Keep a range of dried pastas in your pantry and good meals can happen, especially when you stock up on some of the cheeses and ingredients for the quick sauces on this page. Here are dozens of ideas from cookbook author Domenica Marchetti, whose family is up for a "nice dish of pasta" any night of the week.
Keep these dried pastas in your pantry, with these options in mind ...
Bean thread/ mung noodles
Glassy, slippery and chewy.
1. Soak bean threads and dried shiitake mushrooms in water until softened. Drain, then cook in chicken broth infused with ginger and garlic. Add shredded cooked chicken. Garnish with chopped scallions; drizzle with toasted sesame oil.
2. Stir-fry shrimp with garlic; add drained softened noodles, chicken broth and a splash of Thai fish sauce and soy sauce. Garnish with chopped scallions and cilantro.
Whimsical long twists that hold clingy sauces.
1. Toss in a tomato-vodka sauce. Garnish with freshly grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese.
2. Serve with a Bolognese-style ragu.
3. Serve with ... Tomato cream sauce (see recipe in the "6 Simple Sauces" tab)
Nutty-tasting and less refined.
1. Toss with a pesto of basil, spinach, garlic, olive oil and almonds. Serve with freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese.
2. Toss in a chunky sauce made from canned tomatoes, good-quality tuna in olive oil, and lots of garlic and chopped flat-leaf parsley.
3. Serve with ... Gorgonzola sauce (see recipe in the "6 Simple Sauces" tab)
Grooved, slightly twisted tubes.
1. Toss with shredded sauteed cabbage, onions and caraway seeds. Add crumbled cooked sausage (optional).
2. Toss with a mixture of roasted diced butternut squash, chopped sage and onions in olive oil. Garnish with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
3. Serve with ... Gorgonzola sauce, Mushroom ragu (see recipe in the "6 Simple Sauces" tab)
Quadrettoni al farro/large squares
Like rustic little lasagna noodles.
1. Toss with sauteed radicchio, pancetta and Gorgonzola or mascarpone. Finish with lots of freshly ground pepper.
2. Toss with chopped dinosaur kale or curly kale that has been sauteed in olive oil with lots of thinly sliced garlic and crushed red pepper flakes.
3. Serve with ... Gorgonzola sauce, Mushroom ragu (see recipe in the "6 Simple Sauces" tab)
Brown rice penne
Good-tasting alternative for those who are wheat-intolerant.
1. Serve with a sauce of melted sharp cheddar cheese, cream, diced pimentos and freshly ground black pepper.
2. Toss in a sauce of sauteed tomatoes, onions, eggplant and olives.
3. Serve with ... Tomato cream sauce, Mushroom ragu (see recipe in the "6 Simple Sauces" tab)
Wide egg noodles
Adds lightness and richness to pasta dishes.
1. Toss with browned butter, sauteed mushrooms and chopped sage leaves.
2. Toss in a sauce of flaked hot-smoked (cooked) salmon, sauteed asparagus or peas, and cream.
3. Serve with ... Mushroom ragu (see recipe in the "6 Simple Sauces" tab)
Pasta rings that look like their namesake.
1. Toss in a sauce of braised, tender calamari and tentacles (with olive oil, garlic, onions, white wine, diced tomatoes, hot pepper and oregano).
2. Toss in a sauce of roasted red and yellow bell peppers sauteed in olive oil with red onions and capers. Garnish with grated pecorino Romano cheese.
3. Serve with ... Mushroom ragu, Roasted red pepper sauce (see recipe in the "6 Simple Sauces" tab)
Toasted pasta, larger and coarser than couscous.
1. Cook in a mixture of chicken or vegetable broth and canned diced tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper and fresh mint and basil to make a rustic soup. Drizzle servings with extra-virgin olive oil.
2. Cook in salted water or vegetable broth. Drain. Add diced celery, red onions, fennel, tomato and olives. Toss with olive oil, garlic, lemon and balsamic vinegar for a warm salad.
3. Serve with ... Roasted red pepper sauce, Red clam sauce (see recipe in the "6 Simple Sauces" tab)
Fat, hollow spaghetti.
1. Serve with a classic amatriciana sauce of sauteed pancetta and onion, tomatoes and crushed red pepper flakes.
2. Toss with lots of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and pecorino Romano cheeses and freshly ground black pepper. (Use a little cooking water to keep the pasta from becoming too sticky.)
3. Serve with ... Red clam sauce, Olive oil, garlic and anchovy sauce (see recipe in the "6 Simple Sauces" tab)
Quick-cooking; used in many other ethnic cuisines besides Italian.
