By the numbers: everything you need to know about Barilla’s pasta shapes and how to use them in your home cooking.
If you regularly stock up on Barilla pasta, like I do, there’s practically no way you haven’t noticed that every shape has a number: no. 5 for spaghetti, no. 9 for bucatini, no. 13 for linguine, and so forth.
The numbers are displayed more prominently on Barilla’s packaging in Europe than in the states, where you’ll typically find them on the back of the package. What do they mean?
The numbers on pasta boxes are unique identifiers assigned by the manufacturer to help distinguish each shape. There’s no common numbering system between brands; each brand tends to have a system of its own.
Some brands’ numbering systems have meaning—they reveal something about the pasta shape that they’ve been assigned to—and others, not. In the case of Barilla, it’s the former.
Barilla’s long pastas follow a numbering system based on thickness. Strands with lower numbers tend to be thinner; those with higher numbers, on the other hand, are usually thicker.
Barilla Pasta Numbers
Here’s what Barilla’s numbering system for long pasta strands looks like:
- Capellini, no. 1
- Spaghettini, no. 3
- Spaghetti, no. 5
- Spaghettoni, no. 7
- Vermicelli, no. 8
- Bucatini, no. 9
- Linguine fini, no. 11
- Linguine, no. 13
Note: Short pastas and pasta shells also have numbers—for instance, penne rigate is no. 73; tortiglioni, no. 83; fusilli, no. 96—that seem to conform to a different logic.
Capellini, No. 1: Angel Hair
Capellini, no. 1, also known as “angel hair,” is the finest and thinnest long pasta strand made by Barilla. It’s part of the “Classic Blue Box” range, sells in 16-ounce boxes big enough for 8 servings, and cooks to al dente in roughly 3–4 minutes.
Use it for: Capellini, the thinnest of all pasta strands, is ideal for light tomato and light dairy sauces.
Spaghettini, No. 3: Thin Spaghetti
Spaghettini, no. 3, is thin spaghetti. They’re slightly thicker than angel hair, but thinner than the staple spaghetti no. 5, which we all grew up eating. Part of Barilla’s “Classic Blue Box” range, they cook to al dente in 5–6 minutes and are sold in 16 oz boxes—generally enough to feed 8 people.
Use it for: Spaghettini is best for simpler, more traditional oil-based pasta dishes like Aglio e Olio (pasta with garlic and olive oil), or Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino (pasta with garlic, olive oil, and chili-pepper flakes).
Spaghetti, No. 5: An Italian Staple
Spaghetti, no. 5, is the Barilla pasta everyone knows. Part of Barilla’s “Classic Blue Box” range, it cooks in 9–10 minutes (8-9 minutes al dente) and is available in two sizes: a 16-oz box (about enough for 8 servings) and a 32-oz box (for 16 servings). The big size is great if you’re cooking for a crowd or a large family.
The “Collezione” range of spaghetti is made from semolina flour and extruded through bronze dies. The spaghetti in Barilla’s highest-end collection, “Al Bronzo,” also—but with a rougher, more porous surface that gives them an artisanal look and mouthfeel.
Use it for: Just about any pasta dish, really. Especially the Italo-American classic, meatball spaghetti.
Spaghettoni, No. 7: Thick Spaghetti
Spaghettoni, no. 7, is spaghetti’s slightly thicker brother. These pasta strands are still long and round, but thicker in diameter than your regular spaghetti. They cook to al dente in 10–11 minutes and are sold in one size, a 16-oz box (for 8 servings), within Barilla’s “Classic Blue Box” range.
Use it for: Spaghettoni is a long pasta strand that stands up remarkably well to meat-based sauces, be it a hearty bolognese or ragù.
Vermicelli, No. 8
Vermicelli, no. 8—not to be confused with spaghetti and spaghettoni—are a thick pasta strand within Barilla’s “Blue Box Collection” that’s somewhat harder to find in most grocery stores. (Depending on where you live, it can even be hard to find on the Internet!)
Use it for: Vermicelli is great for simple and filling pasta dishes, like pasta with anchovy fillets and cherry tomatoes.
