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Why Pasta Are Shaped Like That?

10 January 2013

Text by Tris Marlis @ Makansutra, Images courtesy of respective restaurants

Pasta can be translated into countless wonderful shapes, from the noodle-like Spaghetti to Wanton-like Ravioli and Tube-shaped Penne. Have you ever wonder why pasta are shaped in certain ways?

According to book, “The Geometry of Pasta” by Jacob Kennedy and Caz Hildegrand, the type of dough and the mechanics of each shape are different in regions across Italy. Each pasta shape is designed to have characteristics that work with sauces differently. As a result, there is “an equal panoply of sauce exists, to match the requirements of pasta and the people’s palates. ” wrote Chef Kennedy. Hildegrand also says that by “choosing the right pasta shape with the right sauce makes the difference between pasta dishes that are merely ordinary, and the truly sublime.”

Noodle-liked pasta, such as Spaghetti, Fettucine and Linguine varies in thickness and shape, round or flat. The thicker your pasta, the more sauce it can handle, Spaghetti goes better with heavy sauce and Spaghettini “little spaghetti” goes well with lighter sauce. Linguine is very similar to Spaghetti but has a flatter surface, just like Fettucine. Chef Roberto from Garibaldi explains that pasta with flat surface makes the sauce sticks better. For sauces, he suggests that Fettucine goes well with creamy sauce or ragu, while Linguine complements well with seafood and tomato-based sauce.

Why Pasta Are Shaped Like That?
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Why Pasta Are Shaped Like That?

Pasta with filling, such as Ravioli is usually served dry with only a dash of sauce to enhance its filling. “Good Ravioli is defined by two important factors: a good filling and good texture of the pasta dough. Different filling of the Ravioli is served with different sauce. For instance, meat fillings Ravioli is best served with cream sauce instead of tomato based sauce. Fish stuffed Ravioli are better with sauces that are strong in acidity or spiciness like tomato or Basil Pesto. Vegetarian filling goes well with everything because they are usually more neutral to the sauce,” explains Chef Roberto.

And then there are other funky shapes pasta that looks like tube, seashells and corkscrew. This type of pasta is usually extruded by machine, because it’s difficult to make by hand. In Pasta Fresca, Fusilli that looks like a twisted corkscrew is very popular among children. But besides entertaining children, their shapes are designed to be functional. “The shape of Fusilli holds sauce in between the twists, while Penne has a shape of hollow cylinders with ends cut an angle that draws in sauce, Conchiglie has a shape like the seashell, its interior is like a cradle that holds the sauce in,” explains Mr Carecci of Pasta Fresca.

For sauce, Carecci recommends light tomato sauce or Arrabiata with chunkier meat and vegetables, the twist, hollow and cradle of these pastas hold meat and vegetables in, making it easier to eat. Their ability to hold sauce or dressing so well also make them suitable for pasta salads. “For bigger size Conchiglie, you can fill it with meat and ricotta cheese and bake it,” adds Carecci.

Why Pasta Are Shaped Like That?
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Why Pasta Are Shaped Like That?

There are a lot other shapes of pasta and sauces that you can pair with to create the perfect pasta dish for everyone’s palate. Every shape of pasta has its history and function, so are the sauces. All of them have differences, but they serve a common purpose, as Chef Kennedy summarised in his book: “Oily sauces to coat, light ones to dress, rich ones to enhance and impress, fresh ones to lighten, and all to enjoy.”

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