Lip-smacking, silky spaghetti is one of the world’s most beloved pasta varieties — Americans consume nearly six billion pounds of it each year. Whether it’s combined with a ragù, carbonara or just some simple meatballs, we can’t get enough of the classic long noodle.
But did you know that there are lots of other long pasta shapes available to switch up your midweek mealtimes? Let’s take a look at four spaghetti alternatives and the best sauces they pair with for a delicious dish of Italian goodness.
The long ribbons of tagliatelle were once thought to have been inspired by the blonde locks of Lucrezia Borgia, daughter of Pope Alexander V, on her wedding day. And though the theory was debunked some time ago, the shape is still one of the most romantic around. This pasta is traditionally about a quarter of an inch wide and cut into long, flowing ribbons.
As for the ideal sauce combination, the pairing experts at Pasta Evangelists advise that the increased surface area of tagliatelle, along with its rough and porous texture, make it an ideal shape to contend with chunkier or more robust sauces. As a result, it’s often served with a thick bolognese ragù or other rich meat-based options.
To the untrained eye, the Genoa-hailing linguine might be mistaken for a tube of spaghetti — but on second glance you’ll see that the long noodles are actually elliptically-shaped and slightly broader in width. Thanks to this flatter shape, they earned the name that literally translates to “little tongues”.
These thinner pastas are best combined with a lighter, smoother dressing — for example, an oil-based garlic or fish sauce. A range of seafood options pair well with linguine, so the shape offers the opportunity to incorporate new kinds of protein into your diet — try out recipes with prawns, anchovies, or even clams.
This is one you might not be so familiar with. Mafalde pasta is a flat ribbon variety that comes in a little wider than tagliatelle, with frilled edges not dissimilar to some lasagne sheets. The wavy edges of mafalde strips give each forkful of this distinct pasta shape a satisfying bite.
To achieve just the right amount of glossy sauce coating, we recommend melting down a thick, flavorful cheese. Easy Cheesy Vegetarian suggests goat’s cheese, explaining that turning the crumbly variety into a creamy base “creates an irresistibly smooth, silky sauce that lightly coats the pasta noodles.” Add some spinach, fresh garlic and pine nuts and you have yourself a classic flavor combination to complement this unique hybrid between sheet and long pasta.
Bucatini is a thick, cylindrical strand of pasta with a hollow running through its middle. Made by extruding pasta dough into long tubes, bucatini’s larger surface area and the extra space provided by its pierced center make it the perfect choice to hold a traditional tomato or meat-based sauce.
Arguably the most common way to serve bucatini is with Amatriciana sauce, a classic Italian blend made with tomato, hard pecorino cheese, and guanciale — a type of cured meat prepared using pork cheek. Once mixed up and cooking with rods of fresh bucatini, the sauce gets sucked up inside the hollows of the pasta, coating the tubes from the inside out to make each bite as flavorful as the last.
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