Types of Pasta Shells


Shell pastas are simple and versatile. Large ones can be stuffed with everything from basic ricotta cheese to sumptuous crab to hearty vegetables. Smaller ones are well suited for soups, salads, or your favorite sauce. There are several different types of shell pasta, created for different uses, as well as a few other pastas that are similar to shells in various ways.


  • Cavatelli is small, shell-shaped pasta that has a rolled-in edge, which makes it resemble tiny hot dog buns. Commonly served with thick, chunky sauce or in salads, cavatelli originated in the Puglia region of Italy, according to the cooking website, The Nibble. Cavatelli should be cooked for 13 to 16 minutes.


  • Castellane pasta's ridged shell shape resembles the shell of a tiny crab found in the waters off the coast of Italy, according to The Nibble. The name means "castle dwellers." Castellane should be cooked for 10 to 13 minutes.


  • Conchiglie, Italian for "conch shells," are the most common small shell pasta. These shells are often seen in macaroni and cheese, but they are great for a variety of sauces, since the tiny cup-like shells serve as a scoop for the sauce. Conchiglie should cook for 10 to 12 minutes.


  • Conchiglioni is the term for jumbo-sized conchiglie. They are usually boiled and then stuffed with cheese or vegetables, topped with sauce, and then baked. According to The Nibble, jumbo stuffed shells originated in the south of Italy, where stuffed pasta dishes are popular. Boil for 11 to 14 minutes before stuffing and baking.


  • Lumache is a hallowed-out pasta with one end open and the other nearly closed, creating a tiny cup to hold chunkier sauces. Lumache should be cooked for 11 to 13 minutes. Pipe pasta is a smaller version of lumache, and should be cooked for 9 to 11 minutes.


  • Meaning "snails" in Italian, lumaconi are very large, ridged, basket-shaped shells that are usually filled with cheese and vegetables and then baked. Boil for 11 to 14 minutes before stuffing and baking.

Stuffed Pastas

  • Stuffed pastas are similar to larger shell pastas in that they are filled, cooked, and then sauced, but they are different because they are sealed around all edges, whereas shell pasta remains open. There are several different kinds of stuffed pastas, including agnolotti, ravioli, tortellini, and mezzalune, but they are often filled with ingredients similar to that of jumbo shells.

Cannelloni and Manicotti

  • Cannelloni and manicotti are related to shell pasta because they are also filled and baked, but they are shaped like tubes instead of shells. However, the same cheese and vegetable fillings are popular for both. According to The Nibble, manicotti are pre-formed tubes, while cannelloni are sheets of pasta dough that are filled and then rolled.

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