Sure, in a pinch, you can combine whatever shape pasta and sauce you have on hand. But strategically pairing noodle and sauce can mean the difference between a plate of pasta thats decent and one thats divine.
Here, a cheat sheet to the best combos:
Farfalle: Also known as bow tie pasta, the cinched middles of this shape keep it from overcooking and are ideal for catching bits of sauce. Farfalle goes well with light, vegetable-based sauces like primavera.
Linguini: This pasta shape translates to "little tongues." Its flat shape helps sauces adhere to it, so its excellent with delicate, olive oil–based sauces.
Orzo: This rice-shaped pasta works great in soups and salads. It can also be used to make a faster version of risotto.
Pappardelle: This wide, velvety egg noodle has a relatively soft texture. Its wonderful with chunky, ragu-style sauces, which usually contain ground meat, tomatoes, and onions. For a vegetarian dish, pappardelle goes nicely with gremolataa topping of parsley, garlic, and lemon zest.
Penne: This tubular pasta comes in both a smooth and ridged (rigate) variety. The slanted ends of the penne help pull sauce up into the tubes, and the ridges on the rigate-style noodles help to grab even more sauce. Serve penne with rustic tomato sauces, such as puttanesca and marinara.
Spaghetti: The most popular pasta shape in the world, this long noodle goes well with any thick tomato-based sauce.