Would Giada Approve of Your Pasta Choices?

With so many pasta shapes and sizes, things can get confusing in the kitchen. Here are Giada's pro tips for perfect pasta dishes.

Food beauty of Giada's Pasta with Creamy White Beans, as seen on Giada Entertains, Season 4.

Photo by: Melissa Libertelli

Melissa Libertelli

Italian native Giada De Laurentiis is no stranger to pasta, so she knows that the key to success when making the perfect bowl is the ideal marriage between noodles and sauce. Of course, you can customize any recipe the way you like it, but there are indeed preferred shapes for different sauces. For example, a hearty sauce like Bolognese likely wouldn’t stand up well to a dainty angel hair. And a meaty noodle like rigatoni often calls for a hearty sauce. “It’s all about the shape of the pasta and the ingredients you add to it,” Giada says, because different shapes of pasta add different weights and mouthfeels to the dish. Giada says that pasta is “a blank canvas, so you can add all sorts of different flavors and textures.” Read below for her takes on what works best.

Rigatoni

Rigatoni is a tube-shaped pasta with ridges on the outside. Giada loves this kind of pasta because “the sauce gets stuck inside of it, and when you bite into it, it squeezes the sauce in your mouth which I think is the perfect little bite.” One of her favorite dishes to make with these noodles is Baked Rigatoni with Sausage. You can make this with whatever pasta you like, but Giada recommends rigatoni for that welcoming burst of sauce. Plus, it’s easy scoop into portions when serving this casserole-like family dinner.

Penne

Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables

Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables

Food Network's Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables

Photo by: Matt Armendariz

Matt Armendariz

Similar to rigatoni, penne is a tube-shaped pasta, but it’s thinner and can be longer than rigatoni. There can be ridges or no ridges on the outside, though Giada notes, “The sauce sticks better to the ones with the ridges than the ones without.” She puts them to work in her Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables, featuring smoky mozzarella and creamy fontina, plus a heaping helping of sweet roasted onions, zucchini and mushrooms.

Spaghetti

Photo by: Alice Gao ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Alice Gao, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Spaghetti is perhaps the Italian noodle. It’s arguably the most-famous one out there — and for good reason. It’s extremely versatile and easy to find at almost every grocery store. Giada serves spaghetti with a classic tomato-based sauce, in a light, lemony sauce and even with a meaty carbonara sauce. When it comes to a seafood-based sauce like this one with shrimp and clams, Giada says that spaghetti is a classic pick. “It’s really nice to serve it with a long-stranded pasta.”

Linguini

Another traditional Italian noodle, linguini is a commonly found pasta in Giada’s kitchen because it works in so many different dishes. This one is flatter than spaghetti, though it’s usually about the same length. “The thing that I love about the pasta — it’s got a nice bite to it,” she says. “The texture holds really well.” According to Giada’s Aunt Raffy, “Linguini is always better to make with fish.” If you’re new to combining fish and pasta, start with Linguini with Anchovy and Walnuts. Giada notes that adding a little bit of pasta water helps loosen the sauce and melt the anchovies.

Ravioli

Cheese-filled ravioli are likely a classic at your local red-sauce Italian joint. When they’re tiny like they are here, they’re called ravioletti. She loves that “they’re dainty, they’re pretty and they’re decadent, but still very light.” Another perk is that they cook really quickly. Try them out in this Cheese Ravioletti in Pink Sauce recipe. Giada uses cheese ravioli here to keep it simple and vegetarian, but she says that you can use any store-bought stuffed pasta. She tosses the warm ravioli in a super-creamy sauce for decadent results.

Orecchiette

GiadaDeLaurentiis_OrecchietteWithMixedGreensAndGoatCheese_H

GiadaDeLaurentiis_OrecchietteWithMixedGreensAndGoatCheese_H

Chef Name: Giada De Laurentiis Full Recipe Name: Orecchiette with Mixed Greens and Goat Cheese Talent Recipe: Giada De Laurentiis’ Orecchiette with Mixed Greens and Goat Cheese, as seen on Food Network’s Everyday Italian FNK Recipe: Project: Foodnetwork.com, CINCO/SUMMER/FATHERSDAY Show Name: Everyday Italian

Photo by: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Renee Comet, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Orecchiette means “little ears” in Italian, which makes sense because look how cute these little ear-like cups are! Giada uses orecchiette a lot because “it’s super fun, and as a kid it was one of my favorites,” she says. One of the main reasons she loves these noodles is because they act like little scoops, she adds, explaining, “The sauce gets trapped in the little pasta, which is super cool.” Giada’s Orecchiette with Mixed Greens and Goat Cheese can be on the table in just 25 minutes and comes together with only a handful of ingredients. It’s important to add a ladle of hot pasta-cooking water when combining the noodles, so the goat cheese melts and ultimately sticks to the orecchiette.

Orzo

Giada De Laurentiis' Orzo Salad, as seen on Food Network's Everyday Italian, Season 1

Photo by: Kate Mathis

Kate Mathis

“It truly does look like rice, and for years I thought it was, when I was little,” Giada has said. Each noodle is shaped like a grain of rice, though when cooked, they turn out flatter and a tad longer. “What I love about the orzo is that you can eat it with a spoon, and it makes it so much fun,” she says. It’s a key ingredient in this Orzo Salad, a cookout-ready side dish that can be served at room temp.

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