Pasta Primer: A Guide to 7 Unusual Pasta Shapes

Beyond spaghetti and fettuccine
October 20, 2015
by Andrea Strong

The vast world of pasta encompasses the familiar — spaghetti, macaroni, ziti and fettuccini — but it also veers off into wild and wacky directions with pastas shaped like telephone cords, postage stamps and more. Here, we introduce you to some of our favorite off-the-beaten-path pastas on menus from coast to coast. 


Hailing from the province of Siena in Tuscany, pici — also called pinci—are thick, hand-rolled pasta, like fat spaghetti. This rustic pasta is always handmade, and it is traditionally almost the thickness of a pencil. The exact length and thickness of pici will vary by village and from nonna to nonna.

Find it:  

Chef Bryant Wigger serves pici with pork confit, kale, black pepper, pecorino and poached egg at Wildcraft in Culver City, CA. 

Pici with asparagus, wild mushroom and garlic crema at chef Scott Conant’s Scarpetta Miami


This Venetian pasta looks like very long, thick tubes; similar to bucatini but without the hole in the center. It is traditionally made with whole wheat flour and is known for its “roughness,” which allows it to hold sauces. It has been said that this noodle is as thick as a needle for knitting stockings.

Find it: 

Spelt bigoli with meatballs, green tomato, cotija is served at Ribelle, Brookline, MA .

Chef Andrew Whitcomb serves bigoli with matsutake mushrooms and egg yolk and Meyer lemon at Brooklyn’s Colonie.

Bigoli with tomato, pine nuts, & fiore sardo from Zach Pollack of Alimento, in Los Angeles, CA.


This pasta, whish resembles a very long hand-rolled strand, is native to a small sliver of Abruzzo that runs along the Fino river valley, through Pescara and Teramo provinces, until the mountain villages of the Laga area. This unusual dish is believed to date back to the 1340s when the Dukes of Atri, the Acquaviva family, decreed that the molini (or mills) be built along the Fino River. The pasta is made from a simple dough of flour, water, salt and a bit of olive oil that’s hand-rolled and pulled into a single loop that’s stretched from 10 to hundreds of feet long. It's usually served in Abruzzo with a lamb or castrato ragu or garlic, sweet pepper and olive oil. Traditionally the pasta was dressed, then spread out and served and eaten communally on a spianatoia, a wooden board.

Find it: 

The traditional version of mugnaia is one single noodle. Chef Mike Randolph cuts the dumplinglike strand into bite-size pieces and serves it with braised pork belly, braised white beans, sage, rosemary and lemon at Randolfi's in St. Louis, MO.

Chef Joe Cicala is known for his hand-pulled, single-strand mugnaia pasta served with garlic, extra virgin olive oil, hot pepper and pecorino at Le Virtu in Philadelphia (pictured). 


Mafalde is a type of ribbon pasta that looks like pieces of lasagna noodle. It’s characterized by a long, rectangular shape with frilly, curled edges. The frilly edges give the pasta its name — after Princess Mafalda, daughter of King Vittorio Emanuele III. This shape is also known as reginelle (little queens). They cook up into a very substantive plate of pasta that can be served with any sauce, especially meat sauces. 

Find it: 

Mafalde is served at Vic’s in New York City, where chef Hilary Sterling tosses it with caramelized onions, prosciutto, caraway and nutmeg (pictured). 

Mafalde with espresso-braised short rib and porcini is served at Giovanni Rana’s Pastificio & Cucina at Chelsea Market in NYC.


Francobolli are small ravioli from Tuscany that literally translate to “postage stamp.” These ravioli are beautiful and delicate, with frilled edges and are often filled with cheese. The pasta is often rolled out so it's very thin and the color of the fillings can shine through. 

Find it: 

At Mario Batali’s Babbo in New York City, his signature calf’s brain francobolli is served with lemon and sage.

Chef Matthew Accarrino makes Francobolli at SPQR in San Francisco with spiced Wagyu beef “Bolognese” and goat feta.


Strozzapreti are a long hand-rolled pasta, like a thicker version of spaghetti. Literally "priest-choker" or "priest-strangler” in Italian, this pasta is typical of the Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, Marche and Umbria regions of Italy as well as in the state of San Marino. The story goes that a gluttonous priest, who loved these dumplings, ate so many of them so fast that he strangled himself by swallowing them whole. True story or not, we’re not so sure Pope Francis will be eating this pasta anytime soon.

Find it: 

Sherry Yard, VP of culinary direction at Tanzy in Westwood, offers handmade strozzapreti Bolognese with plum tomato and fresh ricotta.

Chef Simone Bonelli serves a fall strozzapreti with borgata, fennel seed and pistachio pesto at La Pecora Bianca in New York City. The pasta is made with Emmer flour, which is a type of farro. 

Jenn Louis serves strozzapreti simply drizzled with melted butter and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano at Lincoln in Portland, Oregon.


This thin,hollow tube of twisty pasta resembles a telephone cord (remember those?) and comes from the Italian region of Sicily around Trapani. Like other fresh pasta from the south of Italy, it is made from durum wheat flour (semola di grano duro rimacinato) and water only, no eggs.

Find it: 

Busiate is on the menu at Upland, in New York City, where chef Justin Smilie serves it with lobster trapanese. 

At New York City’s Sessanta, chef Jordan serves Busiate ai Ricci di Mare with sea urchin and parsley.