The real dish on pasta shapes

by Ashton Liu (’22) | May 10, 2021

Pasta, a household favorite of many, is unique in a variety of ways. It’s a versatile ingredient as it comes in many different flavors, shapes, and dishes across the nation. In fact, each pasta shape was tailor-made with different strengths, all fulfilling a unique niche in a variety of dishes. So let’s dive into the different types of pasta shapes and what makes those shapes sing with a well-paired sauce. 

Hollow Shapes:

This is the standard type of noodle that comes into your mind when you think of “pasta.” It’s traditionally served at an Italian restaurant when you go to order pasta, be it penne, rigatoni, trenne, macaroni, or other hollow-like shapes. Because they are hollow, these pastas can ladle heavy ingredients, ground meat, and vegetable sauces, by their openings. Additionally, as another aspect of these hollow-shaped pastas, their thick texture perfectly complements cheese when baked.

Long Thin Noodles:

These noodles come in the form of long, hair-like strands. Spaghetti, capellini, and linguini are common examples of this type of pasta. As a more basic and fragile type of pasta, they serve to be paired with light oils or delicate sauces. This allows the noodles to be coated thoroughly to ensure flavor in every bite. 

Long Wide Noodles:

Long wide noodles, like fettuccine and pappardelle, take the form of noodles with larger widths and a sturdier texture. This large width allows them to have a greater surface area that remains resilient against richer meat sauces. In addition to their large surface area, they also have a thicker texture which helps the pasta to support itself when mixed with heavy ingredients during the cooking process.

Twist shapes:

Twists are another commonly featured pasta in restaurants. This type of pasta comes in a twisted form possessing small curves and light texture. Pastas like gemelli, fusilli, and rotini fall into this category. Due to its corkscrew-like configuration, the twisted shape is very beneficial for holding lighter sauces, such as pesto and butter sauce. These light sauces settle within the folds that the twist forms, carrying a great deal of flavor in each bite. However, because of their fragile state, they are incompatible with denser, chunkier ingredients, becoming a disgusting mush if cooked together.

Tiny-Noodle Pastas:

These pastas are miniature in proportion to other pastas. Pastas like ditalini, pastina, and stelline are appropriately labeled as tiny-noodles. Due to their size, it would not be possible to consume this type of pasta efficiently with a fork. Instead, they are added to broths and soups to maximize the comfort of eating with a spoon. Additionally, these pastas add unique textures and flavors to the dishes in which they are presented.

 Filled Pastas:

Although filled pastas are not typically thought of as “pastas,” they technically fall within the category. These pastas are in the form of a thin pasta wrapped around a savory filling. The filling is typically cheese or meat-related to ensure maximum amounts of flavor and taste within each bite. Ravioli, tortellini, mezzalune, and cappeletti all are a part of the filled-pasta category for their ability to be filled with scrumptious flavors. The primary purpose of these pastas is to hold the principal flavor of the dish in small bites to be savored over time, which allows filled pastas to be considered as a separate dish and not just an appetizer for tasting.

Categories: Food

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