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What is Rotelle Pasta?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Rotelle pasta is known for its wagon wheel shape, with ridged rings and spoked openings that are perfect for trapping delicious sauce. The shape is not Italian in origin, but many Italian companies now make it. You’ll also find rotelle pasta made with a variety of different flours: durum wheat, semolina, whole wheat, or even quinoa. Many times the pasta is dyed with vegetable dyes to create orange, green, or deep burgundy hues.

The typical piece of rotelle pasta is roughly the width of an American quarter, and is slightly to a great deal thicker. Sometimes you’ll see rotelle cut in much longer pieces, about an inch or so (2.54 cm) in length. These longer pieces do have the wagon wheel spokes but lose the wagon wheel concept because of their length.

In parts of the US, rotelle pasta, which translates in Italian as "little wheels," may be marketed and sold as Choo Choo Wheels pasta. The company New World Pasta, which is one of the largest pasta manufacturing companies in the US, markets rotelle as Choo Choo Wheels. The name suggests an important use for the pasta; making meals that are appealing to kids. While a fussy eater might refuse “pasta” or “rotelle,” eating choo choo wheels may be a lot more fun and be less easy to refuse.

There are numerous uses for rotelle pasta. It can be an excellent in cold pasta salads, where the spokes will soak up some of the vinaigrette and provide extra flavor. Alternately, just about any sauce is delicious on rotelle, from a simple marinara to a heavy cream sauce. If you’d like to vary alfredo with fettuccine, try alfredo sauce with rotelle for a new twist in presentation. Add peas and a little bit of ham or prosciutto with cream sauce for variety.

You can add rotelle to things like soup too, or simply serve the pasta tossed in a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and parmesan cheese. Virtually anything goes with rotelle pasta. When you buy the longer version of the pasta, you’ll want to add a little more sauce. Sauce will be soaked up within the wheel “tube,” and may make the pasta dry or inadequately coated on the exterior.

Due to the demand for more healthful forms of pasta, there are now a number of companies that make whole-wheat versions of rotelle. Many really enjoy versions of the pasta distributed by Trader Joe’s. You’ll no doubt find other brands of whole-wheat rotelle at specialty and natural foods stores.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By chivebasil — On Apr 12, 2012

I have an easy pasta recipe that I serve for my kids whenever they get hungry. I just boil up some wagon wheel pasta, mix in a little jarred pasta sauce and serve it with some cheddar cheese on top. The kids like the shape of the noodles and the food is cheap and easy to make. When you have hungry kids you have to make whatever works.

By summing — On Apr 11, 2012
I have a rotelle pasta recipe that I make once the spring time vegetables start coming in. It is for a rotelle pasta salad. It combines the namesake pasta with fresh peas and other spring crops that many people grow and are available in most stores. It is served with a light vinaigrette.

It is an easy recipe and always a hit at parties. the big noodles make it easy to serve at picnics or BBQs.

By Ivan83 — On Apr 11, 2012

My mom is legendary for this really thick meaty marinara that she makes. She always serves it with rotelle pasta because the big noodles and the big spaces are great at holding the sauce. You get a lot of pasta and a lot of sauce in each bite. Plus the flat shape can hold a lot of cheese. It may not be Italian but it is great with Italian foods.

By anon21871 — On Nov 23, 2008

How do they make this stuff?

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia...
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