While Italian cuisine involves many meats, cheeses, seafood, and vegetables, most of us associate Italian cuisine first and foremost with pasta. Pasta comes in many shapes and sizes, and each shape helps trap the sauce, stand up to a casserole, or elevate a salad. Here are some of the shapes you’ll find in Italian dishes, as well as the kind of dishes where you might find them.

Acini di Pepe

Literally “peppercorn,” these tiny pasta beads are usually found in soups.

Anelli

These small rings of pasta are usually found in soups or salads. Even smaller rings are called anellini.

Angel Hair / Capelli d’angelo

Angel Hair is long, thin noodles served with light sauces and vegetables, often coiled into a nest. In Italian, capellini literally translates to “thin hair.”

Bucatini

Bucatini are thick spaghetti-like noodles with a hole running through the center. In Italian, buco means “hole,” and bucato means “pierced.” You might also hear this pasta called perciatelli, from perciare, “to hollow.” These noodles are served with buttery sauces, cured meats, or salty fish like anchovies or sardines.

Campanelle

Literally “little bells,” this ruffled, cone shaped pasta is also known as gigli (Italian for “lilies”) and ricciolo. It works well in pasta salads or with chunky sauces.

Cavatelli

This short pasta resembles a hot dog bun, and pairs well with thick and chunky sauces. Its name comes from the verb cavare, which means “to hollow,” and that hollowness is what makes this pasta so good at holding onto thicker sauces.

Ditalini

This tiny tube-like pasta, whose name means “little thimbles,” is generally used in soups.

Farfalle

Farfalle is commonly known as bow tie pasta, but its name actually means “butterflies.” Either way, this versatile shape works well with chunky sauces, as well as in soups and pasta salads.

Fettuccine

If you’re craving a thick and hearty sauce but want noodles, fettucine is a good bet. Its name means “little slices,” and because of its width it stands up well to heavier sauces.

Fusilli

Fusilli is a short spring or corkscrew-shaped pasta that stands up well to heavy sauces. It’s also sturdy enough to bake in casseroles. Fusilli col buco / fusilli bucati lunghi has the same twisted shape, but is longer in length.

Gemelli

Gemelli, or “twins” in Italian, is a short pasta made of two rods twisted together into a spiral. It pairs well with a variety of sauces and preparations, hot or cold.

Lasagna / Lasagne

Lasagna, as it’s known in North America, or lasagne, as it’s called by English speakers elsewhere, is a wide sheet of pasta used to make layered casseroles. It often has fluted edges.

Linguini

This long, flat spaghetti is called “little tongues” in Italian, and works with a variety of sauces.

Macaroni

Macaroni refers to a short, tubular dried pasta; when curved, it’s called elbow macaroni. It works well in baked dishes, soups, and pasta salads.

Manicotti

Manicotti is a pasta of Italian-American origin. This large tube pasta is usually ridged and most often stuffed with meats, cheeses, and/or veggies, then baked.

Orecchiette

Named “little ears” for its round, inverted shape, this pasta goes well with thick and chunky sauces.

Orzo

Though it looks like a grain, orzo is a type of pasta that takes its name from “barley” in Italian. Its small, rice-like shape works well in soups and salads.

Pappardelle

With a width somewhere between lasagna and tagliatelle, this flat ribbon pasta works best with hearty, creamy sauces.

Penne

Penne, which means “quills” or “feathers” in Italian, is a tube pasta with ends cut on a diagonal. It is an ideal shape for pairing with chunky meat or vegetable sauces, and bakes well, too. Penne rigate is a ridged version of this shape, while penne mostaccioli is a thinner, also ridged version.

Pici

Pici is a thick, round, usually hand-rolled pasta that resembles fat spaghetti. These rustic noodles are often paired with game meat and hearty sauces.

Ravioli

These square or round pasta pillows can be filled with cheese, meat, or vegetables.

Rigatoni

These large, grooved pasta tubes work well with a variety of sauces, especially those with large chunks.

Rotelle

Meaning “little wheels” in Italian, this cartwheel-shaped pasta is a modern invention. The hollow “spokes” of its wheeled shape pick up lots of sauce, whether creamy or chunky.

Spaghetti

Spaghetti means “a length of cord” in Italian. This long noodle works well with a variety of sauces, and can even be used in Asian stir-fries. Spaghettini is a slightly thinner version of spaghetti, while spaghettoni can refer to spaghetti noodles that are either extra-long or extra-thick.

Tagliatelle

This flat, ribbon-shaped pasta is slightly thinner than fettucine, but thicker than linguine. Its name comes from the Italian verb tagliare, which means “to cut.”

Tortellini

This ring-shaped pasta, whose name means “little pies” in Italian, is stuffed with meat and/or cheese. It can be served with sauce or used in soups.

Vermicelli

Named “little worms” in Italian, this pasta is a slightly thinner version of spaghetti.

Ziti

This medium tubed pasta, whose name means “bridegrooms” in Italian, works well with chunky, hearty sauces or in casseroles and pasta salads.