Bucatini, No. 9
Bucatini, no. 9, also known as “perciatelli,” are very thick spaghetti with a hole in the center. The name of these noodles comes from “buco” in Italian, which—rather unsurprisingly— means “hole.” They cook to al dente in 8–9 minutes and are sold in a 12-oz box (6 servings), within Barilla’s “Collezione” range.
Barilla also makes Collezione Bucatini, made from semolina flour and extruded through traditional bronze dies, and Al Bronzo Bucatini, also made from semolina and bronze-cut, but with “micro-engraved” dies that give the bucatini a rougher texture.
Use it for: Bucatini is the best pasta strand to use for Pasta alla Carbonara. It also works wonders with Cacio e Pepe and Pasta al Burro (pasta with butter; most of us know it as Pasta Alfredo).
Linguine Fini, No. 11
Linguine fini, no. 11, is a thinner, more graceful version of linguine. Part of Barilla’s “Classic Blue Box” range, this flat rectangular strand cooks to al dente in 5–6 minutes and is available in 16-oz boxes big enough to feed 8 people.
Use it for: Linguine fini is an all-around pasta shape that pairs well with everything from tomato- to cream- to extra-virgin olive oil-based sauces. Use it when you want to make spaghetti with a twist.
Linguine, No. 13
Linguine, no. 13, is a long pasta strand that’s practically in-between spaghetti and fettuccine. It’s long like spaghetti, but also flat like fettuccine. It cooks to al dente in 6–7 minutes and is sold in 16-oz boxes (enough to make 8 servings) from Barilla’s “Classic Blue Box” range.
Use it for: Linguine goes with pesto sauces, as well as seafood pasta dishes like Linguine alle Vongolle (linguine with clams).
Barilla Pasta Ranges
Barilla has three ranges of wheat-flour pasta: Classic Blue Box, Collezione, and, since recently, Al Bronzo.
If in doubt, and while you can’t go wrong with Classic Blue Box pasta, go with the Collezione or Al Bronzo lines. The texture from the bronze-die extrusion does make a difference, especially on more traditional pasta dishes where you really want the sauce to adhere to the strands.
Classic Blue Box
Barilla’s Classic Blue Box is a range of quality pastas made from non-GMO, durum-wheat semolina flour. It’s the staple pasta most home cooks have in the pantry.
Selling point: Made from semolina flour
The Collezione range consists of pasta strands made entirely in traditional ways—from non-GMO, durum-wheat semolina flour, with extrusion through bronze dies, and a slow drying process. This is a pricier option of superior quality.
Selling point: Made from semolina flour, extruded through bronze dies
Al Bronzo, a new Barilla range introduced in 2022, takes the Italian family-run company’s traditional non-GMO, durum-wheat semolina pasta production methods to a new level with special, micro-engraved bronze dies that produce a rough and porous surface that holds on to sauces extraordinarily well.
Selling point: Made from semolina flour, extruded through bronze dies with a micro-engraved coating
How to Cook Barilla Pasta
Cook your Barilla pasta like you would cook any other pasta—traditionally.
First, boil the strands in a pot of generously salted, vigorously boiling water. Most recipes will call that you use the meantime to prepare the sauce.
Once the strands are cooked al dente, meaning no longer crunchy but still a little firm to the bite, fish them out of the water and toss them with the sauce. (It’s often beneficial to transfer a bit of starchy and salty sauce along with the pasta.)
If you’re making pasta with an oil-based or tomato-based sauce, you can continue cooking the strands with the sauce for another 60 to 90 seconds so the flavors meld together. If you’re making a pasta dish with a dairy-based sauce, be it cheese or cream, combine the pasta with the sauce away from the heat to prevent curdling.
Garnish, plate, then serve the pasta. Eat shortly after; pasta is best enjoyed while still hot.
When it comes to long pasta strands, Barilla has a numbering system that’s very easy to understand: the higher the number, the greater the thickness of the noodle.
The general rule when it comes to pairing is that thinner and lighter pastas are best paired with simple and light sauces, while thicker, heavier pastas stand up better to hearty, cheese- and meat-based sauces.You've voted for this post