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Monday, October 10, 2005 Bookmark Now! | Email to a friend  

What's the point of making pasta in different shapes?

The variety of pastas is dizzying -- you'll get no argument from me. And, yes, for those unschooled in the differences between vermicelli and linguine, the choices can be overwhelming. However, learning what to ingest with what is definitely worth your while, and can have a positive effect on your palate.

As I learned from the National Pasta Association (really), pasta shapes tend to be classified by the type of sauce they best complement. Light sauces taste best with thin noodles like angel hair. Heavier sauces go with thicker pasta shapes like fettuccine. And meaty or chunky sauces go best with pastas that can "hold" them, like penne rigate or conchiglie.

So, the wide variety of sauces are at least partially to blame for the plethora of pasta shapes. However, different kinds of flour can also affect how pasta tastes. Semolina flour, for instance, is often used for flat pastas, and potato flour is a key ingredient in gnocchi, a sort of pasta dumpling.

While I try my best to avoid clich├ęs, variety really is the spice of life. With so many pastas to choose from, why embarrass yourself by ordering "whatever tastes most like spaghetti"? Next time, try a big plate of strozzapretti and tell the waiter to keep it comin'.

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