Pasta can be a wide variety of shapes and sizes, but generally speaking, it can be divided into two broad categories: short pasta and strands. Italians usually pair short pasta with chunky sauces. As for toppings, Italians serve most pasta dishes with good quality extra-virgin olive oil and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese at the table. There’s one broad exception: no grated cheese with fish or shellfish. Use sautéed breadcrumbs (sometimes called the poor man’s Parmesan) to provide an extra dimension of flavor and crunchy texture instead.
Types of short pasta include: casareccia, cavatappi, gemelli, gigli, orecchiette, penne, penne rigate, rigatoni, and rotini.
A general guideline is that smooth sauces are the traditional partner for strands. Flat pasta like linguine is usually paired with seafood. But in Italy, rules are made to be broken: Spaghetti is the pasta of choice for most Italians, no matter what sauce they’re having.
Types of strand pasta include: bucatini, fettuccine, fusilli (which also comes in a short version), linguine, pappardelle, spaghetti, and tagliatelle.