Three types of pasta, including large shells and penne, on plates.

Which Type of Short Pasta Is Best For Your Dish?

Is there anything more delicious than a savory pasta dish tossed with a delectable sauce and mouthwatering ingredients? We don't think so. We take our pasta seriously and so should you. 

There is a whole world of pasta out there, waiting for you to discover it. Not all pasta is created equal. There's a variety of sizes, shapes, and lengths that each have their own benefits, depending upon what you're serving. 

Small pasta, or short pasta, is perfect for main dishes, soups, or pasta salads. When you have big bites of ingredients in your food, like vegetables or beans, short pasta is the way to go. Their small size is ideal for holding sauces or broths inside their cavities. 

We're going to talk about our favorite short pasta types and the best recipes to make with them. By the end of this guide, you'll be filling up your virtual grocery cart with every type of short pasta to whip up something amazing for dinner.

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    Introducing Ditalini Pasta

    Ditalini pasta refers to "little thimbles." The shape of the pasta is very reminiscent of the miniature sewing tool. It comes in a tubular shape and is the perfect addition to any soup recipe. 

    The pasta originates in the Campania region in Italy. You can use it in the classic minestrone or any other type of soup that calls for pasta. If you're making pasta salad that calls for Rotini or Penne pasta, toss some Ditalini in there instead. 

    Another name that Ditalini goes by is "salad macaroni." One of the reasons why it's great for soups and salads is its small size. It can easily fit on a spoon as you scoop up other ingredients as well.

    Pasta e Fagioli Soup

    Pasta e Fagioli simply means "pasta and beans." A traditional Italian soup,  it originated as a peasant dish since it's made from inexpensive ingredients. The ingredients used in the dish vary from region to region and can be made vegetarian or with meat. 

    The below recipe makes six servings. It'll be ready to eat in less than an hour. 


    • Two tablespoons of olive oil, divided
    • One pound ground beef
    • One cup of diced carrots
    • One and a half cups chopped onion
    • One cup of diced celery
    • Three minced cloves of garlic 
    • Two 14.5 ounce cans of chicken broth
    • Three eight-ounce cans of tomato sauce
    • 1/2 cup of water
    • One 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes 
    • Two teaspoons of granulated sugar
    • One teaspoon dried oregano 
    • One and a half teaspoons of dried basil
    • 1/2 teaspoon of dried marjoram 
    • 3/4 teaspoon of dried thyme
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • One cup of ditalini pasta
    • One 15 ounce can of drained and rinsed kidney beans
    • One 15 ounce can of drained and rinsed white beans
    • Parmesan cheese for topping
    • Three tablespoons of fresh parsley 


    • Heat one tablespoon of olive in a pot over medium to medium-high heat
    • Add in the ground beef and cook thoroughly 
    • Drain the fat and transfer the meat to a plate, setting aside
    • Put the remaining olive oil in the pot and add in the carrots, celery, and onions
    • Saute the vegetables over medium-high heat until tender
    • After about six minutes, add in the garlic 
    • Once the garlic has softened, add the tomato sauce, water, chicken broth, sugar, canned tomatoes, oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme, and beef into the pot
    • Season with salt and pepper
    • Bring the pot to a boil, reducing the heat to medium-low 
    • Place a lid on the pot and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are soft
    • Cook the ditalini pasta according to the package instructions
    • Once cooked, add the drained ditalini to the soup with the beans
    • Cook for one more minute
    • Serve the soup in bowls with grated cheese and fresh parsley on top

    One thing to keep in mind is if you don't plan on eating the soup immediately, don't add in all of the pasta. The pasta will absorb the liquid in the soup and get soggy.

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    Meet Pastina "Birdseye" Pasta

    If you're looking for something slightly smaller than ditalini pasta, look no future than Pastina "birdseye" pasta. It's quite small and bead-shaped. It's often described as being very short macaroni. 

    You can use Pastina in salads, soups, or even as a substitute for rice. It cooks in only two minutes due to its small size.

    Creamy Macaroni Salad

    With warm weekends and BBQs ahead of us, whip up a batch of creamy macaroni salad with Pastina noodles. It has fresh veggies, eggs, and a yummy Greek yogurt dressing. It's a nutritious version of a classic macaroni salad. 

    Ingredients for the Salad:

    • Four cups of Pastina pasta
    • One diced red bell pepper
    • Two stalks diced celery
    • 1/2 of a large red onion, diced
    • Four chopped hard-boiled eggs
    • One cup thawed peas

    Ingredients for the Dressing:

    • One and a half cups Greek yogurt
    • Two tablespoons of lemon juice
    • 1/2 cup of mayo
    • One teaspoon of dijon mustard
    • Two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar
    • Two tablespoons of honey or your preferred sweetener
    • 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon of pepper


    • Cook the Pastina pasta according to the instructions on the packaging
    • Drain and rinse until cooled, then place in the refrigerator
    • Combine the celery, bell pepper, eggs, red onion, and peas in a large bowl
    • Whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing in a separate bowl
    • Toss together all of the salad ingredients with the dressing until combined
    • Chill and then serve

    Can you think of a pasta salad recipe that's easier than that? It's a fresh take on an old classic. Add this creamy pasta salad recipe to your summer menus this year.

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    Additional Types of Small Pasta

    Ditalini and Pastina aren't the only types of small pasta available for you to try. You can experiment with recipes that include macaroni, Penne, or small shells. 

    Our small shell pasta is also known as Conchigilie. It gets its name because it looks like a conch sale. It has ridges on the outside, ensuring whatever sauce you toss it with will stick to it.

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    Incorporate More Small Pasta Into Your Life

    Just because small pasta is miniature in size doesn't mean it won't make a huge impact on whatever dish you're adding it to. The small size and hollow center make it perfect for soaking up sauces, soup broth, or salad dressings. 

    Dagostino Pasta is proud to make quality pasta the old-fashioned way. For more inspiration for pasta dishes, check out our blog.