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What is the point of Tri-Color Pasta?

Pasta comes in all shapes and sizes, but tri-color pasta stands out for its colorful appearance. As the name suggests, tri-color pasta contains three different colors swirled together in each piece. While it may seem like a novelty, there are some good reasons why tri-color pasta can be a fun and tasty addition to your meals.

What Makes Tri-Color Pasta Unique?

Traditional pasta is made from just one ingredient, usually semolina flour or durum wheat. The dough is extruded into various shapes like spaghetti, rigatoni or farfalle. But tri-color pasta adds extra ingredients to create a rainbow-like effect.

There are a few common ways to make multi-colored pasta:

  • Adding tomato powder or paste – Provides a vibrant red color
  • Spinach, parsley or other greens – Creates a rich green hue
  • Squid ink – Produces an eye-catching black color
  • Beet powder – Delivers a bold fuchsia pink or purple tone

These extra ingredients are mixed right into the pasta dough before shaping. When cut into strands or other fun shapes, the colors distribute randomly throughout each piece. No two pieces of tri-color pasta will look exactly the same!

Benefits of Tri-Color Pasta

Beyond just looking cool, tri-color pasta has some advantages over plain varieties:

Added Nutrients

The extra ingredients used to color tri-color pasta can provide nutritional bonuses. For example, tomatoes offer vitamin C and lycopene. Spinach contributes vitamin A, folate and iron. Beets have manganese, potassium and fiber.

Fun Novelty Appeal

Kids and adults alike will be amazed by a big bowl of rainbow-swirled pasta. The colorful appearance makes it more visually appealing. Tri-color pasta shapes like fusilli (spirals), farfalle (bowties) or rotelle (wagon wheels) can make your dish even more eye-catching.

Works with Any Sauce or Recipe

Aside from looking prettier, tri-color pasta works just like regular pasta. It can be boiled, baked into casseroles, mixed into pasta salads or topped with any of your favorite sauces. The colors blend together when cooked, creating a festive confetti-like effect.

Fun Presentation for Entertaining

Want to impress dinner guests with stunning yet easy pasta dishes? Tri-color pasta is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Kids will love the colorful corkscrews and bowties. Arrange it in a clear glass bowl so the shapes are visible or mix with colorful vegetables for a salad presentation.

Common Types of Tri-Color Pasta

Tri-color versions are available of many classic pasta shapes, including:

Shape Description
Fusilli Long spirals or corkscrews
Rotini Twisted corkscrew
Farfalle Bowtie or butterfly shape
Penne Tube or cylinder shape
Conchiglie Seashell shape
Campanelle Bellflower or daisy shape
Gemelli Short twisted pairs
Rigatoni Ridged tube shape

Spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine and other long strand shapes also come in tri-color varieties. The thinner strands allow the colors to be seen more distinctly.

Simple Ways to Use Tri-Color Pasta

Tri-color pasta can substitute for plain pasta in any recipe. But for best effect, opt for simple seasoning to let the colors stand out. Here are some easy ideas:

Pasta Salad

Toss tri-color rotini, wagon wheels or penne with chopped fresh vegetables like bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, carrots, broccoli and red onion. Dress it with a simple vinaigrette or Italian dressing.

Pasta with Pesto

The vivid green sauce pairs beautifully with a mix of colorful pasta shapes. Make traditional basil pesto or try avocado pesto or sun-dried tomato pesto for different flavors.

Pasta with Butter or Oil

For an easy side dish, boil tri-color pasta and drizzle with olive oil or butter and season with salt, pepper and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle on fresh herbs like parsley, basil or oregano.

Pasta with Marinara

Marinara sauce is a classic pair for pasta, allowing the rainbow colors to show through. Garnish with parmesan or fresh mozzarella for extra flavor.

Baked Pasta Casserole

Make pasta casseroles more fun by using tri-color macaroni, rotini or penne. Create a tomato sauce version with meat or veggies or a rich cheese sauce baked with ham and spinach.

Tips for Cooking Tri-Color Pasta

Tri-color pasta can be prepared just like your regular pasta. Here are some tips:

  • Boil in generously salted water until al dente – avoid overcooking.
  • Stir gently to prevent breaking the pasta pieces and shapes.
  • Drain well and toss with sauce to prevent sticking.
  • Add any vegetable or protein ingredients after the pasta is cooked.
  • Forsalads, rinse with cold water to prevent overcooking.
  • Reheat leftover pasta in broth or sauce to moisten.

Where to Buy Tri-Color Pasta

Look for tri-color pasta in the pasta aisle at well-stocked grocery stores. Popular national brands like Barilla and DeCecco make many classic pasta shapes in tri-color varieties. You can also find artisan and imported multi-colored pasta at Italian markets or gourmet stores.

Tri-color pasta can cost a dollar or two more per box than regular pasta. But a little goes a long way to add a festive look to everyday meals. Try substituting it in one of your favorite pasta dishes!


Tri-color pasta instantly livens up pasta salads, casseroles, and other dishes with its fun, rainbow-like appearance. While it may seem gimmicky, the added ingredients provide extra nutrition. And kids and adults alike will be amazed by the colorful corkscrews, bow ties, shells and spirals. With so many shapes to choose from, it’s easy to substitute tri-color for regular pasta for special meals and parties. Next time you want to make your pasta dish more interesting, reach for some festive multi-hued pasta.