Last updated on June 14th, 2023
Most people can agree that there may be nothing more inviting than a warm plate of pasta drowning in silky sauce – but what really are those rich, flat noodles that are so comforting?
Some are wider, and some are thinner. Are they tagliatelle? Could they be pappardelle? Or fettuccine?
Let’s take a look at two of these shapes – tagliatelle and pappardelle – find out if it makes a difference which one you use when cooking your pasta recipe.
Hint: The answer is yes, it does make a difference. It’s all about the shape here!
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What is Tagliatelle?
Tagliatelle (pronounced tal-yuh-tel-leh in Italian) is an egg-based pasta from the Emilia-Romagna and Marche regions. This pasta is cut into long, flat ribbons about ¼ inch (6 mm) wide and very thin. In fact, the name tagliatelle comes from the italian word tagliare meaning “to cut.”
Where to Find Tagliatelle
As you may know by now, Italian food is very regional. Although it is more and more common to find tagliatelle countrywide, it is primarily eaten in Emilia-Romagna, Marche e Tuscany.
Dried tagliatelle are easy to find in any supermarket in Italy and fresh tagliatelle are primarily sold at small pasta shops in the regions mentioned above.
It is also common to buy handmade fresh tagliatelle in supermarkets in Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany, where it’s a popular pasta. Nowadays supermarkets have even labeled their own brand of fresh tagliatelle that are relatively inexpensive.
What We Eat: I prefer the dried version as opposed to the supermarket brand fresh variety because the dried versions tend to have more texture.
Nice To Know: Tagliatelle and fettuccine are almost identical. The difference is millimeters. Therefore, they are commonly used interchangeably in recipes.
Check out our Favorite Italian Pasta Brands!
Best Sauces for Tagliatelle
If you take a close look at tagliatelle you will notice that they have a bit of a rough texture. This is not a mistake. The rough texture allows hearty, thick sauces to stick and hold on well to the pasta even as it cools.
This pasta pairs well with ragus – beef, veal, or pork-based meat sauces – and other meats such as duck and rabbit. The meat’s richness is a perfect match for the silkiness of the eggy pasta.
Other popular options include vegetarian sauces of egg and cheese or breadcrumbs and nuts.
Fact: Tagliatelle are typically made with a ratio of one egg for every scant cup of flour (100 grams).
Making and Cooking Tagliatelle
Making tagliatelle at home is very common in Italy, although there are two schools of thought when it comes to rolling out the dough. Some Italians believe that tagliatelle should only be hand-rolled and hand-cut without the use of a pasta machine because the machine smooths out the dough too much and the pasta loses its rough surface thus, holding less sauce. Others believe it makes no difference and a pasta machine is the best trick to get the thinnest tagliatelle possibile.
The dough is very simple and comes together quickly. The ratio is about one egg for every scant cup of flour, about 100 grams. Then you must add water and knead the dough for ten minutes. If nothing else, it’s a good workout before your pasta feast! Always let your pasta dough rest, covered, for at least 30 minutes before cutting for best results and use semolina flour to dust your freshly cut pasta to keep it from sticking together. Fresh tagliatelle cooks very quickly, even the dried versions because they are so thin, about 2-3 minutes and 4-6 minutes, respectively. Try making it using my easy homemade tagliatelle recipe!
Tip: Remember that it is quite easy to overcook thin pasta like tagliatelle and pappardelle. Always start with the minimum recommended cooking time, use a timer and stay close to the pot!
Common Tagliatelle Recipes in Italy
Tagliatelle al ragù bianco – with meat sauce (no tomato)
Tagliatelle alla lepre – with rabbit
Tagliatelle all’anatra – with duck
Tagliatelle ai funghi – with mushrooms (Tuscany)
Tagliatelle ai porcini – with porcini mushrooms (Tuscany)
Tagliatelle al ragù di carne – with red meat sauce (Tuscany)
Tagliatelle al ragù alla bolognese – with red meat sauce (Bologna, Emilia-Romagna)
Tagliatelle al ragù di faraona – with guinea-hen
Tagliatelle con pesto – with pesto
What is Pappardelle?
Pappardelle (pronounced pawp-par-dehl-leh in Italian) is an egg-based very broad flat pasta ¾-1 inch (2-3 cm) wide from the region of Tuscany. Pappardelle usually have straight edges but sometimes have a rippled edge (depending on the brand).
