Delicious dinnertime staple and favorite among kids and adults alike – pasta is a cultural phenomenon. It’s so popular that World Pasta Day is celebrated on the 25th of October each year!
Done well, it can be one of the most delicious and comforting meals in the world. And as well as being a source of protein, the complex carbohydrates in pasta increase your body’s production of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that triggers feelings of happiness and well-being. It’s no surprise then that the average Italian eats 60 pounds (27 kilograms) of pasta a year while the average North American eats about 15 pounds (7 kilograms) a year!
When it comes to pasta types, everyone has a personal favorite – find out if yours is one of the world’s most popular pasta types below! But before that enjoy this handy little guide to pasta shapes that we put together:
The Ultimate Guide to Pasta Shapes
The World’s Most Popular Pasta Types
The most popular pasta on the planet – spaghetti needs no introduction. It is, in fact, so popular that it accounts for two-thirds of all pasta production worldwide! The long, thin, cylindrical pasta started being produced with machines in the early 1800s and it had gained immense popularity by the latter half of the 20th century.
It works well with every pasta sauce ever made – from heavy meat sauces to clam broths – but in Italy spaghetti is never served with meatballs. Instead a popular and iconic accompaniment to spaghetti is carbonara sauce – a simple combination of garlic, pancetta, egg and cheese.
You can enjoy Rome’s most famous pasta dishes including spaghetti carbonara our Taste of Testaccio Food Tour in Rome!
Fusilli comes from the Italian word “fuso” which means “spindle”. The traditional short spiral pasta originated in Southern Italy but there’s also a long version which Italians call fusilli lunghi! These corkscrew-shaped beauties are only found in supermarkets today thanks to two Italian-Americans who developed the first machine for the industrial production of fusilli in 1924.
Fusilli is essentially the lovechild between rotini (with tighter twists) and eliche (with looser spirals). The tight spirals create a pleasing texture, while also helping sauces – particularly coarse, chunky ones – cling to the pasta.
Learn how to pair wines with food – including Roman pasta dishes – from one of only 100 Executive Wine Master Sommeliers in the whole of Italy on our Italian Wine & Food Pairing Class!
Penne is without a doubt one of the most recognizable pasta shapes in the world. Cut to resemble the nib of an old feather quill, penne’s slanted ends draw in sauce as a pen nib would ink. If you’re shopping for it in Italy you’ll find both lisce (smooth) and rigate (ridged) versions, but the latter is more common as the ridged texture helps thicker sauces cling to the pasta. Make sure you cook your penne al dente – this translates to “with bite” – and serve with a full-flavoured sauce like pesto or a zingy arrabbiata (literally “angry” pasta) as they do down in Calabria where the red chilli pepper (peperoncino) is king!
Learn how to make all sorts of types of fresh pasta from scratch as well as the sauces to go with them on our Authentic Florence Home-Cooking Class!
Thanks to mac ‘n’ cheese, macaroni is one of the world’s favorite types of pasta! If you’re heading to Italy and want to avoid shocking the Italians when you order, remember that mac ‘n’ cheese isn’t a thing there! The casserole consisting of macaroni pasta and a cheese sauce (most commonly cheddar) was invented in the U.K. by an English businesswoman named Elizabeth Raffald and featured in her 1770 book The Experienced English Housekeeper.
While not nearly as well-loved in the U.K. as in the U.S., the simple comfort food has been embraced by hipsters and as a result, has experienced a surge in popularity over the last decade. You’ll often find it being served in trendy eateries and from food trucks.
Eat some authentic Italian pasta dishes on our Twilight Trastevere Food Tour!