Quick to cook up and a family mealtime staple, pasta is the budget-friendly dried (or fresh) ingredient we wouldn’t want to live without. Coming in many shapes and sizes, from fun, twisty spirals to flavour-filled parcels, you’re always part of the way towards cooking a variety of recipes with a supply of different pasta shapes on hand.
With our slimming friendly recipe ideas, this carb-heavy ingredient doesn’t have to take you off track. Whether you prefer your pasta dishes light and creamy, rich and meaty or oven-baked, our breakdown of pasta varieties will help you pop the perfect pasta in the pan every time.
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There’s nothing more satisfying than twisting strands of noodle-like spaghetti goodness around your fork; it creates a chunky, tasty mouthful that’s filling even with hardly any sauce involved! Spaghetti is a familiar store cupboard staple for most of us, and chances are you’ve already used it to create a classic Italian-inspired meaty bolognese or creamy carbonara.
Spaghetti tends to work especially well when it’s paired with a light sauce and delicate meat option, like chicken, and so we love to use it in our oven-baked Chicken Tetrazzini recipe. You might be used to chunkier pasta shapes in pasta bake recipes, but trust us – spaghetti works SO well in our tetrazzini. Because the spaghetti strands are fine and pliable, it really immerses itself with the other ingredients. You need to try a cheesy spaghetti, spinach and chicken-laden forkful!
The trick with pasta is to add a hint of salt to the water as it’s coming to the boil, it’ll bring out even more flavour in your pasta-based dish.
If you’re looking to branch out from traditional ‘spag’, tagliatelle is a great alternative for traditional style dishes. As it’s flatter and more ribbon-like, it lends itself really well to light, creamy chicken recipes like our Lemon and Chicken Spinach Pasta.
The elegant tagliatelle ribbons are especially good at soaking up the velvety cream cheese (with a touch of zingy lemon juice!), so you’ll be able to mop up every inch of flavour from your plate. We’re not drooling, you are…
In meaty, warming bakes, like Lasagne, lasagne sheets are used to stack layer upon layer of flavour. Whether you use dried or fresh lasagne sheets, a side-by-side layering of pasta sheets forms the base of each bolognese-filled, cheesy tier.
You don’t have to do any prep by pre-boiling your sheets, simply lay them in the oven dish and let the residual heat from the sauce and other ingredients soften them.
When your lasagne is baked, your pasta sheets will be slightly soft rather than hard and crunchy. Give them a gentle stab with a knife or fork to check before serving!
Lasagne isn’t just a dish for meat-lovers. With a hearty helping of nutritious mushrooms, spinach, a homemade tomato sauce and lots of cheesy flavour, our Mushroom and Spinach Lasagne is just as good as any meat-based version.
Lasagne sheets are a lot more versatile than you might expect. You can slice them into thick pasta strips (pappardelle), roll them into fillable tubes (cannelloni) or fold them into slimming friendly Lasagne Bowls. Our recipe delicately wraps an oozy, cheese and ragu centre in a pasta layer for only 323 calories per serving!
Fusilli and spirali
To mix things up a bit, our Chilli Pasta Bake uses giant fusilli, a corkscrew-like pasta variety that’s inexpensive and easy to find. Unlike standard straggly spaghetti or ribbon-like pasta varieties, these pasta shapes come in a spiralled shape that scoop up the chilli con carne-inspired filling, so every mouthful is saucy and flavoursome.
Even if you don’t have fusilli available, you can swap it out for whatever variety you have at the back of the cupboard. You may have a bagful of spirali handy, which is very similar in shape to fusilli – it’s just that fusilli is a slimmer, more tightly-wound screw shape.
Spirali works really well in our Spicy Sausage Pasta because there’s so much flavour from the sauce, veggies and sausages for the screw-like ridges to mop up. Bring on the garlic bread!
Named after its resemblance to the nib of a fountain pen, penne is a reliable pasta variety with a sharp edge and hollow centre. Deliberately shaped to catch and hold sauces at its centre, it’s no surprise it’s one of the most popular pasta varieties out there!
Our Creamy Tomato Pasta recipe is such an easy dish to incorporate into your weekly routine. To make it your own, you can experiment with veggies, try adding different meats and fish or up the spice levels by playing around with chilli flakes.
It’s also super easy to make a big batch that’ll feed the whole family (and beyond), so it’s worth making the most of your biggest pan to get the job done.
The bigger your pan, the better for your pasta. By giving your penne pieces more room to breathe while they’re boiling and expanding, you can prevent them sticking together.
Another hollow pasta variety, shell-shaped conchiglie was made to be stuffed with a tasty filling. You might think stuffed pasta can’t be slimming friendly, but the flavour-filled shells in our Stuffed Pasta Bolognese recipe prove otherwise at only 417 calories per serving.
Oven-baked pasta dishes tend to come topped with cheese, but this dish takes cheese-filled pasta shells and turns them into the showstopper topping. We rest them on a bed of rich, meaty bolognese before they’re cooked to crisp, golden perfection in the oven.
Even if stuffing pasta shells does add a little bit of extra preparation time, the outcome is well worth it – trust us! Experiment with different fillings and flavours, or enjoy shells plain and simple with a sauce – they’ll do part of the work for you by scooping up the flavours as you dig in.
With its tubular shape and ridged surface, rigatoni is a chunky, satisfying pasta shape that’ll make sure every bite is a satisfying mouthful. In our garlicky Chicken Caesar Pasta recipe, the rigatoni captures all of the indulgent zesty lemon and cream cheese flavours. It’s a freezer friendly pasta-based alternative to classic Caesar salad you can prep in advance for your lunchbox.
This dish features croutons to add an extra-satisfying crunch, but you can add a further bite to your dish by cooking your rigatoni al dente. To achieve ‘al dente’ (‘to the tooth’) consistency, cook your pasta until just before it softens. Firmer pasta shapes will add even more texture and retain flavour for longer!
Who knew you could use pasta as a pie base? Our Rigatoni Pizza Pie recipe cooks the rigatoni pasta base while the dried pasta pieces stand upright at the base of a springform tin. Thanks to its hollow shape, the rigatoni is filled with the homemade tomato sauce as it’s poured on top – creating a saucy, cheese-filled ‘pasta pie’ base you can slice right into!
Macaroni looks a lot like a shorter version of rigatino, and often come in a bendy elbow shape. Budget friendly, quick to make and easy to store away, it’s not hard to understand why oven-baked mac and cheese has become a comfort food staple. To bring the calories down in our version without losing out on the all-important creamy texture, our Cauli Mac n Cheese recipe uses a clever blend of cauliflower and low fat cheese.
To make sure your cheesy sauce isn’t too thick, save some pasta water from boiling your macaroni – adding pasta water is an effective technique to thin out pasta sauces without losing flavour.
From pasta salads to warming soups and stews, tiny pasta shapes are perfect for adding body to a dish. For our ultra-popular Cheesy Fajita Orzotto, orzo’s rice grain resemblance gives our recipe a silky, risotto-like consistency that’s too good to miss.
By boiling the ingredients together in chicken stock instead of plain boiled water, the orzo leaves the pan thick, cheesy and packed with irresistible fajita flavours.
For a healthier alternative to a tortilla wrap, try a scoopful of orzotto wrapped in a crispy little gem lettuce leaf. It’s so crunchy and satisfying!
While it would be fun (and delicious) to test and talk about all 600 pasta types in the world, we’ve left you with a handful of staple varieties that work well in a variety of slimming friendly dishes. You can find more hints and tips around how to cook pasta here.
Will you be rustling up a pasta dish tonight?
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