would be ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach, it is a typical Italian pasta, with the ricotta made by hand so it’s really fresh. It’s also very versatile and goes with almost anything from ragù, tomato sauce or simply butter and sage.
If I had to choose one dry pasta shape it would have to be penne rigate. Again, it is a classic shape and so versatile but best with a simple arrabbiata. What makes it different is the ridged edge, which adds weight and absorbs sauces much better than other similar shapes. I do also love spaghetti, it’s the pasta I use most for my family, usually with a carbonara sauce, but it does require some training to eat spaghetti without getting sauce everywhere - there is an art to how you roll the fork that is not easy to master, trust me!”
Masha is the mastermind behind the brilliant menu at Lina Stores. If you haven't been yet, you truly are missing out.
Jay Patel – Founder Of Legare
“My favourite pasta shape is orecchiette! It’s a humble shape, made from two humble ingredients, just semolina and 00 flour, and has a really nice bouncy texture and chew! It gets its name from its shape, and translated into English means 'small ear'. At Legare we make all our pasta from scratch in-house and had fun making these the most. We served it with a rich fennel sausage ragù when we first opened, but it works with pretty much any sauce. Just add a large glass of Primitivo and you've pretty much got the perfect meal!”
Mitshel Ibrahim – Head Chef Of OMBRA
“Pasta in Italy is categorised into three major groups; lunga, corta e ripiena (long, short and stuffed). Some sauces work better with specific pasta shapes, according to the tradition. Tagliatelle works better with meaty or rich tomatoey sauces but you would never serve them with fish or seafood sauce. Carbonara is never served with a pasta which has eggs in it as it would become just a bit much – the list goes on. But what if I told you that there was a shape so versatile that it can be served with a variety of sauces and while being short it can also be stuffed, baked and fried? That's right: Paccheri, a giant maccherone traditional from Napoletean heritage made from only durum wheat flour and water like most pasta shapes from Southern/Central Italy. As the legend goes, this shape was born of a necessity to smuggle garlic into the Austrian empire. My favourite ways to serve it are ‘alla sorrentina’, tomatoey cheesy vibes, or ai frutti di mare."
Mitshel founded Ombra, a picturesque canal-side restaurant in Hackney. There's not many better places in London to enjoy some delicious pasta.
Stevie Parle – Founder of Joy and Pastaio
“Favourite pasta shape is a tough one, to be honest. Some days I like something unusual; some novelty. Was that a new shape designed by Fendi and sent out as an invitation to their virtual fashion show I saw on Instagram last week? Yes? I need it. Other times the uniformity of a rough textured artisanal slow dried linguini is the best and just what I need for a pile of clams. I guess my true love is for the hand formed semolina pasta of the south of Italy. Properly hand-made it’s a real slog best suited to grannies sitting all day rolling and chatting but yes, if I can, some hand rolled orecchiette any day of the week. Chewy, comforting, invigorating, impossible to buy, and even harder to make. Sounds ideal. And the name means little ears. What could be better?”
Andrew Macleod – Founder and managing director of Emilia’s Crafted Pasta
“My favourite pasta shape is pappardelle and I love to pair it with a béchamel bolognese. Wider than tagliatelle, these long silky ribbons of egg pasta are perfect to capture rich and meaty sauces on every cm of the pasta! At Emilia’s we take a more scientific approach when it comes to pairing pasta shapes with sauces. The weight, texture and size of the pasta should always complement the sauce.”