The Ultimate Guide to All Four of Our Pasta Shapes | Best Recipes and Pairings

Four Shapes, Three Daughters, Two Ingredients

As you can see, we’ve dished up a few changes around here - but rest assured, the Three Farm Daughters experience you’ve grown to love and trust at your family table still holds true.

The unmistakable Three Farm taste and texture hasn’t changed and our delicious bronze-cut pasta is still 100% Made in the USA; we’re just expanding our horizons to give you more value and options.

Part of this expansion is our brand-new blog, The Sisters Kitchen, and we thought we’d kick this thing off by highlighting our new pasta shapes, what they pair best with, our favorite recipes for each, plus some interesting history behind every shape.

The unmistakable Three Farm taste and texture hasn’t changed and our delicious bronze-cut pasta is still 100% Made in the USA; we’re just expanding our horizons to give you more value and options.

Hop to a Shape

If there was ever a pasta shape that needed no introduction, Elbow macaroni would be it. This nostalgic comfort food holds a special place in every American’s heart, stirring echoes of childhood innocence and wonder that gets reignited again and again with each forkful, no matter how grown-up you are. 

Naturally, Elbow pasta will always have a place on our family table, and we’re honored to produce a top-notch version here at Three Farm that someday will be etched into the happiest memories you’re creating with your family too.

Generations have been raised on bowls of this classic comfort food, as pasta Elbows are universally loved for their bite-sized ‘spoonability’ and scrumptious sauces that fill every delicious nook and cranny with cheesy goodness. 

Here on the farm, we double down with a bronze-cut exterior that grabs more sauce, plus honest ingredients to ensure your family’s smallest members are getting all the nutrition they need to fuel their adventures. Talk about a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow… 

A Long Legacy: The History of Elbow Pasta

While it’s true that Thomas Jefferson introduced Mac & Cheese to Americans back in 1789 after a trip to Naples, the history of the cutest pasta shape in America far predates the appetite of this wandering Founding Father.

The word ‘macaroni’ comes from the Italian word maccheroni - a derivative of macerare in Latin, meaning “to bruise or crush”. This is believed to reference how the pasta was made by crushing wheat. While the exact origin of elbow pasta will most likely remain one of life’s great mysteries, the earliest reference we know of so far comes from a book published in Sicily around 1154 AD.

Perfect Pairings and Recipes

To be honest, you really can’t go wrong when it comes to Elbow pasta pairings. Although it’s most commonly used with cheesy dishes, Elbows are right at home in any recipe where small pasta shapes shine.

They’re a cheerful addition to soups with beans and vegetables, stirred through your secret family chili recipe, or dressed up in a creamy, zesty macaroni salad for summer picnics. 

Quick Mac

Also known as the antidote for hangry tantrums, this quick crowd-pleaser recipe is ideal for moments when you needed a meal, like, 15 minutes ago. Better make a double batch - this one is too good for the kids not to share with the kids at heart.


Jalapeno Mac & Cheese

Let’s be real: This spiced-up rendition is simply a grown-up version of the hangry tantrum antidote with a Southwestern spin - and we’re totally fine with that.


One of the most utilized pasta shapes in American kitchens, Penne is a classic for good reason; its bold ridges and firm bite consistently give the phrase al dente (‘to the tooth’) new meaning, defining Penne quills as the true shape shifter of the pasta world. When it came to making our own, we simply couldn’t not. 

Translated to “pen” in Italian, this iconic pasta cut is characterized by its hollow tubular structure scored with ridges and trademark angular cuts on both ends.

As such, penne complements any sauce it stars in - but it’s truly extraordinary alongside robust ingredients that don’t skimp on savory umami flavors that pack a punch.


Unlike some other pasta shapes with a hazy history, Penne has clearly defined and well-documented roots with an origin story that begins in Genoa, 1865. Spoiler alert: This guy really liked his sauce!

A Genoese pasta maker by the name of San Martino d’Albaro developed a machine with the sole intent of uniformly cutting a pasta shape diagonally while scoring the edges, so as not to crush the tips. This was in an effort to produce a shape that held more sauce. Just wow. From here, Penne was born.

To this day I have no idea why there isn’t a statue honoring this hero on every street corner, or a holiday celebrating his unmatched contribution to human civilization.

Perfect Pairings and Recipes

Seeing as the ridges in Penne were made to grip more sauce on the exterior and the angled tips were specifically designed to capture more sauce inside - here’s your sign to get saucy!

Penne is best friends with gutsy tomato-based sauces, chunky bolognese, or as the basis of a silky Penne Alla Vodka. But honestly, the sky's the limit with Penne - it’s so sturdy that it stands up well to pasta salads, reheats well the following day, and piggybacks any sauce you can throw at it.

Penne with classic meatballs

Go big with this family favorite guaranteed to conquer any man- or teenage-sized hunger, and have little ones cleaning their plates. A trio of juicy, savory meatballs over Penne with fresh tomato sauce makes for a protein-packed meal that’s filling and hearty, with plenty of leftovers.


