Pasta Encyclopedia

Pasta Encyclopedia

Keeping track of all those varieties of pasta can be a challenge, especially with all of the regional specialties available today. Thankfully, our friends at Barilla are here to shed some light on the subject, with a ditalini-sized bite of their pasta encyclopedia:


Orecchiette translates to “little ears” in Italian, and looks just as its name implies, with little ear-like cups that cradle and capture sauces. Italian food company Barilla offers one of few orecchiette cuts produced exclusively in Italy using bronze dies, as part of its Collezione line. The resulting traditional look and texture makes it a great match for more rustic dishes. Orecchiette originated in the southeastern coastal region of Puglia, and it combines well with other ingredients from South Italy, such as bean varieties ranging from cannellini to borlotti, and salty-savory seasonings like anchovies, capers, and olives. The thicker-walled structure makes it ideal for American-style pasta salads as well.

Orecchiette with Saffron.


Rigate means “ridged” in Italian, and is often used in conjunction with pasta shape names to differentiate them from their “lisce” or “smooth” cousins. Almost any shape can be rigate: penne rigate and rigatoni rigati are some of the most common, but even long cuts like spaghetti and fettucine or special shapes like large shells (conchiglie rigate) are made in ridged form. The ridge creates a minute topography of peaks and valleys on the surface of the pasta, which helps trap sauce and make it “cling” to the pasta.

Penne Rigate with Avocado, Salmon, Tomatoes and Capers.

Spaghetti alla Chitarra:

Spaghetti alla Chitarra or “guitar” is named for the special tool that was traditionally used to make it, which resembles a guitar. The dough was pressed through the steel strings of this “guitar” with a short rolling pin, and the distance between the strings was altered to give each cut its desired thickness. This tool and method for making pasta has origins all around Italy, but it is most associated with the Abruzzo and Molise regions. Today, Barilla’s Spaghetti alla Chitarra is part of the Collezione line of bronze-die pastas, giving it an authentic homemade texture.

Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Caramelized Onions.
Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Caramelized Onions.

Visit for more inspiration or check out the featured recipe below.

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