While they fit in the pasta category from a cooking perspective, gnocchi are really more like dumplings, made with a combination of potatoes, flour and eggs. Done right they’re cloud-like and ethereal. We like this sweet potato
version followed by a long nap.
Tonnarelli, often found in Roman dishes, is an egg pasta shaped something like spaghetti except that it’s thicker, square and often has a rough surface that hangs on nicely to sauces. For a classic preparation, use it to make cacio e pepe
, pasta with cheese and pepper.
This broad, flat noodle gets its name from the Italian verb pappare
, which means “to gobble up”. Serve it with a hearty sauce like this short rib ragu
. Unlike the word “gnocchi”, pappardelle is easy to say and will impress the most discerning dinner guest. Even foodies.
Fusilli is something of a pasta workhorse, more common in canned soups and casseroles than fine dining. The corkscrew-shaped pasta doesn’t have to be a B-list…ah hell, use it for a grown-up macaroni and cheese
Tagliatelle is a long, flat ribbon of pasta much like fettucinne but without the baggage that comes with Alfredo. It’s the pasta de rigeuer in Emilia-Romagna and there’s no other way to eat it but in a classic tagliatelle bolognese
The word cappelletti comes from the Italian word for “little hat”, which is exactly what these ravioli-like, if you tipped your hat over and filled it with a variety of meats or cheeses. In Italy it’s usually served in broth
Chef Boyardee had ravioli locked in a full nelson for most of our formative years, but it turns out the pillow-like pasta can be stuffed with pretty much anything for a next-level meal. The four cheese ravioli pictured here is served at Giovanni Rana
, the restaurant that provided it, with walnut pesto and crispy speck.
One of the less familiar pastas to Americans, paccheri are large tubes of pasta that hail from Naples. They’re traditionally served with tomato sauce and ricotta, but lend themselves to seafood
dishes as well.
Like fusilli, penne is a ubiquitous pasta, a staple in the Italian-American pantry and one of the first to go down the road of whole wheat, rice and quinoa. No need to go against the grain: use it for penne alla vodka
Editor’s Note: Know Your Foods is a new culinary crash course on various foods and ingredients — and if we’ve done our job right, also an inspirational kick in the ribs to expand your dining horizons. Use it for your next meal. Use it impress a girl. Use them to land a job or to silence a patronizing maître d’. But for the love of garlic, use it somewhere.
Pastas provided by Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina, the stalwart northern Italian pasta maker. Their restaurant and pasta shop opened at Chelsea Market in New York City in 2012.