What Is Farfalle?

A Guide to Buying and Cooking Farfalle

what is farfalle

Harald Walker / EyeEm / Getty Images 

Farfalle (pronounced "far-FALL-ay") is a type of pasta that is also known as bow tie pasta or butterfly pasta for its signature shape. The word "farfalle" actually means "butterflies" in Italian. The pasta dates back to the 1500s, originating in Northern Italy in the Emilia-Romagna and Lombardia regions. Farfalle recipes often feature creamy sauces and it is the traditional pasta used in making the classic Eastern European dish kasha varnishkes

Fast Facts

Category: Shaped pasta

Meaning: Butterflies

Cook Time: 11 to 12 minutes

Main Ingredient: Semolina

Variants: Rigate, tricolore, farfalline (small), farfallone (large)

Substitutes: Fusilli, conchiglie, penne

What Is Farfalle?

Farfalle is an Italian, bow tie shaped small pasta with either straight or frilly edges. It is made from a dough of semolina flour, all-purpose flour, and eggs. The dough is rolled out thin and then cut into small rectangles that are about one and one-half by one inch. To get the pasta's signature ruffled edges, a pair of pinking shears is used instead of a knife. Each rectangle is then firmly pinched in the middle to form the butterfly or bow tie shape.

Farfalle is also sold dried and is available in boxes and bags from major pasta manufacturers (sometimes labeled as bow tie pasta). Farfalle is inexpensive, priced similarly to other common pasta shapes. It is used in traditional Italian hot preparations, such as when topped with creamy tomato sauce, cream sauce, or simple lemon-garlic sauce, with vegetables or meat added in. It is also popular in cold dishes, made into a pasta salad with vegetables like tomato, cucumber, olives, and/or cubed feta cheese or mozzarella. It is also tossed with cooked buckwheat and caramelized onions in the traditional Jewish dish kasha varnishkes.

How to Cook Farfalle

To cook farfalle, bring water to a boil in a large pot and add salt to taste. For dried pasta, add the farfalle, stir, and let the water return to a boil. Cook the pasta for 11 to 12 minutes; to achieve an al dente texture, boil for the shorter cooking time, tasting for desired doneness. To cook fresh pasta, boil for two to three minutes in salted water. Remove farfalle from the heat, drain, and toss with sauce. Serve immediately for hot dishes.


The most commonly found type of farfalle is made with semolina and has a smooth surface with the ruffled edges. However, you may also come across farfalle rigate, which has grooves or ridges (which is what "rigate" means). Different colored farfalle is also available in red (made with beets or tomatoes), green (spinach), and black (cuttlefish or squid ink)—the ingredients add flavor as well as color. The combination of red, white, and green farfalle is called "tricolore" and is meant to represent the Italian flag. Farfalle is also made in different sizes—the miniature size is called farfalline while the larger variety is named farfallone. In America, commercially-made dried farfalle is often labeled as bow tie pasta.

Certain pasta brands also produce a gluten-free version using corn or brown rice, an organic version, a whole wheat version, and a "protein plus" version where the extra protein comes from lentils, chickpeas, and peas. Cook these varieties according to the package directions since the cook time can vary from standard farfalle.

Close-Up Of Farfalle Pasta In Bowl
Eskay Lim / EyeEm / Getty Images
Cooked farfalle on wooden spoon above a pot
StockFood / Getty Images
Pasta salad with tomato, mozzarella, pine nuts and basil
OlgaLepeshkina / Getty Images
Farfalle pasta with mushrooms and cauliflower
Lilechka75 / Getty Images


The soft folds of the farfalle allow certain ingredients to nestle into the pasta, so if substituting another shape it needs to act similarly. The best replacements for farfalle are other shorter pasta shapes that have little "pockets." Fusilli (corkscrew-shaped pasta), conchiglie (small shells), and radiatori (which look like little radiators) are good substitutes for farfalle. A simple tubular pasta such as penne will work, as well as the s-shaped cavatappi.

Farfalle Recipes

This bow tie pasta shape takes nicely to a creamy mushroom sauce, fresh tomato sauce, or sauces featuring cheeses such as alfredo sauce. Farfalle's size makes it easy to eat hot or cold topped with roughly chopped ingredients like broccoli, sliced sausage, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and more. It also works well when dressed with pesto and tossed with green peas—serve hot like classic pasta or chilled as a pasta salad.