Everyone’s familiar with the old stand-by pasta shapes, like penne, macaroni, spaghetti, ravioli and so on… but what if you want to amp up your semolina-fuelled adventures? Get started with these lesser-known but equally delicious pasta shapes you may not have tried before:


Originating in Southern Italy, Orecchiette literally means ‘small ear’ in Italian and the reason is pretty obvious. These little pasta shapes look like little baby ears and the dent in the centre is the perfect nook for your favorite pasta sauces to cling. Try Martha Stewart’s tasty vegetarian recipe: Orecchiette with Caramelized Cauliflower, Shallots and Herbed breadcrumbs.


Pici is like a big pile of hand-rolled fat spaghetti noodles. If you’re looking for an interactive family dinner, pici is super simple to make! Try Jamie Oliver’s easy recipe, which incorporates a ton of nutritious spinach: Spinach Pici Pasta.


Farfalle is often referred to as bow-tie pasta, but the word actually means ‘butterflies’ in Italian. Whether you prefer bow-ties or butterflies, these fun pasta shapes make a great cold pasta salad. Try this colorful one that incorporates fresh Greek flavors: Bow-tie Pasta Salad.


Cavatappi is the Italian word for ‘corkscrew’. These coiled and ridged macaronis are perfect for clinging to tasty sauces. Boil some cavatappi to al dente, then add this lower-fat version of the popular pasta sauce: Skinny Basil Pesto.


What’s not to love about a pasta shape that traps saucy goodness inside its little shell? That’s cavatelli! Its name means ‘little hollows’ in Italian. Cute! If you’re feeling adventurous, Mario Batali shows you how to make it in a quick video. Pair cavatelli with the sauce of your choice, such as the one in this recipe from The Chew: Cavatelli with Spinach & Prosciutto.


Paccheri can be described as short, fat tubes, which makes them great for… you guessed it: stuffing with delicious fillings! Paccheri comes in smooth or ridged varieties, and it performs well in baked pasta dishes, like this one: Paccheri and Cheese with Peas and Mint. 


Some people mistake these small pasta pellets for rice and it’s understandable since they look like plump versions of the grain. It works well in soup, casseroles, cold pasta salads, or as a simple side dish to your protein of choice. Try it like this: Sundried Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Orzo.

Have you tried any of these unusual pastas? What’s your favorite recipe? Share in the comments below!

Did you enjoy this post? Stay in the know with more nutrition tips, and exclusive promo offers — join our newsletter.