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A Michelin-starred chef’s guide to the pasta you should use for 6 different types of dishes

Summary List PlacementFor meat ragus, Secchi says there is a wide range of pasta that would be a great fit. Spaghetti, spaghetti alla chitarra, pici, bigoli, bucatini, and tagliolini are all long, rounded shapes that work well with a heavy meat sauce or ragu, Secchi said.  Tagliatelle, fettuccine, and pappardelle offer the same pile of twirlable pasta that the above strands bring to a dish, but they're flat in shape instead of rounded.  If you're looking for a tube pasta that can stand up to a meat base, rigatoni, penne, garganelli, and lumache will do the job. Secchi says the ridges in lasagnette lend...

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Summary List Placement

For meat ragus, Secchi says there is a wide range of pasta that would be a great fit.

Spaghetti, spaghetti alla chitarra, pici, bigoli, bucatini, and tagliolini are all long, rounded shapes that work well with a heavy meat sauce or ragu, Secchi said. 

Tagliatelle, fettuccine, and pappardelle offer the same pile of twirlable pasta that the above strands bring to a dish, but they’re flat in shape instead of rounded. 

If you’re looking for a tube pasta that can stand up to a meat base, rigatoni, penne, garganelli, and lumache will do the job.

Secchi says the ridges in lasagnette lend themselves well to ragus as well as a more simple tomato-based or vegetable sauce, similarly to how sheets of lasagne soak up traditional bolognese. 

The crevices in noodles like the corkscrew-shaped fusilli, rolled-up cavatelli, and twisted gemelli are perfect for interacting with meat sauce, Secchi says. 

For other tomato-based sauces, there are some different shapes that would be ideal, according to the chef.

Just as a light tomato-based sauce will stick to the ridges on farfalle, it will also fill the folds of strozapreti and casarecce, and the waves of campanelle.

The delicate nature of vermicelli and capellini, and the clunky twists of cavatappi make each of these varieties more suitable for a meatless sauce as well. 

Herby, butter-based sauces are a traditional favorite for stuffed pasta, Secchi says.

Stuffed and folded pasta such as agnolotti, tortelloni, cappelletti, and mezzelune are all great options for butter and sage sauces, Secchi said. 

Pizzoccheri, a buckwheat pasta typically cut into flat rectangles, is also traditionally served with a butter-based sauce. This dish, though, also features cabbage, potatoes, and cheese. The chef says this is a heavier option for a buttered noodle. 

Baked ziti isn’t the only dish you can make if you’re craving oven-made pasta.

Secchi said that ziti, cannelloni, manicotti, and large conchiglie are all most often baked with either meat sauces or a combination of spinach and cheeses like ricotta and parmigiana.

Tube-shaped noodles are great for seafood-based pasta dishes.

Secchi’s go-to shape for a seafood and shellfish ragu is the wide tube known as paccheri. He also recommends the thinner tube-shaped calamarata for a seafood-based dish with any type of sauce. 

Known best for its clam-sauce pairing, Secchi stands by the long, thin, flatter linguini. 

Fregula, which Secchi says should be toasted before it’s cooked, could be made into a risotto-style dish served with mussels, clams, and fresh-caught fish. 

Some pasta shapes are best served in soups or broth, according to the chef.

The pearl-shaped fregula, rice-shaped orzo, and irregular scraps known as mafaldine are all great for making soups a bit more filling, Secchi said. 

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