HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Do you serve pasta in bowls or on plates?

Someone mentioned that, except for lasagna, they served pasta in bowls. Unless it is a soup with pasta, I always serve it on dinner plates. So which do you choose, individual bowls or plates, and why?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I like to serve mine in a fairly shallow bowl with a wide rim - because I move mine around and the slant from the base of the bowl to the rim makes it easier to pick up and not go over and out the side of the bowl.
    The Mister serves his on a dinner plate - he does this twisty-thing with his fork

    5 Replies
    1. re: Rella

      Even though I do the twisty thing, I always serve pasta in shallow bowls. Except lasagne.

      1. re: magiesmom

        Does the bowl you use have a rim? Or is just a given a bowl that pasta is served in does have a rim?

        Though, it seems I've seen some restaurants serve pasta in a rimless bowl - could be my imagination.

        1. re: Rella

          Some of my bowls have rims, some not. We mix and match. But they all are about 8" across. I guess I like the fiesta ware ones best as the different colors look nice with the pasta. I think maybe they are sold as soup bowls. But I have a collection from tag sales, etc, as we actually eat a lot of things out of bowl instead of plates. Pretty much everything that is not a piece of meat.

        2. re: Rella

          It occurred to me that the answer might vary for some based upon kind of pasta--spaghetti vs macaroni.

        3. A bowl as Rella. Keeps it together and warmer . Great when you toss pasta like when I mix in a soft egg. I even warm them/it sometimes. I love pasta.

          1 Reply
          1. re: mscoffee1

            Absolutely, keeps it warmer. That's one of my reasons. Also harder to slosh it off the edge if you use a rimmed bowl instead of a plate.

          2. If there's a side dish like veggies, I use a plate. If it's an all-in-one pasta, I use a bowl.

            1 Reply
            1. I have a set of nicely hand glazed charger-sized plates from Tlalpan that are perfect for pasta, better than bowls.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Veggo

                How are the plates better than bowls? Except for lasagna, I generally prefer heated bowls so that I can swirl the pasta in the sauce, but I don't think it's a big deal. Curious why you would prefer plates.

                1. re: josephnl

                  My special plates have enough depth to hold sauce, and enough rim to hold garlic bread. I prefer to serve my guests a plate of food for dinner. My cat (lower left here) eats dinner from a bowl.

              2. I serve all my pasta in pasta bowls, including lasagna. If I put pasta on a plate for my husband's family, there'd be a riot!

                2 Replies
                1. re: coll

                  Hah... I can relate to that, coll. Only per casa mia it's in the reverse. My family would riot...
                  Pasta bowls it has been from time immemorial.

                  1. re: Gio

                    I had to learn a lot of rules when we got married.....mostly revolving around food.

                2. On a plate, so the bread can go on the side. I understand the concept of serving in bowls, but I guess it's just a habit to serve it on a plate in our families.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: wyogal

                    That's the joy of the rim. the bread perches nicely.

                  2. Plates, generally speaking.

                    1. rimmed bowls when it's its own course; sometimes plates if I'm eating salad and bread simultaneously

                      13 Replies
                      1. re: Jay F

                        i cannot stand for my salad to get pasta sauce on it, or for warm food to touch my cold food, lol.

                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          "i cannot stand for my salad to get pasta sauce on it, or for warm food to touch my cold food"

                          Well, that wouldn’t be an issue in Italy. You would never have salad on the same plate as pasta, at least not at the same time.

                          At home and in trattorias, pasta is usually served in soup plates or shallow bowls. It is considered more proper, or at least more elegant, to use a plate.

                          1. re: mbfant

                            The only time I've been in Italy, years ago, I recall that pasta was served as a 'side' as we call it here in the U.S. Just a small amount; not a big bowl of it. I suppose you could have ordered it that way, but I don't recall we ever did.

                            1. re: Rella

                              Pasta is a primo aka appetizer. Thus the small portion. I don't think I've seen it as a side, tho.

