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Ahh, pasta: America’s love. October 25 is World Pasta Day and although many people try to shy away from this carbohydrate-rich food while maintaining a healthy diet, in small quantities, pasta can pack quite a nutritional punch!

Eating Pasta

Pasta comes in all shapes and size – all equally delicious! Nonetheless, it can be difficult to know which shapes pair best with certain sauces and ingredients. Growing up in an Italian family, knowing such information was a necessity, as texture and form can make or break the ingredients served with it. Below I share what my Italian family has taught me in regard to which spectacular shapes go with what!

1. Penne: Penne is an all-around win in terms of sauces and gravies. You truly can’t go wrong with whichever topping you choose. Nonetheless, most individuals enjoy penne with anything tomato based, such as marinara sauce, vodka sauce or even chunkier sauces with meat, like Bolognese, as that is what is seen at most restaurants.

3 cheese penne

>> Recipe: Three-Cheese Penne

2. Farfalle (aka “bowties”): This shape pasta has pleats within it, making it best for pesto, creamy wine sauces or heavier cheeses that grab onto them. Kids also love bowties since they look like little butterflies!

3. Lasagna: Typically requiring a baking method for cooking, lasagna is the best pasta for layering or rolling. It can be combined with any type of sauce, gravy or topping, which also makes it very versatile. Most families like to layer lasagna with ground meat, cheeses, thinly sliced vegetables and sauces, including both tomato-based and Alfredo.

skinny lasagna

>> Recipe: World’s Best Skinny Lasagna

4. Fusilli: Paired with thicker sauces, this spiral shaped pasta compliments chunkier tomato sauces, Bolognese or as an accompaniment to chopped vegetables and cheese (like feta and tomatoes!)

5. Spaghetti: …and meatballs. Okay, but besides with the infamous meatballs, these thin strands of pasta and the like (i.e,. angel hair pasta – the ‘thinner spaghetti’) cannot cling to thick sauces or gravies. For that reason, smoother, oil-based dressings like pesto work best.

6. Linguine: The more narrow and flatter version of spaghetti, linguine is the perfect in-between from the latter and fettuccine. It pairs best with sauces containing a lot of liquid, which is why linguine and clam sauce is an American family favorite.

>> Recipe: Linguine with White Clam Sauce

7. Fettuccine: If one is looking to splurge a bit for a special occasion, fettuccine is the go-to for those heavier cheesy, buttery sauces that should be eaten in moderation. That is because this wide flat noodle has a lot of surface area to latch on to the lipid-rich ingredients.

>> Recipe: Lightened Up Chicken Fettuccine with Broccoli and Bacon

chicken fettuccine

8. Shells: Small or mini shells pair best with creamy sauces, like a liquid-cheese, mayonnaise-based or a Skinny Mom favorite: Greek yogurt. Medium shells are best accompanied with small vegetables and the like (i.e., peas and shredded cheese) and are a popular pasta for children. Large are meant for stuffing with cheeses (i.e., mozzarella, ricotta, etc.) and coated in light sauces like marinara.

>> Recipe: Spinach Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce (pictured below)


9. Orzo: The Italian “rice-pasta” is one of the best to serve cold in oilier dressings. Pasta salad is a great way to make this happen. Nonetheless, during the cooler months, a warm dish using orzo works best with a wine or butter based, light sauce.