Long pasta is when the shape of pasta is long, not short. I bet you would have never guessed. We often think of spaghetti for long pasta, but there is more to long pasta than just that!
Starting with capellini vs angel hair, to a host of others, we’ll compare the differences and remove any confusion you may have.
Here are Some Common Long Pasta Types
Let’s first start off with some guidelines. In this post I’m referring to dried pasta that we purchase at most grocery stores. Not homemade fresh pastas.
In addition, keep in mind that pasta brands may have their own specifications regarding size and width of different noodles.
So these comparisons are made off of my own research, from my own experience with Italian cooking over many years, including doubling up on my research with stacks of vintage Italian cookbooks I’ve collected.
Angel hair vs. Capellini
Cappellini vs angel hair is nearly a tie, however technically, capellini pasta is thicker. Capellini d’angelo in Italian means angel’s hair, so the difference if any is minuscule.
Keep in mind, even different brands have different sizes and take liberty to produce them as they see fit for their own marketing. For example, San Giorgio has extremely thin angel hair that is far thinner than other brands I’ve used.
Capellini vs Spaghettini
When comparing capellini and spaghettini, keep in mind we are not referring to spaghetti. Whenever the suffix -ini is used on the end of a word, it means little or small.
So, spaghettini is small or little spaghetti. Although Capellini is thicker than angel hair it is thinner than spaghettini. In other words, spaghettini is thicker than capellini.
Vermicelli vs. Thin Spaghetti
Vermicelli is a thin long pasta, in fact it is translated to mean little worms. How appetizing is that?
So here’s the catch with vermicelli and thin spaghetti that is interesting. Vermicelli that is used in English-speaking countries is thinner than thin spaghetti. But in Italy it’s the opposite – where vermicelli is actually thicker than thin spaghetti and regular spaghetti!
Capellini vs Spaghettini
When comparing capellini and spaghettini the differences are noticeable. Capellini is very close to angel hair in thickness, making it clearly thinner than spaghettini, a thinner version of spaghetti.
So in other words capellini is thinner than spaghettini, but not as thin as angel hair.
Vermicelli vs Angel Hair
Vermicelli is thicker than angel hair. However remember that in Italy vermicelli is thicker than the vermicelli we see here in the US or in other English-speaking countries.
Either way, angel hair is still thinner than vermicelli regardless of where you are located. I like vermicelli because it is still thin, but not as delicate and skinny as angel hair.
Pasta in Order of Thinnest Noodles
Let’s summarize the long skinny pastas in order starting with the thinnest noodle.
- Angel Hair (capellini d’angelo)
- Thin Spaghetti/Spaghettini
Using Thin Noodles for Recipes
For many cuisines that use noodles, even if it’s not Italian, thin noodles should not be substituted with thick noodles. As it relates to Italian foods for example, we don’t usually see heavy meaty spaghetti sauces used with the delicate angel hair pasta.
However, for those who don’t like thick pastas in general, the use of thin spaghetti or vermicelli would be a suitable alternative.
Skinny pastas such as angel hair go well with recipes involving minimal ingredients in the sauce such as pasta with fresh tomatoes and garlic, or pasta with a simple sauce of olive oil and garlic.
Thick Spaghetti Noodles
As obvious as thick spaghetti may sound, it’s important to understand that spaghetti noodles are always long and round. They can be described as medium or thick rods. They are not flat or wide, just thick round rods.
However, thick spaghetti noodles can also be hollow like a tube. These are called bucatini, a lesser known type of spaghetti.
Bucatini look like spaghetti but are thicker and are actually hollow on the inside, yes hollow. They are slightly thicker in circumference than standard spaghetti.
I’ve seen bucatini appearing in more grocery stores lately, but you’ll also find them online or in local Italian or Mediterranean specialty stores.
Using Thick Spaghetti Noodles in Recipes
Thick noodles are a good option for heavy sauces or dishes that involve chunky ingredients such as eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes with pasta recipe. I’ve used spaghetti noodles in simple Italian soups just as you would find in Asian or Thai dishes.
Above is a potato zucchini soup where I broke up the long pasta and added them to the soup.
Ribbon Pasta Noodles
Long pasta doesn’t only apply to pastas that are round. There are many types of flat noodles, also called ribbon pasta noodles. Let’s take a look at a few types.
These noodles are thinner than fettuccini and are commonly found in grocery stores. They aren’t much wider than spaghetti, but they are flat. They are the narrowest of these flat noodles.
These flat noodles are commonly used in alfredo sauces. They are wider than linguine as they are about 1/4 inch wide, but they are thinner than tagliatelle.
These are long, broad, flat ribbons/noodles. Tagliatelle are wider than fettuccini, but not by much. They are generally around 3/8 of an inch in width. You’ll see them often in ribbon bunches.
These ribbon noodles are the widest pasta noodles, from 1 inch up to 2 inches (3.8cm). They can have smooth straight edges, or can have a saw-tooth edge.