                              1. re: linguafood

                                Appetizer=Antipasto. (anti/before pasto/meal)
                                Primo means 1st course. And it is NOT EVER small.

                                1. re: pdxgastro

                                  You are right, of course. My bad.

                                  My point, however, was that I've never seen pasta as a side dish, just as a course on its own - as a primo. And it's smaller than any pasta portion you'll see this side of the Atlantic.

                              2. re: Rella

                                Pasta as a "side" is unheard of in Italy. Even "contorni" (sides) tend to be eaten after the main item, even when they are served together. I would be curious to know where you ate and under what circumstances your pasta was served like that.

                                A couple of years ago there was an luncheon at the American Academy in Rome for the publication of "Encyclopedia of Pasta," which I translated. Well, the buffet service resulted in people (mostly American) putting pasta and salad on their plates together, which they then went ahead and ate together. The author of the book, Oretta Zanini De Vita, nearly blew a gasket and went from table to table ordering people not to touch the salad till they'd finished the pasta.

                                1. re: mbfant

                                  No, as it as been a century ago, I don't remember where, with the exception it was recommended. They put a 2 liter bottle of wine on the table without asking us if we wanted wine and we poured as we wished. There was no extra itemization for this wine on the bill. It was not an 'American' tourist restaurant as I remember, and it was not an expensive place either. It was not an all-you-can eat, or buffet restaurant, nor a set-price meal.

                                  For some reason, I still remember that meal and the ambiance.

                                  1. re: Rella

                                    Since talking to DH about this, he remembers that there were a few other places that wine was served on the table when we sat down, just as they used to (or still do in some places) serve water the minute you sat down here in the U.S... One poured one's own if one chose. No extra charge. Of course, this is in the early 70's. On our honeymoon - we may have been dillusional :-))

                                  2. re: mbfant

                                    Can only imagine the scene. In my 1st generation home, there was ample room and time between pasta (served in bowls) and salad, if we had one. Sometimes a contorno of sauteed greens would take its place. Bread was never eaten with pasta, but small pieces could be used to scappare afterward. Often the pasta bowls were washed out for the second course, if it made sense, but usually, plates were used. I guess I still end up staring at dinner guests who balance 2 pieces of country bread on my pasta bowl rims, and eat both at the same time. I always feel the need to mention thatin my family, and others of my generation I know, pasta by itself was really served only twice a week--Sunday of course, but always also on Thursday, in a simple tomato or vegetable sauce. The rest of the week was a rotating menu of soups, beans or lentils with pasta, frittate, cutlets, baked chicken, etc. Saturday was for hamburgers, steak, or other simple respites from the Italian table.

                                    1. re: bob96

                                      Yes Bob96, but more accurately (for those curious),
                                      one would "Fare la scarpetta" with their bread. Scappare in your reply means
                                      "to run or escape". Other dialects say "sponza or spunza (accenting the second syllable)". It's derived from "spugna" which is sponge in Italian.

                                      1. re: Cheese Boy

                                        Uffa--che sbaglio! I guess I was also thinking of the bucatini che scappavano del piatto. Usually onto one's clothes. Thanks for the correx.

                                2. re: mbfant

                                  lol, i wasn't talking about eating in italy, and it's not how i serve food either, so only an issue if i am somebody else's house.

                            2. I have special pasta bowls with a two inch wide rim ....

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                ...which can be used for almost anything else too, not just pasta.

                              2. I love pasta sets. Costco used to sell a great set. Generally speaking I use bowls.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: othervoice

                                  These two white bowls came with a set of Emeril's dishes I bought some time ago at Costco. There are 10-1/2" and the other plates are large, along with some other bowls. One of these bowls is for soup and one for pasta, take your pic.

                                  The turquoise bowls are bowls that I don't use for pasta. In fact I hardly use them at all - ever.

                                  1. re: Rella

                                    The ones on the left look pretty much like what I use for most of our pasta dishes.

                                    1. re: Rella

                                      Hmm. I would use those bowls for all sorts of things, and use them more than the plates.

