When Sauce Met Pasta!

Prachi Joshi

There’s a certain art to pairing different types and shapes of pastas with the various Italian sauces.

Did you know that, as popular as it may be, Spaghetti Bolognese is not quite Italian? In Bologna, from where this dish purportedly originates, you will find the thick, meaty sauce (called ragu) usually served with tagliatelle instead– long, thick, ribbon-like pasta. The Italians are actually quite particular about their pasta and sauce pairings. And there is a reason behind why some pasta shapes work better with certain sauces. So before you go ahead tossing your pasta in that sauce, read on…
beetroot spaghetti
The general rule of thumb is that larger pasta shapes work better with thick, chunky sauces, while light, creamy sauces go better with the thinner and skinnier pasta shapes…

  • Pair thin, long pasta shapes such as spaghetti, capellini and angel hair pasta with light sauces using tomato and garlic. For example, a simple pomodoro sauce will coat these pasta strands evenly and won’t weigh down the pasta when wound on a fork.
  • Match flat, long, ribbon shapes with rich, creamy sauces. Such hearty and meaty sauces go well with tagliatelle and pappardelle, while fettuccine and linguine would be best paired with a basic Alfredo or a seafood-based sauce.
  • Long tube-like pasta shapes resemble spaghetti, but with a tube running down the centre, e.g. bucatini or perciatelli. These go well with thinner sauces, where the sauce can run down the tube and give more flavour to the pasta.
  • Short tube pastas such as penne, rigatoni and macaroni pair perfectly with hearty vegetable sauces as well as with baked dishes. Try a pesto sauce or a cheesy Alfredo with these pasta shapes. These also work well in pasta salads.
  • Short pasta shapes such as farfalle (bow tie), fusilli, orecchiette and gemelli hold sauces better because of their shapes, ridges or edges. Serve with a meat or vegetable sauces.
  • Filled pastas such as ravioli and tortellini already contain lots of flavour, so these are usually served with a light herby and buttery sauce. Think pumpkin ravioli with burnt sage butter sauce; now there’s a match made in heaven!

Try this basic pomodoro sauce the next time you want to cook pasta for dinner. You can add a pinch of chilli flakes to spice it up a bit and serve with spaghetti. Or add some veggies or meat of your choice to make a more filling meal and serve with penne or fusilli. Buonappetito!