You think you know your pastas…until you’re holding the menu trying to decide between the gigli in a zucchini cream sauce or the radiatori in a cashew pesto. And you have to stop to shamefully admit (first to yourself and then to your server) that you don’t know what the hell gigli or radiatori is. Oh the humiliation.
I think there are like thousands of pasta varieties out there, all divided up into groups by shape. Knowing them all is pretty out of the question and unnecessary. But knowing the ones that’ll pop up on a menu is a reasonable goal.
The National Pasta Association’s pasta shapes section is a good place to start.
Clockwise from left:
Acini di Pepe (“Peppercorn”) – Acini di Pepe is perfect to use in soup recipes. These shapes are ideal to include in broths.
Campanelle (“Bells”) – Campanelle pasta resembles a small cone with a ruffled edge. Pair Campanelle pasta with meat, cream, vegetable or oil based sauces. Also, these shapes are great when used in pasta salads.
Gemili (“Twins”) – Add a touch of style to any dish with this distinctive shape. Gemeilli pairs nicely with meat, cream, seafood and vegetable sauces.
Tortiglioni – Tortiglioni is narrow, tubular pasta. This shape is commonly used to add decoration to salads or paired with a simple sauce.
Buctani – Thick Spaghetti shaped pasta that is hollow in the center, similar to a thin straw. Bucatini is the perfect choice for nearly any sauce, or it can be used to make casseroles or stir-fry dishes. Go beyond tomato sauce and see what your favorite becomes.
Cappelletti – Cappelletti pasta is folded and then twisted to form the shape of a small hat. On occasion, this pasta is sometimes referred to as an alpine hat.
More where that come from here
And an even more comprehensive A-Z list of pastas here
School yourself and then you can go take this pasta quiz…depending on how bored you are.