What Are The Weirdest Pasta Shapes?
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so don't take our list of the world's weirdest pasta shapes too seriously. Although we've narrowed it down to a dozen of the strangest, we had over 300 to choose from so the list could be a lot longer.
Number 12: Testaroli
Any foodstuff that Wikipedia describes as "bread or pasta" because no-one can agree what it is had to make our list. Some food historians regard this ancient shape as the world's earliest pasta, whilst others argue it shares far more similarities to bread. Whichever is right, most agree that testaroli originated in the Etruscan era (900 BC - 27 BC) and has been enjoyed with pesto - or at least an early form of pesto - for centuries.
Its name (which is sometimes called testarolo) comes from "testo", the cast-iron pan in which it is cooked. The thin, crepe-like pancakes are then cut into diamond shapes and served with a variety of sauces. In recent years, testaroli has grown in popularity and is now served in restaurants throughout Italy.
Number 11: Alphabetti Spaghetti
We’re going to file this one under “novelty pasta shapes” alongside the garishly coloured and overpriced junk you can buy in TK Maxx shaped like cartoon characters, dinosaurs, and wagon wheels. This awful product has been around since the late 19th century and was first introduced by the Campbell Soup Company in 1934. Although you won't find anyone with a mental age of over nine be seen dead eating it*, we reckon if Alphabetti Spaghetti gets kids into pasta then it has done its job.
* Because we're militant about reducing food waste, after photographing this garbage we had to eat it for our lunch. Honestly, the heroic lengths we go to try and keep this blog interesting. You're welcome.
Number 10: 'a Caccavella
This monstrosity is marketed as the biggest single-portion pasta shape in the world, weighing in at 50g and boasting a diameter of 10cm. It's effectively an edible bowl that is filled with a meaty ragù in the Campanian dish, pasta alla Sorrentina.
This pasta's name translates to "pots" in Neapolitan dialect because they are traditionally cooked in small terracotta pots. The pasta's large size and ridged surface allows it to absorb flavours and sauces effectively, making it a popular choice for hearty meat dishes.
Number 9: Bucatini
Also known as perciatelli, at first glance bucatini just looks like linguine, but its major difference is that it has a hole running through it to help it cook with uniformity and hold onto more sauce. Many foodies dispute the assertion that the hole does either of those things, making this shape the cause of many fiery debates among pasta nerds.
Number 8: Corzetti
Also known as croxetti, this ancient shape is so unusual because it's the only one made by embossing a circular piece of pasta with a pattern, traditionally a wealthy family's coat of arms. Styled on a 14th century Genovese coin, the embossed emblem didn't just show off how moneyed you were, it also gave the pasta some texture so that sauces could cling to it better than if it had been completely smooth.
Number 7: Tempestine
This makes the list not because its shape is particularly odd but because it's the smallest pasta shape in the world. This diminutive shape is so tiny that it takes scientific scales to weigh it and clocks in at just 0.0057g per piece meaning it cooks insanely quickly.
Number 6: Orecchiette
You don't need to be a super-sleuth like Coleen Rooney to work out why this quirky little shape translates as "little ears". Their appearance is achieved by dragging a serrated knife across a small piece of dough, creating a unique texture that perfectly captures sauces. The shape is a staple in Pugliese cuisine, often served with simple tomato sauces or hearty stews.
On the face of it it's a rather primitive shape but anyone who has ever tried making it by hand will tell you that its apparent simplicity is a smokescreen of the highest order. Bari in southern Italy is where you will find the true experts. There's a great YouTube clip from Tastemade that sees America's best known sfoglino, Evan Funke, totally blown away when he saw the speed with which the local women can churn out these funny little shapes.
Number 5: Atavi Tagliatelle
The reason this pasta is so weird is not because of the shape (the producers decided to go with the classic tagliatelle) but because it's so eye-wateringly expensive. A 280g box of smoked Atavi pasta will set you back a whopping £22, making it almost 15,000 times more expensive than the UK's most affordable pasta sold by Morrisons.
Number 4: Fregola Grossa
Colloquially known as Sardinian couscous, the reason this "shape" is so unusual is because the pieces are completely different shapes and sizes. That might not sound like a big deal, but normally producers go to great lengths to ensure consistency so that every piece of their pasta cooks uniformly time after time. Having tiny grains and large chunks boiled together means that some pieces will be overcooked, and some will be undercooked. It makes for an odd but interesting eating experience providing you go into it with your eyes wide open.
Number 3: Cascatelli
You could easily argue that cascatelli has had more time spent on its design than any other shape in the history of pasta. It was created by The Sporkful podcast host Dan Pashman over a three-year period in collaboration with the New York-based pasta company Sfoglini. The shape launched in 2021 to worldwide acclaim, with Time magazine calling it one of the year's best inventions.
Pashman created cascatelli with the goal of developing a pasta shape that excels in three key areas: sauceability, forkability, and toothsinkability. Sauceability refers to the pasta's ability to cling to and carry a sauce, while forkability refers to its ease of handling with a fork. Toothsinkability refers to the pasta's ability to provide a satisfying bite. Cascatelli's unique shape, with its ruffled edges is designed to maximise these three qualities.
Number 2: Fusilli Capri
As devoted fusilli fans, you can imagine our delight when we stumbled across this ridiculously oversized pasta shape in a tacky little tourist shop in the centre of Venice. We immediately grabbed ourselves five bags of the stuff, but the fact that four of them are still gathering dust in the back of our food cupboard tells you all you need to know about what we think of it.
If you attempt to cook the whole foot-long shape, you'll end up with a piece of pasta that is rock hard on the inside and mushy on the outside. Just like candele lunghe (an even longer pasta shape that represents the candles carried on religious processions) the shape needs to be broken for it to cook properly. Speak to any Italian though, and they'll tell you that snapping pasta is one of the most heinous crimes you can commit against their beloved cuisine and worthy of penal sanctions. After all, if you produce a pasta that needs to be broken into smaller pieces, why not just make smaller pieces to start with?
Number 1: Su Filindeu
We’ve written at length about our love for su filindeu, not just because it's the world's rarest and most intricate pasta, but because there's only a handful of people on the planet who know how to make it.