                                  2. If it's for company, then a plate.

                                    If it's me, myself and I, then in a big cappuccino cup.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      I love pasta in a mug when I'm alone. I don't drink coffee, so I have to use 'em for something ;)

                                    2. Plates exclusively. A bowl for the obligatory salad.

                                      1. long pasta such as spaghetti, linguine, fettucini, tagliatelli get served on plates in our home, cut pasta such as ziti, elbows, rigatoni, shells get served in large deep bowls.

                                        The long pasta is likely served with protein on it that may be cut with a knife, while the cut pasta is usually only served with sauce. It's very hard to cut a grilled chicken breast in a deep bowl.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: bagelman01

                                          Bagelman01, I think somehow I cut your first sentence off when I was replying. I didn't know that one could edit (or cut off someone else's post).


                                        2. usually on plates unless it's really informal then a bowl.

                                          1. Depends on how "soupy" it is. If it's more casserole-like, it's on a plate. If it's spaghetti or something that's going to run all over the plate, it's in a bowl (since I hate foods running together if they aren't supposed to!)

                                            1. I never do baked pastas, as I'm the only member of my family that enjoys them. So, all pasta is served in my pasta bowls, which are about 1 1/1 inches deep and about 8 inches across.

                                              1. I typically use a shallow bowl. It makes it easier to chase those little pastas around!

                                                1. I use a bowl. I think it cools faster on a plate.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: woodleyparkhound

                                                    That's why I nuke my plates :-)

                                                    Problem solved.

                                                  2. I never thought of serving it in a bowl and neither does my Italian-American MIL. And the times I was in Italy, I never saw it served in a bowl--unless it was a soup.

                                                    1. In a rimmed soup (aka pasta) bowl. Never any perched bread, or side vegetables or anything else except maybe a plop of ricotta at my table, alas. From my Calabrese grandmother on down. Pasta is always a kind of "minestra asciutta" or "dry soup" (bad translation but you get the gist) and is eaten as such. A tavola, butto la pasta!

                                                      1. We use platters for the most part (but not exclusively) ... big platters for big people with big appetites, and small platters for small people with small appetites. Yes, these are fairly large plates that you would commonly refer to as "serving" platters, but since we REALLY enjoy our pasta here, these dishes all tend to work extremely well for us. Best of all, you can serve ANY type of pasta in them because they have a nice rolled edge to them.

                                                        These are them ...

                                                        1. I always use bowls with wide rims.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Novelli

                                                            Yep. I'd say that's pretty much the ideal vessel for any shaped pasta. Plus, if your pasta is drowning in sauce, you've failed.

                                                          2. In my opinion if something needs to be cut with a knive it should be served on a plate. Anything else is optional. I defer to a bowl as much as possible because I think it keeps things warm longer. I find that most pasta dishs do not hold their heat well and I would definatly choose a bowl over a plate even lasagna I would put in a shallow bowl like most have described because I chop mine up and mix it all about anyhow.

                                                            1. I grew up eating pasta out of a bowl (lasagna the exception)
                                                              on the table is a plate and on top of that is a bowl and on the side, a small salad plate

                                                              pasta first course in the bowl,
                                                              meat balls or bracciole second course on a plate
                                                              salad third course on the small side plate or if you're not being fancy, on the plate that you have/had the meat

                                                              I actually used to like putting the salad in the bowl that had the pasta, the little bit of tomato sauce mixed with the oil and vinegar is so tasty to me

                                                              1. i prefer it in a bowl - it's easier to scrape the sauce back onto the pasta!

                                                                1. Soup plate.

                                                                  But, whatever you use, just be sure that it's a warmed vessel if it's a pasta sauced with pesto, carbonara, cacio e pepe, aglio e olio, et cet....

                                                                  12 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                                    I always warm my plates, and not just for pasta.

                                                                    1. re: Karl S

                                                                      pesto isn't a warm sauce. it's a room temp sauce that can be put over hot pasta.

