There are so many different types of pasta noodles that it can make your head spin. Every long, flat noodle has a different name depending on its thickness and diameter (spaghettini, linguine, tagliatelle) and every tubular noodle changes its moniker depending on its cut, width, and texture (rigatoni, mezze paccheri, ziti rigati).
But often forgotten are the small pasta types, which are ideal for soups, stews, and kids’ dinners. Their shapes are fun and amusing, and they can be as tiny as the size of your pinky nail! Next time you’re sick, shivering, or just plain craving a warm bowl of soup, try any of these adorable Italian pasta types.
Acini di Pepe
This pasta is named after peppercorns because of its tiny, round shape. Buy DeCecco Acini di Pepe here.
Recommended Recipe: Italian Wedding Soup
Acini di Pepe is often used as an ingredient in Italian Wedding Soup, which has a chicken broth base. The other defining ingredient of this classic Italian soup recipe is its hearty meatballs, accompanied by chopped spinach, diced carrots, celery, onions, and herbs.
Ditalini literally translates to “small thimbles,” which describes the short, stout shape of this small pasta.
Recommended Recipe: Pasta e Fagioli
Ditalini pasta is the default for many Italian soup recipes, but none is more emblematic than Pasta e Fagioli. The base of this dish is chicken stock and crushed tomatoes. It is made hearty with the addition of cannellini beans, which provide protein, fiber, and other essential nutrients. Chopped pancetta, celery, carrots, and onions also go into this recipe — one that you will find on any Italian restaurant menu!
Extremely similar to ditalini is tubettini; the only difference being the length. Tubettini is slightly longer, but is still a very small pasta.
Recommended Recipe: Pasta e Ceci
Pasta e Ceci is a simple chickpea soup that even the most amateur cook can make at home. For this recipe, chicken or beef broth is actually not necessary. The soup base is made from the water that the chickpeas and diced veggies have been cooked in!
The edges of baby bow tie pasta are serrated, like those of its larger cousin, farfalle. Unlike farfalle pasta, the ends of farfalline take on a more rounded shape. Buy Garofalo brand farfalline here.
Recommended Recipe: Potato and Pancetta Soup
With a tomato and vegetable broth base, this Potato and Pancetta Soup recipe is like a warm embrace for your taste buds. Sautéed leek and pancetta pair up with farfalline and soft potato chunks for a balanced bite. Stir in some grated Parmesan for some cheesy flavor!
Orzo is a small pasta that looks a lot like long grain rice. Rest assured, though, that orzo is made from traditional durum wheat semolina flour.
Recommended Recipe: Minestra d’Orzo
The recipe for Minestra d’Orzo comes from the northernmost region of Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige. This soup can be made with either pearl barley or orzo pasta. Its light, savory broth is made using either chicken or vegetable stock. Starchy potatoes lend this recipe even more texture, along with some diced pancetta and the usual veggies.
Literally “little rings,” anellini is a small, circle pasta that is frequently used in baked pasta recipes, or cooked with sauce or soup.
Recommended Recipe: Tomato Bisque
You’ll recognize anellini pasta from that can of SpaghettiOs in the back of your cupboard. Make the fresh, grown-up version with tomato bisque from scratch.
The mini version of lumaconi, this small snail shell pasta adds wonderful texture to soups and stews. The other ingredients seep into its hollow center and curved shape for more flavor in each spoonful.
Recommended Recipe: Lentil Stew
Conchigliette is a smaller version of the more common shell pasta conchiglione, which is used for stuffed shells and baked pasta recipes.
Recommended Recipe: Minestrone Soup
A classic noodle meets a traditional Italian recipe when you combine conchigliette and minestrone. Dig into a host of kidney beans, carrots, and other vegetables complimented by this Italian pasta type.
This itty-bitty, star-shaped pasta is perfect for kids — or for adults who need a little cheering up. Stelline has a tiny whole in the center of the noodle, setting it apart from a similar star-shaped Italian pasta type called pastine. (Pastine is also perfect for soup for kids!) Try stelline Granoro gluten free pasta.
Recommended Recipe: Chicken Noodle Soup
Make the ultimate comfort soup even more heartwarming with little stars to light you up! Soft carrots, chicken meat, and chicken broth are just what the doctor ordered.
Pennette (Mezze Penne)
There are quite a few different types of penne pasta, the smallest being pennette. It is a short, squat version of the traditional penne noodle with slanted ends.