How to Become an Italian Pasta Master

There’s more to pasta than penne and macaroni. Here’s a guide to pair your pasta with the right sauce.

LF Team

Close on the heels of Chinese cuisine, there is Italian food that rules the hearts of Indians. Hand them a plate of pasta in red sauce, and you’ve won over your guests—age no bar.

It all started with baked pasta dishes at fine-dine restaurants, and within no time the red sauce, the white sauce and the desi pink sauce had entered the Indian food chain—making an appearance at birthday parties, kitty parties, office canteens and live-counters at the great Indian wedding buffets. While Indian chefs, cooks and homemakers scripted the Indian pasta story, purists turned to Italian restaurants to taste and rediscover the flavours of a simply made pasta.  

The base ingredient for a pasta has remained unchanged over the centuries—durum wheat, eggs and salt—but it is the shapes, sizes and forms that make pasta so incredible. Every shape has a purpose, it should complement the consistency of the sauce.

Types of Pasta

From the artisanal handcrafted pasta by Italian Nonnas to commercial and machine churned pastas, there are takers for them all. Here are the basic and most popular pasta types:

Also known as bow-tie or butterfly pasta, farfalle is made by pinching the middle of a rectangular piece of pasta dough with a scalloped breadth. Farfalle goes best with creamy and rich tomato-based sauces because of the larger surface area compared to the size of the pasta; it helps the sauce stick better.

The long flat noodle-like fettuccine resembles a ribbon; it is ¼ inch wide and about 10 inches long. Fettuccine pasta is renowned for its sauce—Alfredo sauce—which was concocted in a small restaurant in Rome by Alfredo di Lelio and is still available at the restaurant. Popular in Rome and southern Italy, Fettuccine has a north Italian cousin known as tagliatelle; the two have negligible differences.


Popular in multicolours, these spirally pasta are amazing with chunky pasta sauces, which lodges itself firmly in the curls of Fusilli. The name is derived from Italian word fuso that translates into ‘little spindles’. The pasta finds its roots in southern Italy where fresh spaghetti was rolled around a rod to form fusilli.

Of all the pastas, India has made macaroni its very own. The hollow tube pasta shaped like an elbow is an integral part of an Indian tadke-wali pasta sabji. Although the curve isn’t essential for macaroni, it could be any narrow tubed pasta. It is one of the earliest variation of pasta, and a versatile one made popular globally due to the comfort food—Mac and Cheese.


An easily recognizable pasta shape, penne gets its name from the Italian word for quill, penna. The cylinder shaped penne has diagonally cut ends, which demarcates it from other tube pastas. Penne works brilliantly with creamy sauces although it does well with other sauces as well.

When you have spaghetti with meatballs and marinara sauce, nothing else matters! It is easily confused with noodles, except for the thickness and texture. Spaghetti was invented in Naples, Italy, and today it is a global favourite. From aglio olio to Bolognese, spaghetti holds its own against a vast variety of sauces.

Raviolis are stuffed pasta where a filling such as ricotta cheese or eggs is enveloped and sealed between two layers of pasta. Raviolis can be of any shape or size and are always served with a sauce that will complement the filling inside. It is preferable to make ravioli from scratch for them to be fresh, rather than pre-packaged ones.

Pasta Sauces

The story of the origin of pasta is a bit convoluted and covers both Asia and Europe, but one thing is confirmed that pasta used to be a food for the Italian nobility during the Renaissance. By the 17th century, pasta had become a staple for Italian citizens, rich and poor alike.

Originally, there were no sauces to go with pastas. That, thankfully, has changed. Here are 5 pasta sauces you should master.

Aglio Olio
This is one pasta sauce that can be whipped up any time and any place with the most basic of ingredients— garlic (aglio) and oil (olio). Incidentally, the two are primary ingredients for a majority of pasta sauces. Once you master the oil and garlic sauce, you can spruce it up by adding chilli flakes, sun dried tomatoes, bacon or whatever you fancy. Just make sure that flavours do not clash with each other.

We hate to break it to you, but the original Roman Alfredo sauce does not use cream. Instead it was a more than generous amount of butter that would melt and meld with the hot pasta, and with the addition of Parmesan, it would become creamy and decadent. The cream-based Alfredo sauce is an Americanised-version where the dairy product meets other dairy cousins such as butter and cheese to form a sauce.


It has no Middle Eastern influence, the term arrabbiata means angry. The crushed tomato sauce is seasoned liberally with chilli flakes in addition to garlic, olive oil, basil, oregano and fresh parsley. You can added proteins of your choice with the pasta or just have it with the hot Arrabbiata sauce—it is a no brainer why it is the red sauce of choice in India.


A personal favourite, Carbonara sauce can be tricky to master. The emulsified sauce is made with eggs, Pecorino cheese, pepper and Guanciale (which is pork cheek meat, you can use bacon instead). At all points, make sure that the eggs do not come in contact with direct heat. Hot pasta is tossed in rendered bacon and bacon fat and then transferred into a mix of cheese, pepper and eggs. Keep tossing it so that everything comes together to form a silky smooth sauce. Practice makes perfect.


Fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan and olive oil is all you need for a pesto sauce, whizz it in the blender to form a thick sauce. The best part is that you can store it in the refrigerator for future use. When preparing the pasta, just add the sauce to hot pasta along with other toppings and toss so as to coat the pasta completely.



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