                                                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                        and when put on a cold late can get chilled rather quickly. So a warm plate can keep the pesto (that I assume would be put on, mixed with hot pasta), the right temperature. It won't really "heat" the pesto (any more than the hot pasta), but rather, keep it at a nice "room temperature."

                                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                          The reason it should not be served on a cold or cool plate is because the olive oil will congeal very quickly, even with hot pasta. That's why it's on list.

                                                                          1. re: Karl S

                                                                            aren't your plates room temp? if my condo is unduly freezing i will heat bowls and plates for others if they come over, but i can't remember the last time i had to do that.

                                                                            when i make pasta, i drain it, then add the sauce to the still very hot pot. add the pasta back and toss. if i need more pasta cooking liquid, more butter or oil, now is the time.

                                                                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                              My house is cool. And room temp, even in a warmer house, is not enough. Plates should be warmed for pesto (I scaled mine and dry it) and other light sauces like those I mentioned. Anyway, the American habit of treating warmed plates as a nicety rather than essential is responsible for a great deal of pasta dishes being merely good at best rather than great. Cookbooks typically fail to mention how important this is because they tend to be written by professionals for whom it goes without saying, or by cooks who don't know better.

                                                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                                                What is the temperature of your oven that you recommend and for how long to heat a thick pasta bowl - similar to the white ones I posted photos of above. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8330...

                                                                                My regular oven will set to 170 lowest, but I have a warming drawer, which sadly is too close to the floor to keep clean at all times to use without mopping out the dust.

                                                                                1. re: Rella

                                                                                  you can also use the microwave or the dry setting on your dishwasher to warm your plates. i never just serve pasta, so my oven is always going too. can't put plates in a very hot oven.

                                                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                    Smiling ~~~~~
                                                                                    No microwave,
                                                                                    Dishwasher almost always loaded or half-loaded, a full load everyday, sometimes 2 loads.
                                                                                    Busy kitchen. But I'd like to get into the habit of warm plates; I like my food served very warm.

                                                                                    1. re: Rella

                                                                                      Rella, I usually just warm my plates under hot running water at the sink. If I do use the oven I set it at 170F. My plates are on shelves in my very cool larder so I must warm plates before serving.

                                                                                      ETA: Not every plate is suitable for the microwave. I have vintage ironstone rimmed bowls, for example, and would never put them in the MW.

                                                                                  2. re: Rella

                                                                                    I just scald my plates with the the portion of the pasta water that I am not reserving for adjusting the sauce or, if I am dining alone, I just set the plate/bowl downward on a splatter screen over the pasta pot; in either case, a quick wipe with a clean dishtowel or paper towl willl suffice.

                                                                                    1. re: Karl S

                                                                                      i have cracked the glaze on my bowls with boiling water like that.

                                                                        2. I fall under that same category. Unless it is lasagna...or I am serving something to go with it ( chicken parm or piccata) then it goes in a bowl.

                                                                          1. At home? On a plate, because I'm not buying bowls just for eating pasta.

                                                                            14 Replies
                                                                            1. re: FoodPopulist

                                                                              After reading your comment it occurred to me that, while I always serve pasta dishes on plates, I have repeatedly given pasta bowl sets as shower gifts for many years. Curious.

                                                                              1. re: EM23

                                                                                It was a very popular gift in the 1990s and early 2000s. Williams Sonoma used to sell inexpensive but attractive sets of four bowls and one large serving bowl. I must have given a dozen of these as gifts.

                                                                                I'm sure the flea markets and estate sales thirty years down the road will be jam-filled with these sets of pasta bowls.

                                                                                1. re: Roland Parker

                                                                                  Oh Lordy! All those weddings in the 90's - what fun ;-D Williams Sonoma was my shower gift supplier as well. Out of curiosity I looked at the pasta sets on the WS website and they are not so inexpensive anymore - the cheapest patterned set was $128 on sale.

                                                                                  1. re: Roland Parker

                                                                                    most of them won't have survived. the large bowl tended to crack.

