Fusilli Vs Rotini – What’s The Difference?

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Touted as one of the world’s most popular dishes, pasta is a versatile food made by mixing grain flour with water.

It is cooked in boiling water, after which it is drained and mixed with sauces and a variety of other food items such as cheeses, vegetables, herbs, spices, and different kinds of meat.

With over 50 distinct types of pasta, and even more if you account for the different sizes, it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate them, especially if you don’t have enough knowledge.

Fusilli and rotini are two types of pasta that are usually confused with one another since both have a similar shape. In the US, you will often find fusilli mistaken with rotini.

What’s the difference between fusilli and rotini? From afar, they may look the same, but if you look closely, you can easily spot the differences. Fusilli has a spring-like shape whereas rotini is extruded into a twisted shape.

Read on as we try to explain how fusilli and rotini are different from each other and whether they can be substituted for each other:

What is Fusilli?

The name fusilli is derived from the word fuso, which means “spindle” since the pasta is spun around a small rod to form its distinct shape.

It belongs to the short-cut pasta category and is often served with thicker sauces and heavy creams since the grooves in the pasta trap the sauce and allow each bite to be equally flavorful.

In addition to the plain variety, fusilli also comes in several fun colors made by mixing other ingredients with the dough, such as adding beetroot or tomato for a nice red color, spinach for green, and cuttlefish ink for the black variety.

Fusilli bucati, another variant of fusilli, is made by twisting hollow tubes of pasta into little springs.

There is also the fusilli lunghi which is made using long spaghetti-length strands of pasta instead of the shorter pieces. A combination of the two is known as fusilli lunghi bucati, where hollow tubes are twisted into long spiral strands.

You can get fusilli in both fresh and dried forms. For fresh fusilli, cook it in boiling water for 3-4 minutes, or until al dente. Add a pinch of salt and stir the pasta to prevent it from sticking together. 

If you are using dried fusilli, you will have to cook it for a bit longer, usually around 7-10 minutes. For best results, read the packaging for the instructions.

Fusilli makes a great pasta dish when paired with rich, creamy sauces and dressings.

As mentioned above, the distinct shape of the pasta holds more of the sauce in every bite while making it more visually appealing. You can make a lovely cold fusilli salad or even bake it layering it with sauces, meat, and cheeses.

What is Rotini?

The name rotini translates from Italian to “small wheels” due to its distinct corkscrew-like shape. It is very similar to fusilli except for the tightness in the gaps between its spirals.

As with many other types of pasta, rotini is also made from wheat and water. However, there are other variants made using whole wheat flour, brown rice, and other grains.

Rotini was originally made as 2-edged spirals but now is also available in 3-edged varieties. 

It is cooked in a similar way as other pasta in boiling water and salt for a few minutes until it is ready. Rotini is often served in salads with tomato-based sauces since it can retain the flavors better due to its tight shape.

Fusilli vs Rotini

Fusilli and rotini are fairly similar to one another and give dishes such as salads, soups, and baked pasta an interesting flavor and texture.

What makes them similar is their shape which often gets them mixed up. You will often find rotini used to describe fusilli in many supermarkets in the US.

Their shape allows them to hold bits and pieces of cheese, vegetables, and meat, and they pair incredibly well with sauces such as pesto, tomato, and shellfish.

The key to distinguishing the two types of pasta is to remember that fusilli is made by twisting strands of pasta into a spring-like shape whereas rotini is extruded into tighter twists.

The gap in their corkscrew-like shape is one of the main differences between them, with rotini having tighter gaps allowing it to retain sauces and other ingredients better than fusilli, which has a wider gap between its fold.

Their size is another differentiating factor, with rotini being slightly shorter than fusilli and more tightly wound.

If made from the same ingredients, both fusilli and rotini taste the same.

However, as mentioned above, fusilli comes in different varieties with some of it colored and flavored using various natural ingredients such as beetroot and spinach.

Can Fusilli and Rotini Be Substituted for Each Other?

Except for their name and the slight variation in shape, fusilli and rotini are not particularly different. Their usage is pretty much the same and they are easily interchangeable in many recipes. 

Can they be substituted for each other? Yes, they can, and the key reasoning for choosing either of them comes down to your personal preference.

Rotini makes a good substitute for fusilli, and fusilli can be alternated for rotini. In the US, you will often find rotini mislabeled as fusilli, and that is how similar they are to each other.

Both have similar shapes and lengths, with just a slight difference, which makes both of them equally good at trapping sauces, creams, and other ingredients.

Other Substitutes for Fusilli and Rotini

Fusilli and rotini have a similar shape and can easily be substituted for each other. They work great with a thick tomato sauce or a classic carbonara sauce and are perfect for making pasta salads.

But what if there is no fusilli or rotini available? Are there any other alternatives? For starters, you may look among the colored options available and may even opt for fusilli lunghi, fusilli bucati, or fusilli lunghi bucati.

Don’t worry if those aren’t an option either. With over 50 types of pasta, we’re sure you can find the perfect substitutes for both fusilli and rotini, and their many variants.

One of the main features to look for when finding the right substitute for fusilli and rotini is the pasta’s ability to hold the sauce well.

Therefore, look for a similar shape and the presence of spirals, ridges, nooks, and crannies that will help you achieve the same results.

