This section is going to be a bit sparse on exact details, mainly because there are so many different kinds of pasta shapes and varieties. I’m keeping it generic as most recipes can use noodles interchangeably minus a few exceptions (like lasagna.) I use this whole-wheat pasta as a base for making long noodles and small noodles (using your hands, pasta machines, or attachments for your stand mixer). And if you’ve never tried making pasta before, I highly recommend it. It’s fun, not too hard, and can be done with no special tools. Also, there are a ton of alternative pastas on the market now including quinoa, black bean, and chickpea-based pastas.
For some time, I avoided long noodles. They always felt awkward to eat and reminded me of the spaghetti and tomato sauce dinners I ate as a child. But long noodles have their place in my pantry now. There are certain meals and sauces that work better with the long noodles. Plus, if you’re looking to make homemade noodles, they are the easiest to do without a special pasta machine- just roll out the dough and use a knife or pizza cutter to slice strips.
Varieties to look for: angel hair (thin), spaghetti (medium), linguine (slightly wider), fettuccine (medium-wide), pappardelle (wide), and lasagna. All shapes work well with sauces and vegetables. Angel hair and spaghetti can also be used as substitutes for asian noodles.
Unlike the long noodles, the small pasta can play different roles in recipes. You can make macaroni and cheese with any noodle but macaroni noodles are usually best for the job. For baked ziti, I’ll make baked pasta dishes with a wide array of small noodles but it is traditionally made with ziti noodles. Some of the smaller pasta shapes can be made by hand but take time. I’ll often keep a box of store-bought wheat pasta on hand for quick dinners.
Varieties to look for: farfalle (bow-tie, an easier one to make), elbow macaroni, fusilli, orecchiette, penne, conchiglie (shells), rigatoni, and rotini. As mentioned above, I used most of these interchangeably and look for whole wheat pasta when purchasing from a store.
If you’re looking for a pasta that acts more like a grain, it’s this category. Pearl couscous (not to be confused with cracked wheat couscous) and orzo mimic grains more than pasta. Pearl couscous is round in shape and slightly larger than sorghum while orzo is about the size of a grain of rice. Both cook quickly and are great to use as you would a grain- in salads, as a bed for roasted vegetables, or in soups.