How to Choose the Right Cheese for Your Pasta Dish

Cheese, please! From toppers to stir-ins, we've taken the guesswork out of pairing your pastas with cheeses.

Parmesan, romano, and ricotta salita cheese
Photo: Anna Williams

Grated or crumbled, there's a type of cheese that's right for your noodles and sauce.

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Parmesan, romano, and ricotta salita cheese
Anna Williams

Hard cheeses can be stirred into pastas but are most often sprinkled on top at the last minute, adding a final blast of flavor. Many varieties are aged, giving them a bold, salty taste, so a little goes a long way. For maximum freshness, buy hard cheese in wedges and grate as needed. But pre-grated cheese is fine, too. Bring it to the table and let people serve themselves.


  • Parmesan
  • Romano
  • Ricotta salata
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Ricotta, blue cheese, feta and fresh goat cheese
Anna Williams

Soft cheeses make sauces wonderfully creamy and rich. And because they melt quickly, you can incorporate them easily into pestos, marinaras, and puttanescas to give plain noodles a smooth, flavorful coating. Crumble or chop the cheese before adding it to a dish, a couple of tablespoons at a time, tasting as you go.


  • Ricotta
  • Blue cheese
  • Feta
  • Fresh goat cheese
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