Penne with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Freshen up everything you thought you knew about plain old tomato pasta sauce: With Three Farm Daughters Penne, this traditional Italian dish bursting with sunshine will make you feel like you’re tasting it for the first time.


Second to last comes Rotini, our twirly spiral-shaped pasta that performs exceptionally well at capturing sauces and chopped toppings, and translates directly to “small wheels” in Italian.

Although Rotini is commonly confused with fusilli, they're actually quite different from one another; while fusilli is made of twisted “threads” of pasta that form a spring, Rotini is extruded into twists.


Although this tight, helix-shaped pasta originated generations ago in Northern Italy, the shape was not widely available until the 1920s because it had to be made by hand by a skilled artisan.

It wasn’t until 1924 when an Italian resident living in New York invented a pasta die that ensured the shapes were all uniform in size and appearance, therefore making it possible to produce at scale.

Perfect Pairings and Recipes

The compact curves and grooves of Rotini allow herb-based sauces to stick to the pasta and celebrate the flavors, making it an ideal choice for pesto. 

The structure can also hold meats and cheeses remarkably well, making it the obvious choice for pasta salads, recipes with chopped stir-through ingredients, and creamy or tomato-based sauces that tend to slide off!

Creamy Rotini with Ham and Peas

The grippy fins of Rotini make it the perfect shape for holding the lush sauce scattered throughout this fast, filling Midwest recipe ideal for on-the-go moms.


Italian Pasta Salad

When paired with Rotini, this lightning fast recipe is filling, nutritious, and perfect for a colorful bite that travels well for lunches, picnics or cookouts. 


Last but not least comes Cavatappi, our liveliest pasta shape to date. These hollow spirals bring a twist of fun to every dish, thanks to their dynamic, bouncy coils that elevate every meal to a masterpiece.

While it looks rather fancy, Cavatappi is really designed to deliver flavor - Resulting in a sturdy, robust pasta that’s as bold as it is versatile. Cavatappi not only stands up to heavy sauces and toppings, but tangles them up in its coils so you’ll get intense flavor and rich texture in every bite.

Translated from the Italian word for ‘corkscrew’, it’s easy to see why the Cavatappi name stuck - although pasta-ficionados will quickly remind you to not confuse it with other pastas in the spiral family. Unlike flat-twisted varieties, Cavatappi is instantly recognizable with its hollow tube shape and springy bite that sets it apart from the rest. 

A Happy Accident: The History of CAVATAPPI

In the grand scheme of things, Cavatappi is a newcomer in the world of pasta shapes - only gracing our tables since the late 1960s when it was first produced in Parma, near Italy’s Amalfi Coast. And believe it or not - it was actually discovered by mistake!

As far as happy accidents go, this delightful shape happened due to a manufacturing error that couldn’t have turned out better! It all started when workers at a major factory loaded a new pasta die onto their extruding machine - only to discover that the plate that forms and cuts the pasta had accidentally been honed into a spiral shape.

Much to their amusement, instead of the straight pasta they were expecting, these whimsical hollow spirals popped out of the machine… and we haven’t stopped eating Cavatappi since. 

Perfect Pairings and Recipes

Versatility is the name of the game when it comes to Cavatappi. This high-achieving shape is the ultimate blend of character and finesse; so it pairs effortlessly with anything from delicate sauces to rib-sticking ragus without skipping a beat.

Cavatappi shines with lively toppings like roasted vegetables and pesto, or baked into a comforting casserole for a twist your whole family will love.


Who said potluck dishes had to play fair? This oozy, luxurious recipe takes classic Mac & Cheese to new heights with the addition of chewy Cavatappi spirals and a crunchy panko crown. Just don’t blame us if your phone blows up with cookout invites once word gets out that this showstopper is in your repertoire! 



Cavatappi steals the spotlight in this elegant stir-through sauce, perfect for those evenings you’re pressed for time but need to roll out the red carpet. With just 5 simple ingredients and a quick stir, this Cavatappi draped in a silky mascarpone sauce is nothing short of perfection.



While all four of our new Three Farm Daughters pasta shapes have their own unique characteristics and advantages, they all share the same two ingredients - wheat flour and semolina that’s 100% grown, milled, and made in the U.S.A.

No matter the shape, each box contains 9g of fiber and 8g of protein per serving with 10% less calories than leading corporate alternatives. While nutrition is abundant, you won’t find a trace of sodium, enrichments, preservatives, or additives in any of our pastas.

TLDR; More of the good stuff and none of the bad stuff.

To learn more about who we are and why we’re on an uncompromising mission to bring hassle-free healthy pasta to families everywhere, head over to our About Us page or send us an email at We’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for stopping by!

Annie, Mollie, and Grace


Find your next favorite shape with our Pasta Sampler 8-Pack featuring two boxes of all four shapes.

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