Some of the most common substitutes include:


Gemelli is an Italian pasta meaning “twins”.

Traditionally it was made from a single S-shaped strand of pasta folded in half and twisted around itself. It can also be made by cutting the strand in half and twisting each one around the other.

Due to its shape and similar twisty nature, it makes a great substitute for fusilli and rotini and pairs well with salads and casseroles.


Cavatappi is a type of macaroni made in a spiral tube shape. It makes an excellent substitute for fusilli and rotini, especially fusilli bucati since cavatappi is also hollow in shape.

It gets its name from the Italian word meaning “corkscrews” and is also known as cellentani. Cavatappi is bigger than rotini and can trap chunks of thick sauce, meat, and vegetables in its grooves. 


Radiatore is a variety of pasta that resembles the shape of a household radiator. It is shorter and thicker than rotini and has ruffled edges.

Its unique shape makes it a great option for dishes using thicker sauces, and it can also be used for salads, casseroles, and soups.


Penne is a fairly common type of pasta used in a variety of dishes. It has a distinct shape that makes it look like a pen, and that is where it gets its name from.

It is cut at an angle and has a particularly large surface area to allow plenty of room inside its tubes for sauces and other ingredients.

Penne pasta, like fusilli and rotini, goes well with chunky meat, vegetable, and sauces, and is also frequently used in baked casserole dishes.


Rigatoni gets its name from the word rigato, which means “ridged”. It consists of small, hollow tubes and is similar to penne but is wider and has ridges on the outside.

The holes and ridges help the sauce adhere to the pasta, making it perfect for chunkier sauces and a great substitute for fusilli and rotini.

Rigatoni is great for baked pasta dishes and can hold on to cheese as well. Therefore, if you wish to have a nice, cheesy pasta, you know which type to go for.

Related questions

Now that we’ve gone over what makes these two types of pasta unique, let’s answer some questions that we thought you might’ve had while reading this article!

How do you store uncooked pasta?

When storing dry, uncooked pasta, you need to keep it in a cool, dry place like your pantry where it will stay good for up to 1 year.

To preserve freshness, it is best to use airtight boxes or containers and follow the first-in, first-out rule to ensure the pasta gets used up before its expiration date.

Filled pasta, such as ravioli or tortellini, need to be stored in the refrigerator and have a shorter lifespan than dry pasta.

How do you store cooked plain pasta?

It is very common to cook more pasta than you need, especially if the recipe doesn’t call for an entire box of pasta. This presents a bit of a problem since cooked pasta can get sticky and clump together.

Luckily, there are a few easy ways to save cooked pasta for later use. If you have plain cooked pasta, you can easily store it in the fridge.

One of the most important things is to avoid letting it sit out for too long and package it immediately.

All you need is an airtight container or bag and a little bit of oil or butter to prevent it from sticking to each other.

Place the leftover cooked pasta in a container or bag and pour a little bit of olive oil onto it. If you prefer, you may use a small amount of butter instead. Toss the pasta carefully to make sure it is lightly coated and is not sticking together.

If the pasta is warm, make sure to cool it off completely before you close the container or seal the bag.

Once that is done, seal it off very well because, if it is exposed to air, the moisture in the cooked pasta will allow bacteria and mold to grow. If you are using a bag, squeeze out as much air as possible before you seal it.

The pasta should last about 3-5 days in the refrigerator, after which it will start to lose its flavor and become susceptible to bacterial growth and mold.

How do you store cooked pasta with sauce?

If you have cooked pasta with sauce, you can either store the pasta and sauce separately or mix them together before placing them in the fridge.

The benefit of storing them separately is that you get more flexibility later on and can use the pasta or sauce for a separate dish entirely.

While you can easily store the mixed pasta and sauce in the refrigerator, it can become mushy and must be consumed within 1-2 days.

If you think that you will be using the pasta dish within that time, it might be a good idea to store the mixed pasta since it allows the flavors to penetrate all the way through and makes a more flavorful dish.

Just make sure you store it in an airtight container or bag and squeeze out all the excess air before storing it.

Can you freeze pasta?

If you need to store plain cooked pasta for a longer time, you can place it in the freezer instead of the refrigerator where it will last for 3 months.

To make sure that it’s not mushy when you thaw it later, slightly undercook the pasta.

Rinse the pasta under cold running water and toss it in olive oil or butter, depending on your preference. This will prevent the pasta from sticking together when it freezes and make it easier for you to use later in your recipe.

Next, place the pasta on a baking sheet in a single layer, or else it will start to clump together. If you’re using long pasta such as spaghetti, use a fork to twirl it around and make little “nests”. 

Place the baking sheet in the freezer for 1-8 hours and, once it is frozen solid, transfer it to a freezer-safe bag or container, squeezing out any excess air before sealing it.

Make sure to freeze small amounts that you would typically use in a recipe.

Although the frozen pasta can last for around 3 months, you will want to use it within 2 months for optimal freshness. Pasta has a high water content and is susceptible to freezer burn if kept in the freezer for too long.

To defrost the pasta, you can transfer it to the refrigerator, which might take a few hours.

You can also put it directly in boiling water or a simmering pasta sauce. Since it is already cooked, you just need to worry about getting it to the right temperature and incorporating it with the rest of the dish.

Up Next: How To Store Macarons – The Ultimate Guide


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *