Pasta is a student’s best friend. Easy to cook, the noodles are long-lasting and inexpensive, and you have a plethora of options on how to cook and dress it.

Meaning “little hairs” in Italian – we know it as angel hair pasta. These long and thin strands of pasta only need to be boiled for 3-5 minutes. It’s best served with lighter sauces; try a light tomato, olive oil, pesto, or light cream sauce.

We’re all familiar with this pasta! The short, c-shaped tubes are great for many things–baked dishes, salads, soups, or your average bowl of mac & cheese. They take 6-8 minutes to cook, and are best paired with a cheese or butter sauce.

“Little spindles” is an accurate description for these spirals. Pasta like fusilli and rotini are best for baked dishes and salads, though can be tossed with sauce as well. Cook for 8-10 minutes, and then pair with a thicker sauce, like a chunky tomato or bolognese sauce.

Small, rice-shaped pasta that’s good for salads and soups. Don’t use it in a thick or chunky sauce, it’ll get lost! Cook for 9-11 minutes, and Orzo can be good for cold, oil-based pasta salads, or in warm dishes with a thin white wine sauce.

Good old -fashioned spaghetti, the familiar thin, long and round noodles are good for far more than the classic meatball combination. After cooking for 9-11 minutes, pair spaghetti with a smooth, olive-oil based, marinara, or pesto sauce. The thin noodles can’t cling to thick sauces, so avoid anything too heavy!

The name means “butterflies” in Italian, though to us they look like little bow ties! This type of pasta is good for literally everything. Taking 10-12 minutes to cook, you can then use them in pasta salads, soups, and regular pasta dishes. They pair with almost any type of sauce, but work particularly well with pesto, a creamy white wine sauce, or perhaps a four cheese sauce.

Meaning “little ribbons,” the long and flat egg noodles are best for tossing with olive-oil based or creamy sauces. Fettuccine only takes 10-12 minutes to cook, so you’ll have a nice bowl of fettuccine alfredo in no time.

It means “little tongues” in Italian, as they noodles are long, flat, and about an eighth of a inch wide. Linguine is actually quite the versatile pasta: after cooking for 10-12 minutes, toss with a thick, rich alfredo sauce, or with a light tomato sauce.

Penne means “quills” or “feathers” in Italian. They’re small tubes, about two to four inches long, cut diagonally on the end. The noodles are good at gripping thicker sauces, so pair with a chunky tomato sauce or bolognese after cooking for 10-12 minutes. Penne are also ideal for baked dishes.

Shells can be tricky–they come in a variety of sizes. Jumbo shells are meant to be stuffed, like with ricotta cheese and coated in marinara sauce, and then baked. Small shells are perfect for baked dishes, salads, or with mac & cheese–the open cavity will pool a little sauce and give an extra cheesey-flavour with each bite. Large shells should be cooked for 11-13 minutes, and small shells for 10-12 minutes.

There’s more to cooking pasta than boiling, tossing and serving. If you want to do it right, follow these tips!

  • Boil a lot of water. Boiling more rather than less water is ideal. The more water, the more space for your pasta to move around and the noodles won’t stick to each other.
  • Salt the water! Salting the water, and heavily, will flavour the pasta that much more. It won’t help the water boil faster, as some might say, but it definitely increases the flavour.
  • Don’t add your pasta too soon. Wait until the water if boiling, fully. Having your pasta sit in warm water will result in mushy pasta. The water will take longer to boil, too.
  • Drain your pasta quickly, before it’s finished cooking. Do not rinse your pasta, the starch on the surface of the pasta helps your sauce adhere to the noodles. Once drained, return it to the pan with the sauce and let it finish cooking with the sauce, increasing the flavour.
  • al dente is cooking the pasta to still be slightly firm when bitten; it means “to the tooth.”
  • al forno is using the pasta in a baked dish.
  • al parodia is the opposite of al dente, meaning “a travesty”. Don’t overcook your pasta, friends!

Nutrition for spaghetti with marinara sauce (106 g):

Nutrient Value
Calories  52
Carbohydrates  7.96 g
Total Fat 1.56 g
Total Sugar 5.81 g
Total Dietary Fibre  1.9 g
Calcium  29 mg
Iron  0.82 mg
Sodium  443 mg
Potassium  337 mg
Magnesium  19 mg

Provided by Health Canada