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So Many Pasta Shapes! What Could It All Mean?

So Many Pasta Shapes! What Could It All Mean?

With so many Italian gourmet masterpieces to choose from, it can be easy to overlook the simple artistry of Italy’s staple sauce-carrier, pasta. It may have only a few ingredients and be ubiquitous on supermarket shelves, but a properly prepared pasta dish with the appropriate sauce can rival any culinary superstar.

Pasta with a twist is even more exciting. By crushing dehydrated vegetables and mixing them in the base flour, a rainbow of colors and flavors can further enhance a pasta creation. The many shapes of pasta can be as simple as a strand of spaghetti to more complex such as the ruote (wagon wheel).

But have you ever wondered why there are so many different pasta shapes? Is there a reason for this? What is the history of the many curious configurations? From linguini to bow tie, there are more than 300 varieties of pasta. Why do we only use a handful regularly? And can the making of all of the shapes ever be mastered? What a delicious course of study.

The secret to why there are so many shapes seems to lie in the type of sauces used. For instance, a light (or thin) sauce is good with light (or thin) pasta such as angel hair or linguini. The thicker sauces are good with the heavier pastas. Flat pastas, such as ravioli, work well with cream sauces. There is a method to this madness after all! Many pasta shapes have ridges, and the number of ridges ensures the perfect amount of sauce or meat is caught with every bite. And the larger pastas, such as manicotti, allow for copious amounts of exciting fillings.

But there’s more. Pasta shapes developed as a reflection of their region of origin, trade routes, religion and other cultural and social factors. The history of pasta shapes goes beyond proper sauce pairings. Indeed even the names of the various pastas can either reflect their shape, or be derived from a local folk or fairy tale. It’s a rich history indeed.

Regardless of the “why” of the many pasta shapes available to consumers, home cooks and master chefs, the end result is the same. Italy’s most outstanding export is, and will always be, a fan favorite.