You are standing in the pasta aisle, faced with a wide variety of different shapes size, and even colours of pasta. What do you choose? Though you can walk away with anything and use it however you like without major taste differences, you still want to consider your options carefully. The different types of pasta are intended for different dishes, so for the best results consider what you want to cook with your pasta!
Sheet pasta is easy to explain. They are quite wide, and instead of eating your pasta out of a bowl or on a plate like spaghetti, you are better of making a casserole like lasagna with your sheet pasta. Some of the sheet pastas out there come with ridges along the sides. For the most part, this is for sauce retention, though either option is fine for you to use in your casserole.
There are quite a lot of different strand pastas, though the three most popular are fettucine, spaghetti, and spaghettini. The only significant difference between them is the size/width of each strand. Fettuccini are the largest, which makes them ideal for heavier sauces (such as Alfredo). Spaghettini is the smallest strand pasts, and is best suited for thin sauces, such as simple olive oil or basil pesto. Spaghetti is a good all-purpose pasta, as it is a nice middle ground between the two.
Tube and Shape
Of course, there are also countless tube pasta and ones in fancy shapes, such as fusilli or bowtie. The uses vary widely based on the specific shape and size, but the general rule of thumb is the bigger the tube/size, the heartier the sauce you can serve it with. Significant ones to note include orzo pasta and the giant shell pasta. The former is actually best suited in a soup, whereas the latter is often stuffed and baked in the oven.