Fact: The name Pappardelle comes from the italian word pappare meaning “to gobble up.”
Where to Find Pappardelle
Unlike other types of pasta (like tagliatelle) that have made their way across regional borders, pappardelle is eaten primarily in Tuscany.
Still, you can find dried versions in most large supermarkets and fresh pappardelle at local pasta shops throughout Italy. In Tuscany, fresh pappardelle is readily available in the refrigerator section of the supermarket.
Nice to Know: If you are in Tuscany at the right time, you may be lucky enough to happen upon one of the many food festivals that take place in the surrounding hillsides. The ‘sagra’ or festival of pappardelle takes place in Montespertoli just southwest of Florence, where you will find an enormous outdoor makeshift restaurant set up serving all things dedicated to pappardelle. It truly is an authentic Italian experience!
Try This: If you have a choice between a large brand name such as Barilla or a smaller, independent company, go for the smaller one as they will most likely be making the pasta with semolina durum wheat that is grown locally.
Making Pappardelle by Hand
Like tagliatelle, making pappardelle by hand is very simple at home. The only difference is that you need to cut it in wider ribbons which you can easily do by rolling your thin dough into a tub and then slicing it in 2-3 cm pieces with a sharp knife as if you are cutting cinnamon rolls. Keep your knife, board and dough well floured with semolina to keep the dough from sticking.
Tip: Sprinkle a generous handful of parmesan cheese on the pasta before adding the ragù. It helps the ragù stick to the pasta!
Best Sauces for Pappardelle
Although many Italians cook pappardelle all year round it is more of a winter dish because of the richness and fattiness of both the pasta itself and the accompanying sauces.
Pappardelle is served with rich ragùs – meat sauces – made from beef, pork, or local game such as cinghiale (wild boar), or lepre (rabbit).
It is also served with heartier vegetarian sauces such as porcini and cream or tartufo (truffle).
Italians also eat very seasonally, and the local hunting starts up again in the fall, so it is only logical that you also start to smell pots of wild game ragù bubbling from your next-door neighbor’s kitchen.
Our Italian Family’s Preference – Tagliatelle or Pappardelle?
I cannot deny that we love both of these kinds of pasta and I even feel a bit guilty choosing one over the other as I consider myself a true Tuscan girl now.
If I had to choose though I would have to go with tagliatelle because it feels more ‘casual’ to me, meaning it doesn’t seem as fancy and rich as pappardelle. The dough is actually the same but the sauces that typically are served with pappardelle tend to be richer and therefore seem like something we serve when we have guests and want to show off the best of our local cuisine. I like to have Tagliatelle on hand to serve at the drop of a hat tossed with pesto for a casual and easy lunch.
As I am sure you have noticed most of the sauces served with tagliatelle and pappardelle are similar or very similar and heavy on the meat. Because of this, you can absolutely substitute one for the other when following a recipe at home.
Common Pappardelle Recipes in Italy
Pappardelle al ragù di cinghiale – with wild boar (Tuscany)
Pappardelle al ragù di capriolo – with venison (Tuscany)
Pappardelle al ragù bianco di cinta senese – with pork (Tuscany)
Pappardelle ai porcini – with porcini (Tuscany)
Pappardelle al tartufo – with truffles (Tuscany)
Pappardelle ai noci, pinoli e pangrattato – with walnuts, pine nuts and breadcrumbs (Tuscany)
Pappardelle alla lepre – with rabbit ( – Tuscany)
Tagliatelle vs Pappardelle – A Summary
|Meaning “to cut”
|Meaning “gobble up”
|Flour, water and egg
|Flour, water and egg
|Ribbon pasta ¼ inch (6 mm) wide
|Ribbon pasta ¾-1 inch (2-3 cm) wide
|Pairs well with hearty meat
|Pairs well with hearty meat sauces especially game such as cinghiale and venison
|Dried and fresh
|Dried and fresh
|Store-bought only dry and fresh,Homemade
|Store-bought dry and freshHomemade
|Emilia-Romagna, Marche and Tuscany
|Cook time 2-3 minutes fresh, 4-6 minutes dried
|Cook time 3-4 minutes fresh, 6-7 minutes dried