                                                                                2. re: FoodPopulist

                                                                                  I used to feel the same way. Then I got a set of shallow, rimmed bowls, and now I don't know how I ever lived without them.

                                                                                  1. re: FoodPopulist

                                                                                    No "shallow bowls" in your kitchen? One doesn't need to buy "pasta bowls" specifically, and even if one does they can be used for almost anything - not just for serving pasta...

                                                                                    1. re: huiray

                                                                                      No shallow bowls. None of those wide-rimmed plate/bowl things.

                                                                                      I have occasionally re-heated spaghetti in the microwave and ate it straight out of the size bowl that you would see pho served in.

                                                                                      I also don't own a food processor, a grill pan, or a dutch oven.

                                                                                      1. re: FoodPopulist

                                                                                        Maybe it's a cultural thing. I don't have any idea what size bowl pho would be served in.

                                                                                        I don't own a microwave oven or grill pan, either, but I don't know what I'd do without a food processor or (especially) a Dutch oven.

                                                                                          1. re: Jay F

                                                                                            Here're a couple of bowls suitable for what I would consider as "medium-sized" portions of phở .

                                                                                            1. re: huiray

                                                                                              Now it want pho! But my local spot burned down last week :(

                                                                                              1. re: CanadaGirl

                                                                                                Seems I have some pho bowls, but don't know if I've ever eaten pho. Certainly haven't made it. These bowls are mainly in the storage area, but have not ever considered as a bowl for serving pasta, just soup.

                                                                                                1. re: Rella

                                                                                                  I use these bowls for a whole lotta kinds of food, ranging from beef stew to wonton soup/other soups to blanched veggies w/ sauce to pasta w/ clam sauce or pesto or bolognese or other sauces... Oh, also for zapping stuff in the microwave as the food sits nicely in the bowl and the top can be covered nicely with cling wrap leaving a decent distance between the food and the wrap. Pretty much all-purpose for me. (Twirling linguine alla vongole in these bowls results in no splatter at all :-) save for those times when I am very merry [ahem])

                                                                                                  Here are some shallow flat-lip-less bowls I've also found to be multi-purpose in their use...
                                                                                                  (a.k.a. "pasta bowls" in some shops. ;-) I think I got them for $3 each years ago from BB&B. Yes, they're white porcelain)

                                                                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                                                                    Ohhh, I really like these bowls. Who thought such a find could be found at BB&B - I can see that they are quite all-purpose. Thanks for posting!

                                                                                    2. My father in law gave us "Pasta" bowls so we use bowls. Before that dinner plates. No rhyme or reason.

                                                                                      1. I have a set of plain pasta bowls - they're fairly shallow with a wide rim and no lip.

                                                                                        1. I use both. Depends on how much sauce or how wet the sauce is. Also on how large the portion is. Still, the plate should have a definite raised rim area with the center area below the level of the circular rim area. I tend to have pasta with pesto in bowls, however.

                                                                                          1. I have pasta bowls (the ubiquitious Williams Sonoma kind that was given to me as a gift). I tend to use it more for soups and desserts than for pasta but it's perfectly serviceable as a pasta bowl if we're having nothing else for dinner.

                                                                                            1. I love to use pasta bowls. The pic below is a recent pasta dish I made for dinner that had spaghetti with brown butter and mizithra cheese on one side and the other side is spaghetti with clam sauce. The photo is a little dark, but you get the idea.

                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: boyzoma

                                                                                                Looks very nice! Just wondering, would you consider serving them separately?

                                                                                                1. re: huiray

                                                                                                  Oh, absolutely. That was just MY bowl :) For some reason, I had a hankering for both types of pasta that night. I usually only make one kind at a time, but I couldn't resist. My set also has one quite a bit larger bowl that matches for a big pot of pasta family style to share.

                                                                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                                                                    Oh, absolutely. This was just MY bowl. Usually I only make one kind of pasta at a time, but that night, I had a hankering for both toppings. So just shared the space in my bowl. My pasta bowl set (of 4) shown above also has a fifth bowl that is very large "family" style bowl that looks identical.