Feast and Phrase

Gastronomy in the world of words.


Ten Pasta Shapes

For many, pasta shapes and sauce pairings are something to be religiously observed, while others throw all rules out of the window because they ‘haven’t tried the ones that look like bowties and really want to’. Some people are proud penne-lovers, while others will swear by spaghetti.

Whatever your preference, there are said to be some 350 different varieties of pasta from which to choose should you wish to mix things up a bit (to be honest, I imagined there would be more). Here are ten different pasta shapes and the meanings behind their names.


CannelloniImage from Flickr user Francis Bijl.

If I asked to you say the first phrase that popped into your head when I said ‘cannelloni’, there’s a good chance it would be ‘spinach and ricotta’. ‘Tube’ is a much less likely answer, though this is actually what the name means. These ‘large tubes’ of pasta ultimately take their name from the Latin canna, meaning ‘tube’ or ‘reed’, which is also the source for the English words ‘canyon’ and the military ‘cannon’.


ConchiglieImage from Flickr user The Marmot.

This ‘shell’- or ‘conch shell’-shaped pasta works very well in soups, or when stuffed with meat, cheese, or vegetables. It’s also a lot less crunchy than real shells. Assuming you cook it properly. I don’t eat shells. No, really.


FarfalleImage from Pixabay.

While shaped like bowties, ‘farfalle’ is actually the plural form of the Italian farfalla, meaning ‘butterfly’. This word can be used to refer to actual bowties in the same language, though Italians also call the bowtie a papillon, which is the French word for a butterfly.


fusilli-747030_1920Image from Pixabay.

In Italian, a fuso is a ‘spindle’. ‘Fusilli’ are ‘little spindles’. Probably my personal favourite on the list (to eat!).


Gemelli (2)Image from Flickr user Mercury Jane.

Shaped like two identical strands twined together, ‘gemelli’ pasta appropriately takes its name from the Italian for ‘twins’.


LasagneImage from Flickr user Lachlan Donald.

In Italian, lasagna refers to the type of pasta, while the plural form lasagne refers to the dish made with multiple lasagne sheets. The name derives from the Roman ‘cooking pot’ known as a lasanum; this coming from the Greek lasanon – a ‘pot with feet’. It has also been suggested that lasanon meant ‘chamber pot’. I’m not sure Garfield would approve.


LinguineImage from Flickr user digipam.

Lingua means tongue – ‘linguine’ are ‘little tongues’. Not the most appetising image!


macaroni-911164_1920Image from Pixabay.

Back to Greek for the ultimate origin of this word: makaria means ‘food made from barley’. In the 18th century, ‘macaroni’ was used as a term for fashion-conscious young men who copied European styles and trends, which included eating the dish of the same name – then seen as appealingly foreign. ‘Yankee Doodle’ started out as a British song mocking colonial Americans for being badly dressed simpletons (or ‘doodles’). Sticking a feather in a hat and calling it ‘macaroni’ can be interpreted as a poor attempt at imitating the style of Britain’s macaronis.


OrecchietteImage from Flickr user Caspar Diederik.

Continuing the theme of body parts, ‘orecchiette’ means ‘little ears’. Mix them with your linguine and you’re one step closer to an edible face. Don’t eat real people’s faces. That’s cannibalism.


OrzoImage from Flickr user culinarycara.

Orzo is the pasta-doppelganger of rice. But the name is from the Italian for ‘barley’. Whaaat?! (I guess it is also shaped like barley grains.)

That confusion may have been too much to handle, so we’ll take a break for now.
Ten more pasta shapes coming your way next week!


Raclette at Borough Market


Ten More Pasta Shapes


  1. Anuja

    Great Varun!

  2. Anuja

    Vow Varun!

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