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  • Writer's pictureAnnamarie Stedjan

Perfect Pasta Pairings: Does It Really Matter What Sauce I Use?

Winner winner pasta dinner! Pasta is quite possibly the easiest meal to whip together. It can be a quick weeknight meal, or the highly anticipated Sunday Italian pasta dinner with all the trimmings. With what seems like an over abundance of shape options, there is just no limit to what fun pasta dishes you can experiment with. And now with the addition of SO many varieties like #glutenfree and #plantbased pastas now available, there truly is pasta for all!

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine recently about pasta sauces and they asked me.... "but does it really matter what sauce goes with what pasta?" My answer was unequivocally ...."YES!" I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that most people will agree with me when I say that certain pastas "just go better" with certain sauces, and the truth behind it is real. Pasta shapes are made to highlight the sauces that grace them. I know there are people however on the other side of this discussion that will say..."eh, it doesn't matter." If there is anyone who is reading this journal entry on the latter side, let's see if I can change your mind.

Chunky sauces made with vegetables or meat, like a bolognese or the winner in my house Rigatoni with Sausage and Basil for example, generally pair better with shorter type pastas that have lots of crevices, which help to trap the sauce and other ingredients.

Short pastas, like penne, gemelli or rotini also make fantastic pasta salads, like my Greek Penne Pasta Salad or Rotini with Arugula and Feta. I think the thing I love most about both of these dishes (besides the Mediterranean flavors that are my absolutely favorite), is that they can be enjoyed hot, room temperature or cold. They are both also olive oil based dressings, so it makes either of them a perfect pick for a hot summer day's barbecue or picnic. As the weather starts to warm up over the next few months, definitely give these a try.

Long, round pastas like spaghetti or bucatini are best paired with butter and cheese, olive oil or tomato based sauces that coat each strand evenly. Some great examples of these sauces would be a cacio e pepe, simple pomodoro or my Roasted Garlic and Tomato Sauce with Spaghetti. Two more great dinners for long shaped pasta would be a nice lemony and juicy Shrimp Scampi or my Best Basil Pesto!

NOTE: Longer pastas, like spaghetti or capellini like to suck up sauce, so always make sure you make a little extra then you think you'll need. If you find yourself a little low on the juiciness, especially for a dish like Shrimp Scampi, you can always just add some extra starchy past water to loosen things up and bring some juiciness back to the dish. I always like to reserve at least a cup of past water before I drain my pasta, just in case!

Then you have the forgotten mini shaped pastas, like pastina and orzo. Of course both a fantastic in soups to add some starch, but they can also hold their own as a great side dish. A quick and easy side dish to make that goes great with chicken or pork cutlets, even meatloaf, is this Creamy Orzo with Peas and Tomatoes. Simple to put together and not to many ingredients either. The leftovers are a perfect lunch for the next day. Check out the recipe below:


2 cups orzo

1 large shallot, minced

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1 15oz can of petite diced tomatoes

1/3 cup light cream

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, heat a high-sided sauce pan over medium-high heat and melt the butter. Add the garlic and shallots and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the petite diced tomatoes in their juices. Stir together with the shallots and garlic and cook until the tomatoes have softened and created a light tomato sauce, about 8 minutes. Add in the cooked orzo and thawed peas. Stir together and let simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Lastly, add in the light cream, stir to distribute evenly and serve.

Hope this entry gets your hungry and inspired to get in the kitchen and create a pasta dish for you and your family this weekend!


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