1. Break into short strands (uncooked) and brown in lots of butter, then add chicken broth and rice. Cover and cook without stirring until the rice is done to make an Armenian-style pilaf.
2. Saute uncooked with onions, garlic, tomatoes, chipotle pepper and oregano; add broth and cook until the noodles are tender. Finish with shredded dry Jack cheese (see the "beyond Parmesan" tab).
3. Serve with ... Olive oil, garlic and anchovy sauce (see recipe in the "6 Simple Sauces" tab)
Acini de pepe
Small and starchy; good for soups.
1. Cook risotto-style. Season with parsley; finish with fontina and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses.
2. Cook in chicken broth; when al dente, add a beaten egg, chopped flat-leaf parsley and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Match one of the 12 pastas with one of our six simple sauces. Proportions are flexible.
Saute finely chopped carrots, celery and onions in a little olive oil and butter over medium heat until the vegetables begin to soften.
Add canned diced tomatoes and their juices, a sprinkle of salt and freshly ground black pepper; cook, partially covered, over medium-low heat until the vegetables are tender. Let cool, then puree in a blender.
Finish by returning the sauce to the pot to reheat; stir in a generous splash of heavy cream.
Saute minced shallots in a little butter or olive oil over medium-low heat.
Add crumbled Gorgonzola dolce (see "beyond Parmesan" tab) and light cream; cook over low heat until the cheese is melted.
Finish with a splash of cognac and a generous quantity of freshly ground black pepper.
Saute a variety of coarsely chopped mushrooms (portobellos, shiitakes, reconstituted dried porcini) in olive oil over medium-low heat with a little chopped onion and garlic.
Add canned diced tomatoes and a sprig each of fresh rosemary and thyme; cook over medium heat until the sauce has thickened.
Finish by discarding the herb sprigs and tossing with hot pasta.
Saute finely chopped red onion in a little olive oil over medium-low heat until softened.
Add roasted red peppers (from a jar; drained and coarsely chopped) and a can of diced tomatoes with their juice; cook over medium heat until thickened.
Finish with a splash of red wine vinegar and finely chopped flat-leaf parsley; season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Steam littleneck clams in a covered skillet with a little olive oil and dry white wine; place clams in a bowl. Strain and reserve their liquid.
Saute crushed garlic in olive oil over medium heat.
Add diced canned tomatoes, plus the clams' liquid. Season with salt and crushed red pepper flakes; cook over low heat until the sauce is thickened.
Finish by stirring in finely chopped flat-leaf parsley and the clams.
Saute finely minced garlic in a generous quantity of olive oil over low heat until softened.
Add best-quality imported anchovy fillets (coarsely chopped), a spoonful of tomato paste and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes; cook over low heat just until the anchovies have dissolved.
Finish by stirring in a little chopped flat-leaf parsley.
These good additions to pasta dishes are listed from aged grating cheeses to creamier fresh options.
Piquant; works well with robust meat sauces and assertive ingredients such as rosemary, oregano, olives or anchovies. Try it shredded over pasta tossed with briny green olives and toasted slivered almonds.
Sharp and salty. Try it in spaghetti alla carbonara, with diced sauteed pancetta, beaten eggs and lots of freshly ground black pepper.
Rich and buttery; works well in baked pasta dishes. Try it shredded over pasta with sauteed tomatoes and peppers.
Dense and semi-firm; melts beautifully. Try it with whole-wheat or buckwheat pasta.
Creamy and soft. Melt it with butter and cream, then toss with spinach fettuccine and chopped toasted walnuts.
A little saltier and firmer than regular ricotta; try it crumbled over light tomato sauces, such as those made with fresh summer tomatoes or cherry tomatoes and seasoned with basil.
Good for slicing and dicing; works well in baked pasta dishes. Try it with a short pasta and a sauce of chunky tomatoes and fried or sauteed eggplant.
Pungent; works well with other assertive ingredients. Toss with hot pasta and chopped sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives and fresh thyme and oregano, plus a generous grinding of black pepper.
Delicate flavor in a rich triple-cream cheese. Mix with Gorgonzola for a rich cheese sauce, or toss with pasta and sauteed spring vegetables.
Exceedingly rich, with a delicately mushroomy aroma. Try it tossed with pasta in a delicate tomato sauce or more simply, with pasta, salt, pepper and Parmigiano- Reggiano. (Or try a good-quality double- or triple-cream brie.)
Based on an original graphic by Laura Stanton - The Washington Post; WEB EDITOR: Julia Beizer - washingtonpost.com