Why are there so many different shapes and sizes of pasta in Italy?

I once asked my mother-in-law to show me how to prepare the pesto. We got the needed products, and within minutes she made the most delicious pesto in the world (later, I’ll put the recipe). Then we decided to have Pasta with the freshly prepared pesto; and started a fuss and dug through the pasta cabinet, searching for the right shape of Pasta. But this shape was missing in her cupboard, and she told me she would get the Pasta and try the fresh pesto for dinner. I asked myself why it’s all about the shape of the Pasta. Isn’t all Pasta the same? I asked her why she didn’t use another form of Pasta? She was terrified and replied that to enjoy the authentic taste of pesto and obtain this specific and delicious balance of the sauce to the Pasta, you should always combine the sauce with the right shape of Pasta.

I was curious to know why there are so many different shapes and sizes of Pasta in Italy. And here is what I found;

There are more than 360 different forms of Pasta around the world. In Italy, specific pasta shapes represent a particular region; each region has its traditional pasta sauce combined with the exact shape of the Pasta. Every area in Italy has its typical dish, so different products are grown in the regions. For example, broccoli rape thrives better in southern Italy than in the north because of climate differences; they will not grow in the south. In northern Italy, the radicchio grows better than in the other part of the country. So, the Pasta is different according to the needs and traditions of the respective region.

Pasta corner at the small grocery store in Sorrento, Italy

However, the main reason remains that the different forms of Pasta fit best with the corresponding sauces.

Here’s a clear example of this: there is no spaghetti Bolognese in Italy. How often has it happened to you when you eat spaghetti Bolognese, you eat the spaghetti, and at the end, you have a plate full of Bolognese sauce? It is because bolognese sauce fits perfectly with Pasta rather than spaghetti. This form of Pasta (tagliatelle) is long and flattened; therefore, the sauce stays better on the Pasta.

There are a few types of small, thin, short, long, wide, stuffed, and for filling.

  • Small Pasta, such as stelini, semini, tubicini, etc., is mainly used for soups and broths and is perfect for the young.

  • Thin, light and delicate pasta shapes combine perfectly with light-oil sauces.

  • The broad Pasta, the one with a hole, or the striated one, for example, combines perfectly tomato and sauces with cream.

  • The wide Pasta also includes lasagna crusts.

  • The giant pasta shapes are perfect for heavy sauces with meat, such as ragout.

Here’s something about the short Pasta: penne and ziti. You’ll probably ask: what’s the difference between penne and ziti? Well, I’ll tell you there’s a difference, and it’s at the way ends are cut off. This incision can affect how much sauce will get inside the paste when added to the sauce.

  • Stuffed Pasta is ravioli and tortellini.

  • And they are filling Pasta such as cannelloni and conchiglioni.

Italy is a country of fashion, art, love, and delicious food. But in Italy, the food is not just for feeding; the food is a delight, ritual, and sensation; therefore, Italian cuisine tastes enchanting and unique.

And NOOOOO, ketchup and mayonnaise are not going on Pasta.

Visit Giovanna’s Kitchen page on my blog, where you’ll find delicious and easy-to-prepare recipes for pasta sauces.

Eat Pasta, Love and enjoy life 🙂


Svetlana Hristova

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