How Does Pasta Shape Affect Taste?

You go to the grocery store with your partner and find yourselves standing in the pasta aisle, trying to figure out which type of pasta to get. You love traditional spaghetti. Your partner prefers penne. But the $64-million-question is, “Do different-shaped pasta actually taste different?”

There are some obvious factors that will affect a pasta’s flavor, namely the ingredients. For example, box pasta has no eggs, but fresh pasta does. The type of flour will also change the flavor—rice noodles, egg noodles, and soba noodles are all distinct.

But if we’re talking about the shape of pasta, the true difference depends on how each shape absorbs its sauce. The basic rule is that thin pasta should be used with lighter sauces, while thicker pasta pairs better with heavy sauce. Let’s take a look at the best sauces to use with each type of pasta.

Spaghetti

This is the most versatile pasta, which probably explains why it’s so popular. You can use spaghetti with heavy sauces like bolognese, or light ones, like a splash of olive oil.

Penne, Rigatoni, Farfalle

Tube-like, hollow pasta and bowtie pasta can all be used with chunky sauces that contain pieces of vegetable and meat. They can also hold their own against cream sauces. The little spaces inside the pasta mean that you’ll get an extra dose of sauce with each bite. Yum!

Macaroni

Also known as elbow pasta, macaroni goes great with cheese and can be paired with just about any kind of cream sauce. While mac and cheese is a quick and easy kitchen counter staple, don’t let the simplicity fool you. With the right cheese, you can turn this classic into a chic and sophisticated meal. (Brie, anyone?)

Orzo

Orzo looks like rice, but it absorbs flavors like pasta. Many people use this as an additional grain in other dishes, almost like a “garnish pasta.” Thanks to its size and delicate flavor, orzo goes best in soups. For an easy homemade soup, try throwing orzo into your chicken broth and add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for a Greek comfort specialty.

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