You are currently viewing Orecchiette Vs. Shell Pasta; What’s The Difference?

Orecchiette Vs. Shell Pasta; What’s The Difference?

There are endless ways to mold pasta dough. Pasta varieties come with distinct features that distinguish them from other varieties. 

The way pasta is shaped could determine the sauces that work best with it and also how fast it cooks. 

Each pasta variety is unique, however, there are often similarly shaped pasta varieties which could easily be substituted for one another. 

Orecchiette is a round pasta from Puglia in southern Italy, and a common substitute for this pasta is shell pasta.  

Both pasta varieties feature a curved inner surface that is great for holding sauces.

Orecchiette pasta is sometimes mistaken for shell pasta due to their structural similarities, however, they are two entirely different pasta varieties  

In this post we take a look at several differences that sets both pasta varieties apart.

Shell pasta vs orecchiette

Orecchiette is slightly dome shaped while shell pasta is typically shaped like a seashell and is more curved compared to orecchiette 

Also, Shell pasta features groves on its exterior surface, while orecchiette often has a smooth exterior surface  

However, both pasta varieties are great for holding thick chunky sauces with meats and vegetables, and they can easily be substituted for each other. 

What is Orecchiette


Orecchiette pasta is common in Italy, and it is also growing in popularity worldwide. 

The term orecchiette translates to ‘small ears’, as the pasta is often described as being shaped like small ears. 

Orecchiette is less than an inch in size and has thicker edges while its center is thin. It also has a chewy consistency 

This pasta can be difficult to make as it is required to be shaped by hand.  

Orecchiette can be bought fresh or dry, and it takes about 20 minutes to cook. 

The dome shape of orecchiette is great for holding sauces and vegetables. It is often used in “Orecchiette con cime di rapa” a traditional dish from Puglia where this pasta is paired with broccoli rabe.

This pasta can also be served with a simple tomato sauce, meats, as well as other vegetables. 

What is Shell pasta?

shell pasta

Shell pasta is named for its seashell shape. 

This pasta could also be known as “conchiglie” which is Italian for conch or seashells. 

Shell pasta is a very popular pasta shape in Italy and all over the world  

They are made using a pasta mold or an extruder. The exterior surface is usually decorated with ridges, while the interior is smooth 

The structure including the concave interior and the ridges on the exterior of this pasta makes it a great option for thick and meaty sauces.  

Actually, there are three sizes of this pasta; 

The smaller sized variety of this pasta is known as conchigliette. The larger sized varieties are known as conchiglioni. While Conchiglie is used to refer to the middle-sized version 

This pasta Could be plain or colored with squid ink or spinach extract which are also used to give natural colors to other types of pasta.

Shell pasta can easily be found in grocery stores including the colored varieties. A whole wheat variety is also available for this type of pasta.

What is orecchiette pasta good for?

Orecchiette pasta is so versatile and can be used in many recipes. 

Its unique shape lends it to different recipe where it could be used with different sauces and stuffing.

This pasta is served with thick sauces containing with meat, fish, and vegetable sauces  

It can be baked, boiled, used in soups. Shell pasta is very sturdy and can hold up to chunky sauce. As well as thick chunky sauces, it can also be used light, delicate sauces.

The smaller sizes could be used in soups, salads and casseroles. They can be used in pasta salads. The larger Conchiglioni are popularly stuffed and baked 

This pasta could also be used as a substitute for pasta varieties such as fusilli or macaroni.