Typically, flat noodles are not served with red pasta sauces such as spaghetti sauces or even marinara sauces. For example, I use linguini in my asparagus and lemon sauce with pasta recipe.
In summary, the order of these common flat or ribbon noodles ending with the widest noodle are:
Other Lesser-Known Long Pasta Types
Here are some unique long pasta varieties that I am not as familiar with unfortunately. However they are referenced in my Italian pasta cookbooks and so I’m referencing them here. If anyone knows where to order them, let me know in the comments please.
This is a long pasta that is thicker than vermicelli, but thinner than spaghetti. It is popular in the Naples and Liguria regions. Like other thin pastas, you would want to use this with delicate sauces like a fresh tomato sauce. DeCecco sells this, but I’ve yet to see it in a store near me.
This unusual pasta is actually between a short and long pasta. They look like the shape of earthworms, and probably about the same length. They are strands of pasta that are hand rolled.
How Long to Cook Long Pasta
Cooking times will vary depending on the width and thickness of the pasta itself. So here are some general guidelines to follow.
Start the process by bringing a pot of water to a steady rolling boil. Add a pinch (1/2 tsp) salt and 1 teaspoon of olive oil. The olive oil will help prevent sticking, but I rarely find a need of this. Other Italian food enthusiasts may hold a different view.
Once the water is boiling, gently add the pasta, a few small handfuls at a time – rather than dumping a whole box in at once. This helps keep the strands from sticking together.
How Long to Cook Angel Hair and Thin Pastas?
Thin noodles such as angel hair will take 6 minutes. For al-dente, reduce the boiling time to 4 minutes.
How Long to Cook Spaghetti or Thick Pastas?
Thick noodles such as spaghetti on upwards will take 7 to 12 minutes. For al-dente, reduce the boiling time to 5 to 8 minutes.
Al-Dente and Personal Preference
Cooking times are a personal preference. Al-dente to me may be very different than what you consider al-dente.
Here’s a funny story you’ll appreciate that makes my point. Many years ago in my young adulthood while dining at an Italian restaurant when dating my husband, I returned a plate of spaghetti because it so under cooked.
The chef was pretty annoyed and said I must not be Italian. His exact words were, “I thought you said you were Italian!”. It’s a moment my husband and I still reference frequently as an inside joke.
So, always check the packaging for specific instructions since different manufacturers will have different recommendations for their products.
If you like your long pasta al-dente (with a bite), then reduce cooking time by 2 minutes. Always taste test a few strands before draining.
Once ready, drain the pasta into a colander and return to the pan with a little bit of olive oil to prevent sticking if you are not serving right away.
Also remember it will continue to cook out of the water – especially the thinner pastas. So keep that in mind.
A typical serving size is 3 to 4 ounces of dried pasta for a main dish.
What Kind of Sauce for Long Pasta?
There are many opinions as to which type of pasta to use for what kind of sauce or dish. There will always be debate on this topic.
Whatever opinion I read or hear, there is just as valid an opinion on the opposing side. I love lots of sauce on my pasta and have all my life. My husband on the other hand prefers less sauce.
So I just simply cannot bring myself to tell you what I think is the “right” way.
However, I can say most Alfredo sauces are used with long flat pasta such as fettuccine, and lighter sauces are used with shorter, thinner pastas. Here’s my meatless marinara sauce recipe if you’re interested.
When I was in Italy, it was never once an issue and no one told me to do it this way, or do it that way.
I can look into it further if it so merits, looking at traditions and so forth. But much of what I have learned over the years with Italian cooking is that you use whatever you have and whatever you like.
Don’t be shy, no matter how you choose to dress up the pasta in your pasta bowl, I promise no one will think less of you either way!
How to Store Pasta Long Term
Dried long pasta (the kind from the store), will keep in its packaging for 6 months. I’ve kept it much longer to be honest, and it’s been fine. However, you can also store the long pasta in the freezer to further extend its life and freshness.
We have plenty of boxes in our freezer that we keep for long term storage.
For fresh pasta, whether made by hand or using a pasta machine, the shelf life is much shorter, so only keep it in the fridge for 3 days, and then move to the freezer where it can last for up to 3 months.
Always thaw the pasta before cooking, since the cold will reduce the water temperature and will take time to reheat. This can alter your cooking times, so if you’re impatient, then just monitor your pasta closely.
Where to Buy Pasta Online
Yes, you can purchase pasta online. Amazon sells different brands from Barilla to Davinci to DeCecco (one of my favorites).
Purchase online and save time. For those with a busy schedule, purchasing food online saves time, trips to the grocery store, and the undue annoyance and stress that comes along with that.
Sometimes prices are more online, sometimes they are less.
One large advantage of purchasing online is the ability to order organic pasta. Stores often run out, or don’t carry organic pasta.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and have a better understanding of capellini vs angel hair, and many of the other types of long pasta. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!