Today's tip

Different shapes of pasta work best when paired with specific sauces.

The smoothness or the number of ridges, the nooks and crannies, the thickness or thinness capture and absorb sauce in different ways and provide a pleasing play of texture with the components of the sauce.

Long, dried pasta, such as capellini, spaghetti, or linguine, marry best with olive-oil-based sauces, because the oil coats the pasta completely without drowning it. Flavors that go well with oil-based sauces are fish, vegetables, and puréed herbs. It is important to bear in mind how you cut up the ingredients for the sauce. For long pasta, the vegetables, fish, or meat should be cut string-like rather than cubed, so they can blend better with the pasta and sauce when eaten.

Short, tubular pasta goes especially well with sauces that are chunky, so cut the vegetables, fish, or meat for the sauce into small pieces, cubed; in this scenario, the pieces of meat, vegetable, or beans in the sauce are captured in the crevices of the pasta. Sauces made with ricotta cheese, olives, or mozzarella also go very well with the short, dry pasta. Short, particularly tubular, pasta is also better for oven-baked preparations. Tomato and simple cream and butter sauces are universal and will go well with basically any pasta shape— fresh or dried.

Whatever the sauce, the pasta should be lubricated but not suffocated by it. Pasta should be thoroughly coated without lying in pools of sauce; it should glide on the plate when touched with a fork without becoming glued together.