Is there a difference in flavor between different pasta shapes? Well, yes. Different cuts of pasta affect the flavor of a final dish because it changes the complexity of the other ingredients.
Why am I so interested in this? Growing up in an Italian household, pasta was a staple, and we always had at least five boxes in the pantry. In my childhood, I learned quickly that not all pasta tastes the same.
The cut and texture of pasta will hold sauce and condiments differently, which will affect the overall flavor of the dish. Long and narrow cuts of pasta like spaghetti or angel hair pair well with thin tomato sauces and will coat the noodle easily. On the flip side, a hearty sauce like bolognese or ragu is better with thicker, more substantial noodles like tagliatelle or pappardelle.
Smaller cuts of pasta like rigatoni and rotini have little ridges that provide nooks and crannies for the chunky bits of heartier sauces. Smooth and short pasta cuts like macaroni, ziti, and fusilli pair well with thinner cheese sauces and pesto. Thinner, smoother pasta cuts will also taste different because their size features a lighter, less intense starchy flavor.
Essentially, for every sauce, there’s a flavorful match for each pasta shape. Much like for every Belgian beer, there is a corresponding glass.
The shape of the pasta directly compliments the sauce, carrying more flavor to your mouth and leaving less in the bowl.
A pasta’s shape will affect the way we perceive flavor because more than just taste is involved when we enjoy a meal. Whether it’s farfalle, angel hair, penne, or the tried-and-true macaroni, each one will create a slightly different “experience.” Texture, shape, and consistency alter how things taste. That’s why some people hate cottage cheese or oysters – the texture is so overwhelming they just can’t stand to eat it.
I wish I could say I have tried every kind of pasta, but currently, there are 350 different types of pasta based on the shape, which varies from spiral, tubular, circular, square, and flat – and my guess is they all taste a little different.