The ribbonlike egg pasta known as tagliatelle is the classic accompaniment for ragu alla bolognese, but a number of other pastas possess shapes and textures that make them excellent partners for that rich meat sauce and similar ones popular across Italy. Most pasta in that country falls into two broad categories. In the north, egg pasta (pasta all’uovo, which is sometimes referred to as pasta fresca, or fresh pasta) prevails; it is made with a soft-grained variety of wheat called Triticum aestivum. In the south, dried pasta (pasta secca) is predominant; pasta secca contains no eggs and is made with water and hard durum wheat. The designation of the latter type of pasta can cause confusion because egg pasta can be bought both fresh and dried; indeed, many pasta companies—including Barilla, the world’s largest, which was founded in Emilia-Romagna in 1877—make dried, packaged versions of both varieties. The finest egg and durum wheat pastas are shaped with bronze dies and are slowly air-dried, in a process that yields a porous, sauce-receptive texture. Featured here are 11 styles that Italian cooks traditionally pair with meat sauces.
1. Casarecci was traditionally homemade across southern Italy; now commercial versions are available.
2. The ultrawide ribbons of egg pasta known as pappardelle are usually consumed fresh, though good dried versions are increasingly available.
3. Orchidee (orchids), or gigli (lilies), contains “petals” that scoop sauce beautifully.
4. Egg-based garganelli is a specialty of Bologna.
5. The pasta known as spaghetti, “little strings”, is ubiquitous across Italy; it is believed to have originated in Sicily.
6. Spaghetti’s thicker Venetian cousin, bigoli, is traditionally made with buckwheat flour.
7. The distinctively shaped stuffed pasta called tortellini often goes by the name ombelichi di venere, “Venus’s navels”, in Bologna.
8. Penne rigate, “ridged quills”, is famously sauce-friendly, with its ribbed exterior and cylindrical cavity.
9. Farfalle, “butterflies”, is a perennial favorite across Italy; an egg version, called stricchetti, is popular in Bologna.
10. Lasagnette, which is popular in southern Italy, looks like the ruffly lasagna sheet common in that area.
11. Radiatori—literally, “radiators”—with their deep corrugations, make wonderful vessels for thick sauces.