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The Best Sauces For Each Pasta Shape

Want to know how to make pasta of all shapes and sizes shine? The secret is in the sauce.

Pasta, in all its glorious forms, is a staple of Italian cuisine that’s found a beloved place in kitchens worldwide. But did you know that there’s an art to pairing pasta shapes with sauces? Historically, most pasta varieties were created to complement different types of sauces.

Depending on its texture, shape, and size, using the right pasta shape can elevate a simple meal to an authentic, gourmet experience. Whether it’s meaty, oil-based, rich and buttery, or light and fresh — every sauce has its soulmate. The goal is for both pasta and sauce to shine.

Keep in mind that at the end of the day, there are no rules when it comes to experimenting in the kitchen. But if you’re looking for inspiration or want some tips on the best way to cook our handmade pasta, we’ve put together a guide to help. Here’s how to find the right sauce for your pasta shape.

Long & Thin: Spaghetti, Linguine, Bucatini

Ideal Sauces: Tomato-based, Olive Oil-based, Carbonara, Cacio e Pepe, Seafood

Most often, long and thin pasta shapes are paired with pomodoro sugo or something oil-based like aglio e olio. They’re also perfect for the silky, creamy textures of carbonara and cacio e pepe. These sauces will have no trouble binding to the strands and coating them evenly.

Note that longer varieties aren’t always the best for chunky sauces, because you have to twirl them with your fork, and sometimes the chunky pieces won’t make it into your mouth. In saying this, linguine is regarded as the best shape for a seafood mix, which calls for a delicate pasta to hero the tastes of the ocean.

Fun fact: Spaghetti and Meatballs was created in America by Italian immigrants, who added larger American-style meatballs to their traditional Spaghetti al Pomodoro to create a new kind of comfort food.

Ridged Cylinders & Tubes: Rigatoni, Penne, Paccheri

Ideal Sauces: Hearty Tomato-based, Meat Sauces, Cheese Sauces

Cylinders, tubes, shells… Anything hollow excels in holding onto thick, hearty sauces. Add ridges to the dough for the sauce to cling to, and you have the ultimate pasta variety for getting as much flavour in each mouthful as possible.

We suggest a ragù or a tomato-based sauce with substantial texture like amatriciana. Thick, cheesy sauces like our Cacio e Pepe paste will also have the same effect, making each bite rich and indulgent.

Some other common dishes are Penne All’Arrabbiata (spicy tomato sauce) and rigatoni pasta bake — although if you’re baking your pasta, you can’t beat stuffed conchiglie

Thick Ribbons: Tagliatelle, Fettuccine, Pappardelle

Ideal Sauces: Meat Sauces, Pesto, Alfredo

Long, flat pasta is well-suited to heavier and meatier sauces — anything that includes chunks of beef, veal, lamb, or pork. Ragù is a classic with any ribbon pasta, but especially pappardelle.

Of course, fettucine is your go-to for alfredo, but make sure you do it the Italian way with just butter and parmesan.

If you order bolognese in Italy, it’ll most likely be served with tagliatelle. For vegetarians, tagliatelle also pairs well with pesto, which can have a surprisingly chunky consistency thanks to the blended pine nuts.

Fun Fact: The Americans add cream to alfredo because they were inspired by mac and cheese. 

Filled Pasta: Tortellini, Cappelletti, Ravioli, Bottoni

Ideal Sauces: Butter & Sage, Tomato-based, Light Broth

Filled pasta often features a combination of delicate tastes and textures that benefit from sauces that aren’t too overwhelming. Because you already have strong flavours in the filling, you want to keep the sauce simple.

Our favourite is a butter and sage sauce, which we make using our cultured sage butter. We suggest a light tomato sauce with meat or cheese-filled pasta because the fresh, tart simplicity of the tomatoes balances the richness of the filling. Also underrated is the traditional Italian comfort food Tortellini in Brodo, which usually involves serving meat-filled tortellini in chicken broth.


Twisted Pasta: Fusilli, Casarecce, Trofie

Ideal Sauces: Thin, Light Sauces

The shallow grooves found in twisted pasta varieties are designed to cling to a thinner sauce — tomato sugo and anything butter or oil-based is a match made in heaven.

Twisted pasta is often short, and short pasta is great when you have larger ingredients tossed in. You can get balanced bite-sized forkfuls with a few pieces of pasta and saucy chunks all at once.

Because twisted pasta is quite dense, it’s also perfect for lighter recipes. Think roasted vegetables or pesto, something fresh to balance the pasta’s thicker texture.


There you have it, the ultimate guide to pairing pasta shapes with the right sauces. Each type of pasta is designed to interact with sauces differently, so knowing exactly how this works can enhance the overall dining experience.

Now, every pasta dish you prepare will be perfectly balanced, flavourful, and absolutely delicious. Next time you're planning a pasta meal, remember: the shape truly matters. Buon appetito!

Hungry? Shop our fresh, handmade pasta cabinet this month or plan a visit to our Thornbury pasta shop.