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Nov 8, 2012

The Mystery of the Unknown Pastas


Did you know there are over 600 types of pasta in the world? It’s a shame that only a couple dozen of them are used and that only a handful have become common household names. So why do the other types remain in the dark? It’s not like they taste different. The main ingredients are just wheat flour, water, and maybe some eggs.

Is it then because they’re unpronounceable? Conchiglie, strozzapretti, quadrefiore. Visually, these words look like tongue-twisters. But with the help of the internet, we can easily look up their pronunciations. All you need is to add a bit of Italian accent for that extra gusto.

So how can we explain the abundant variety of pastas worldwide? We can fairly assume that one of the reasons is to accommodate different types of sauces. For instance creamier sauces would be a better match for those that are shaped like tubes, spirals, and shells. Don’t get us wrong, these shapes are extremely versatile, but the crevices in something like fusilli can better hold more sauce.

However, this reason still doesn’t completely explain how unknown pastas came about and why they remain to be unknown. Perhaps it’s a result of artistic experimentation. One person may have come up with ruote or cartwheel pasta, for example, due to a slight jealousy of his or her neighbor’s vehicle. Certainly, people have different tastes and they would want something better than someone else or at least more suitable to their individual appetites.

Another reason could be is that the other well-known pastas aren’t as popular because they’re not marketed enough by grocery stores and cooking shows in the media. Some of them may be hard to make from scratch and there may not be enough instructions on how to do so.  Creating campanelle and castellane are some examples of impeccable works of art that maybe not everyone can master in a couple of tries. Perhaps we have reached a threshold and we are just satisfied with what we already have now. Ultimately, it’s up to you if you want to venture on to try other pastas. Who knows? Maybe you’ll like it and you end up making it popular.