” The shapes pasta takes are numbered in the hundreds, and the sauces that can

              be devised for them are beyond numbering, but the principles that bring pasta

  and sauce together in satisfying style are few and simple.”

      Marcella Hazan

Pasta comes in many shapes and lengths and there are hundreds of combinations of pastas and sauces. These pairings may seem random, but to Italians, there’s a surprisingly logical process that goes into choosing the perfect pasta shape for a given sauce.

You would not want to pair a chunky sauce with thin noodles because the sauce will separate from the noodles and wind up in the bottom of the bowl. Meat sauces or other chunky sauces are best with larger hollow tubes such as rigatoni and penne, or in the cupped shape of conchiglie (shells). Spaghettini, thin spaghetti, is usually the best vehicle for an olive oil based seafood sauce. Many tomato sauces work better with thicker, hollow strands known as bucatini or perciatelli.  Fusilli is excellent with a dense, creamy sauce, that clings to all its twists and curls.
Here is a link to a chart that gives you a picture of the various pasta shapes and the sauces that go well with them:. http://www.chow.com/assets/2009/03/pasta_chart.pdf

Did you know there is a reason why you might use ruffle-edged lasagna noodles instead of flat-edged? In the book, The Geometry of Pasta, is the explanation that lasagne ricci, the ruffled noodles, may allow lighter sauces to penetrate the dish better. It is also more decorative, which may be why it is a staple of the Christmas table in Sicily. http://www.geometryofpasta.co.uk/index.php

Here are some well-matched pasta and sauce recipes for you to try.


Eggplant Bolognese

6 servings


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • Kosher salt, divided
  •  1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/2 pound ground sirloin or ground turkey, (leave out for a vegetarian meal)
  • 8 cups chopped eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 (28-ounce) container Italian chopped tomatoes
  • 10 ounces uncooked rigatoni
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup small fresh basil leaves


Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and beef; cook 10 minutes or until the beef is browned, stirring to crumble beef.

Add eggplant, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook 20 minutes or until eggplant is very tender, stirring occasionally.

Add tomato paste; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add wine; cook 1 minute, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Cook pasta according to package directions, adding kosher salt to the cooking water. Drain. Toss pasta with the eggplant sauce; sprinkle with basil leaves.

fettuccine asparagus

Creamy Fettuccine With Asparagus


Serves 4

  • 1/2 pound fettuccine
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and diagonally sliced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 4 tablespoons reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 6 tablespoons shredded cheese, such as Italian Fontina
  • Salt
  • Coarsely ground black pepper and Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped toasted walnuts


Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the fettuccine and cook for 6 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the asparagus, and cook 4 to 6 minutes more, or until the fettuccine is al dente and asparagus crisp-tender. Scoop out 1/2 cup pasta-cooking water and reserve. Drain the pasta and asparagus and return to the cooking pot; cover to keep warm.

Combine milk and flour, whisking until smooth.  Meanwhile, in a medium nonstick saucepan over medium heat oil and garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds, or until fragrant.  Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring often, about 5 minutes, or until thickened and smooth. Remove from the heat.

Whisk in the cream cheese and Fontina until smooth and blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the sauce to the pasta and toss, adding pasta water to moisten, if necessary. Sprinkle with the walnuts.


Angel Hair Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil

Optional: add 1 lb. shelled and deveined shrimp to the skillet when adding the tomatoes



  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 pints fresh cherry tomatoes, quartered 
  • 5-6 large basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • Salt to taste
  • 16 oz. package angel hair pasta
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add garlic and pepper flakes to the skillet.
Add the cherry tomatoes and basil. (Add shrimp, if using.)  Simmer for five minutes. Season with salt.
Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and toss with the sauce.
Garnish with freshly grated Pecorino Romano.

Spinach Mushroom Lasagna


  • 9 uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 1 container (15 oz.) ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) finely shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon water or red wine
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced (or large Portabellas, chopped)
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained
  • 1 recipe homemade marinara sauce, see post for recipe: http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/19/hello-world/


Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain noodles and lay out on clean kitchen towels.

In a large bowl stir together ricotta cheese, egg, 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and black pepper; set aside.

Coat a nonstick skillet with cooking spray, add 1 tablespoon water (or wine) and sauté mushrooms and onion over medium heat 5–6 minutes, or until onion is tender.

 Stir in spinach and set aside.

Coat an 11″ x 7″ baking dish with cooking spray.  Layer 3 noodles, half of the cheese mixture, half of the spinach mixture and 1/3 of pasta sauce. Repeat layers.

Top with remaining 3 noodles and remaining pasta sauce.

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and bake for 5 minutes more, or until cheese melts. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

Yield: 8 servings.


Italian Style Pasta with Tuna


  • 4 oz. whole-wheat spiral pasta
  • 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, preferably red, chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 cup seeded and diced fresh plum tomatoes
  • 12 sun-dried tomato-halves, packed in oil, drained and minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of dried red pepper flakes or to taste
  • 1 can (15 oz.) rinsed and drained cannellini beans, or cooked dried beans, see post
  • http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/23/how-to-use-beans-in-italian-cooking/
  • 1 can (6 oz.) tuna, well-drained
  • 1 tablespoon small capers, rinsed and drained
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Minced flat-leaf parsley leaves

Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté onion, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, about 1 minute.

Transfer mixture to a bowl and set aside. Mix the sun-dried tomatoes and plum tomatoes with the onion mixture. Add oregano and pepper flakes to taste.

Add beans, tuna and capers to the skillet and cook, breaking up tuna, until the mixture is completely heated through. Mix in the tomatoes and the onion/garlic mixture.

Cook, stirring often, until completely heated through. Add cooked pasta and heat through, tossing to mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with parsley.

Makes 6 servings.