First came the parade of pasta shapes (the National Pasta Association currently showcases 51 shapes on its website). The high-fiber, high-protein pasta explosion followed.
But these days, semolina spaghetti and whole-wheat penne are relinquishing shelf space to gluten-free options that are worth trying—whether you’re avoiding gluten or simply looking for a change of pace.
Tasting notes: Bold, nutty flavor with a chewy texture and firm, dense bite. Check the package carefully to make sure no wheat flour has been added. Best shapes: Pick spaghetti and spirals; they hold their shape well and won’t stick together. How to use it: Serve with Asian-style sauces and stir-fries or cheese sauces that complement the buckwheat flavor. Try: Orgran Buckwheat Pasta Spirals
Tasting notes: Reminiscent of popcorn; for best texture, choose a blend of corn-quinoa pasta.
Best shapes: Elbows, rotelle
How to use it: Add to baked pasta dishes, such as macaroni and cheese, or toss lightly with cream, cheese, or pesto sauces that complement the corn flavor. Avoid using in pasta salads because it can get tough when cooled.
Tasting notes: Compact but tender texture and neutral flavor; look for brands that blend potato and rice or corn.
Best shapes: Long strands, such as fettuccine and spaghetti, that benefit from potato pasta’s tenderness.
How to use it: Toss with light, brothy sauces that coat the strands and keep them from sticking together.
Tasting notes: Delicious whole-grain flavor; closest in texture to whole-wheat pastas.
est shapes: Shells, rotelle, pagodas
How to use it: Top with spicy or bold-flavored sauces that stand up to the whole-grain flavor.
Tasting notes: Mild, neutral flavor; firm, somewhat grainy texture easily absorbs other flavors.
Best shapes: Choose firm shapes (e.g., penne, shells) that won’t fall apart or turn gummy if overcooked.
How to use it: Serve with tomato-based sauces that stick to the noodles.