According to the National Pasta Association (yes, such a thing does exist), Americans consume 2.7 million tons of pasta every year. Clearly, people love pasta, especially the people over at the National Pasta Association (their domain is ilovepasta.org, for goodness sake).
We love pasta, too, but have you ever wondered why there are so many types of pasta? There are more than 350 types of pasta, and many of them have multiple names! Why?! What is with this obsession with noodles? Obviously, they are delicious, but this seems a bit excessive.
As it turns out, there are several reasons that explain why there are so many types of pasta, and these reasons are rather fascinating.
Different Types of Pasta Hold Different Types of Sauce
Believe it or not, people created different types of pasta to better accommodate different types of sauce. According to experts (us), long and thin pasta, like angel hair pasta, is ideal for thin sauces, whereas thick and meaty noodles, like the penne in our Mostaciolli with Meatballs, is perfect for thick and chunky sauces.
Flat pasta and cream sauce go together like Dogtown and Pizza, while round pasta and tomato sauce have a storied friendship dating back generations. Other types of pasta work best when you stuff them with meat, cheese, mushrooms, and other delicious goodies. According to the National Pasta Association, if you don’t serve the correct type of pasta with the correct type of pasta sauce, they may end up fighting to the death.
Different Cultures, Different Pasta
Pasta lives all over the world. You can find several types of pasta in Italy that you won’t find as easily in North America and vice versa. Many Americans see pasta as a quick and easy dinner option that’s perfect for when they don’t feel like putting effort into cooking (which, coincidentally, is all the time). On the other hand, many Italians make their pasta from scratch and see pasta-making as a full-blown experience instead of just a meal.
The most popular types of sauces in a particular region also contribute to the most popular types of pasta in that same region. For example, Asian cultures use flat and thin pasta to make wontons. Pasta has a rich and varied history. You can find it all over the globe, and you’ll also find that people do pasta differently in each of the places you visit.
Different Types of Pasta Have Different Textures
Pasta texture matters quite a bit, and people created particular types of pasta with specific textures in mind. For example, biting into thin spaghetti is a much different experience than biting into thick lasagna noodles, and farfalle gives pasta dishes a richer texture because the middle cooks more slowly than the edges.
Texture might not seem like a big deal, but all five senses matter when you’re eating! Yes, even your sense of hearing. If you put your head right up to your pasta and listen closely, you can hear it delicately whisper positive affirmations into your ear.
Sometimes, chefs choose a specific type of pasta because of the way it looks. Visual presentation is just as important as the way your food tastes and smells. For example, corzetti is a small flat noodle with a stamped design that can give a fancy dish some additional visual flair. Likewise, small round pasta looks better in a bowl of soup than large bulky elbows or rotini.
Pasta Is Fun!
Come on. Just admit it. Pasta is super fun! From pasta shaped like bowties to themed pasta that looks like Bob Ross, there is a perfect type of pasta for any dish, occasion, and mood.
There you have it! Five reasons that justify the existence of over 350 types of pasta…
Okay, maybe not, but the moral of the story is that sometimes things are the way they are, and there’s an infinite number of reasons as to why they are that way. In the end, pasta rocks, and there are so many different types, shapes, and sizes for you to try and choose from.
If you make a different type of pasta for dinner every day, that’s enough dinners to last you almost a whole year! For the other fifteen dinners, take a break from cooking and go pick up some Dogtown Pizza at your local St. Louis grocery store!