Pasta Buying Guide

Pasta is a delicious option for a wide range of meal occasions. Use this pasta buying guide to navigate the endless variety of shapes, textures and tastes of pasta that are available.

Pasta 101

You can use pasta for a variety of meal options, from salads and casseroles to lasagnes and baked mac and cheese. Kids are intrigued by pasta because of its many different shapes, sizes and textures, which also makes them more interested in eating. These shapes have been created with specific cooking goals in mind: understanding them will help you to prepare tasty pasta dishes for your family. The basic idea is for the pasta to hold onto as much of the surrounding sauce and seasoning as possible as you lift it from your plate so every mouthful is delicious. In general, thinner pastas, such as spaghetti and angel hair work best with lighter sauces, while heavier pastas are more suited to thicker, creamier sauces. 

Types of Pasta 1


Dry Pasta

Dry pasta is made from semolina flour and water. After the pasta is made, it's put through a drying process until all the moisture has evaporated. Compared to fresh pasta, dry pasta is sturdier, making it better suited to thicker sauces. Try a beef-based tomato sauce or a tomato-cream sauce for mouth-watering results. Dry pasta is also a perfect base for a classic goulash or creamy spaghetti casserole. Since dry pasta contains no moisture, it has a long shelf life — up to two years.

Fresh Pasta

Fresh pasta refers to either homemade pasta or the semi-dry variety found at the supermarket. Recipes for fresh pasta usually call for white flour and often substitute eggs in place of water to provide the necessary moisture for the dough. As a result, fresh pasta is generally lighter and more delicate than dry pasta, and its best served with sauces, such as Bolognese sauce, that won’t overpower it. You can also choose not to use a sauce, and just stir in some tasty grated Gorgonzola and olive oil with the cooked noodles. 


Orzo pasta is shaped like a large grain of rice, making it highly versatile and easy to use in salads, casseroles or soups. Save time and surprise your family with a delicious cheesy orzo dish, featuring orzo with onion, garlic, olive oil, chicken broth, Parmesan and your favourite fresh herbs. Another sure-fire crowd pleaser is orzo and chicken stuffed peppers, served for lunch or dinner. Regardless of how you prepare or serve orzo, cook it to a texture that's firm and chewy.

Types of Pasta 2


Egg-Noodle Pasta

Egg-Noodles can be used as a delicious alternative to wheat-based pastas for making chicken soup, beef or turkey noodle casseroles — or when you need a side dish for beef tenderloin or citrus pork. Since egg-noodle pasta is made with egg yolks, it's more delicate than wheat-based pastas. Be careful not to overcook egg-noodle pasta. Dairy-based sauces, such as creamy alfredo sauce, are excellent pairings with this pasta. 

Whole Wheat Pasta

Whole wheat pasta is usually brown in colour and a healthier pasta option. That's because, unlike white pasta, it doesn’t go through the heating process that removes nutrient-rich parts of the pasta’s grain. Whole wheat pasta also tends to have a stronger, nuttier flavour and grainier texture than white pasta. Combine it with soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, peanuts, beef and vegetables of your choice to make a delicious Asian pasta salad. Make sure to boil whole wheat pasta in more water than you would for white pasta to allow the strands to separate adequately.


Penne has a cylindrical, hollow shape and is usually served al dente, meaning it's cooked to the point of being firm but not hard. Penne is one of the most versatile pasta types, and works especially well as a base for pasta salads with spinach and tomatoes. Your family will enjoy it served with a wide range of sauces, including pesto, marinara, creamy garlic and meat sauce. The tubular shape of penne also makes it ideal for baked casserole dishes because cheeses and other delicious ingredients will fill the center of the noodle.


Rigatoni is also tube-shaped pasta, but slightly larger than penne. It pairs well with thick sauces, such as tomato sauce with Italian sausage or meatballs. Rigatoni makes a perfect base for meat and cheese casseroles, since small chunks of meat and melted cheese will flow into the noodle's hollow interior. When cooking rigatoni, make sure to watch the noodles carefully, as they sometimes clump together and can easily overcook. In general, they should be removed from heat when they’re firm. 

Macaroni & Elbow Pasta

Macaroni and elbow pasta form the base one of the all-time favourite dishes of time-constrained moms and budget-conscious students — mac and cheese. You can keep it simple by making it from the box or go with a recipe classic such as a creamy four-cheese macaroni and cheese. Macaroni and elbow pasta are also great additions to minestrone soup served with Parmesan cheese. When boiling macaroni, be sure to salt the water before turning up the heat. If you don't, the pasta might taste flat, no matter what sauce or cheese accompanies it. 

Fettuccini and Pappardelle

Fettuccini and pappardelle noodles are made from flour and egg and are available both as dried and fresh pasta. Generally flat and thick in shape, they combine well with Parmesan cheese, chives and freshly ground nutmeg to make tasty dishes such as fettuccini alfredo. Since fettuccini and pappardelle noodles are quite sturdy, they complement thick, creamy meat or cheese-based sauces, such as tomato sauce with ground beef. 

Fusilli and Rotini

Both fusilli and rotini have a spiral shape that's great for capturing sauces and ensuring every mouthful of your meal is flavourful and delicious. Young kids will get a kick out of the swirling shapes, and everyone in the family will enjoy fusilli and rotini served with thick, cheese-based sauces. Other recipe ideas for fusilli and rotini include macaroni and cheese baked rotini with mozzarella, ground beef, and tomatoes. 


Farfalle is often referred to as bow-tie pasta because of its distinctive shape. While the shape is interesting to look at, it also serves a practical purpose. The ridges at either end combine with the wrinkles and folds in the body to allow farfalle to retain sauces just as well as spiral and tube-shaped pastas. Farfalle performs well with tomato and cream sauces, such as tomato sauce with ground meat or creamy garlic sauce with Parmesan cheese and chicken broth. Cook farfalle to the point where it is firm, but not completely rigid. 

Shell Pasta

As the name suggests, shell pasta has a seashell shape, and is covered with ridges inside and out. This also works to retain sauces, spices and seasonings. Put its shape to good use by pairing it with thick, flavourful meat sauces, such as smoked bacon and pea sauce made with Parmesan cheese and chicken broth. The trick to cooking shell pasta is checking it frequently, since overcooking will cause the shell to lose its shape and fall apart. 

Spaghetti and Linguini

Both spaghetti and linguini are long thin pasta noodles. Spaghetti is cylindrical and takes a little longer to cook, while the flatter, broader linguini has more surface area, which gives it an edge in retaining thin sauces. They're both quite tender, so it’s best to pair them with sauces or other foods that won’t overwhelm their taste or texture. Often, spaghetti and linguini are served simply with oregano and basil. You can also serve them with goat cheese and vegetables or lemon, garlic, thyme and mushrooms. 

Pasta Storage Tips:

• Dry pasta often comes in boxes and can be stored for about a year
• Fresh pasta from the grocer is usually packaged airtight in clear plastic. You can store it unopened in the fridge for a few weeks and in the freezer for up to 3 months
• Opt for dry pasta if you’re unsure how long you’ll need to store it
This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.



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