Choosing a Pasta Shape, Part 2: Spaghetti with Bell Peppers and Olives


Pasta comes in many shapes. The most common include spaghetti, penne, tagliatelle, orecchiette, and lasagne. Apart from fresh pasta and dried pasta, one of the main distinctions is between ‘short’ pasta such as penne and orecchiette, and ‘long’ pasta such as spaghetti and tagliatelle. Those different shapes are not just for fun or for appearances, they actually make a huge difference in the experience of the dish. The main ‘rule’ in Italy is that long pasta goes with ‘saucy’ sauces, and short pasta goes with ‘chunky’ sauces. There are two reasons for that rule:

  1. Long pasta such as spaghetti is eaten with a fork. The sauce should cling to the pasta in such a way that by the time you finish the plate of pasta, all the sauce is gone too. Short pasta is eaten with a spoon, so this is less of an issue because each spoonful can contain both pasta and elements of the sauce.
  2. The mouthfeel of long pasta is more ‘flowing’ than that of short pasta, and the sauce should support that.

Another way to state this rule, is that the texture of the pasta and the texture of the sauce should be similar. If you use short pasta, this means that the ingredients of the sauce should ideally be cut into the same size and ship as the pasta.

Most successful pasta dishes follow this rule. One exception is spaghetti alle vongole, because you first use your fork to get a piece of clam meat and then wrap some spaghetti around your fork before bringing it to your mouth.


You can of course select the pasta shape that will match your choice of sauce, but in today’s an yesterday’s post I have demonstrated that you can also adapt the sauce to the pasta shape. Both dishes use the same ingredients: bell peppers, olives, pasta, tomato puree, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. With the same simple ingredients, you can make two pasta dishes that are both delicious but quite different. Yesterday’s dish with spaghetti tastes very differently from yesterday’s penne. This is in part due to the different mouthfeel, and in part due to the flavor added by roasting the bell peppers. Although both dishes are good, Kees and I both preferred the spaghetti version.



For 2 servings

2 bell peppers (red and/or yellow)

25 grams (2 Tbsp) pitted black olives, preferably taggiasca, sliced

150 grams (1/3 lb) spaghetti or other long pasta

90 grams (1/3 cup) sieved tomatoes (tomato puree, passata di pomodoro)

1 clove garlic

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper



Preheat the oven to 250C/480F. Roast the bell peppers at that temperature for 25 minutes, or until well browned.


After roasting them, put the bell peppers in a closed plastic bag to cool off. The steam will help to loosen the skin.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil. When the water boils, add salt and 150 grams of spaghetti and set the timer for the time indicated on the package for al dente.


Once the bell peppers have cooled off inside the plastic bag, the skin should then come off easily.


Skin the bell peppers and pat dry with paper towels.


Put the bell peppers in a food processor with 25 grams of pitted black olives and 90 grams of sieved tomatoes.


Pulse as many times as needed to get a coarse puree. There shouldn’t be any large pieces left, but it shouldn’t be smooth either.


Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan. Add a sliced clove of garlic and tilt the pan to ‘deep fry’ the garlic until it starts to color, then remove it.


Add the bell pepper mixture to the garlic infused oil in the frying pan. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.


Cook for a couple of minutes over medium heat until the sauce is no longer watery. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.


When the timer beeps, drain the spaghetti and add to the sauce.


Toss to mix.


Serve at once on preheated plates.




Homemade mint ice cream made using fresh mint leaves has an amazing flavor. Once you’ve made it, you’ll never go back to store-bought.






7 thoughts on “Choosing a Pasta Shape, Part 2: Spaghetti with Bell Peppers and Olives

  1. You have made me think – and try – good! Can see the point!! Of course I should well and truly ‘shut up’ as I mostly cook Asian pasta and have also had a love affair with tagliatelle forever . . . besides that, Chinese chopsticks and I get together with almost any pasta as long as noone is looking 🙂 ! Easy to use with any sauce . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great way to illustrate your point, Stefan. Of the two, I think I’d prefer this dish over the prior one. I just prefer the long pastas. Probably goes back to my youth, when all I wanted to eat was “pisgetti”. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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