Pasta is made from just three ingredients: flour, egg, and salt. So why is it that most people prefer one shape of pasta over another? You have your spaghetti people vs your angel hair pasta people. Then there’s ziti vs zit with lines. Some people despise macaroni but will gobble up linguine all day. What is it about the shape and texture of pasta that shapes our palate’s preferences?
It’s all in Your Mind
According to scientists, there is a known condition called synesthesia where people involuntarily have a “union of the senses”. For example, these people can “see” music, converge colors and numbers into one, see time inside their minds arranged a visual way; the months of the year may be seen as a circular kind of map or other spatial sequences in the person’s mind. In the case of pasta, what we see is the merger of the senses of touch and taste. While the later seems like a stretch, it is, by definition, a form of synesthesia and could explain why we all have our individual pasta preferences which typically form in childhood.
Pasta of varying thickness will cook differently and affect the taste. A thick pasta, like gnocchi, will be more done on the outside while a thin pasta will cook more evenly throughout. For anyone who has ever had undercooked pasta, the taste can be so doughy that if tastes raw. Overcooked pasta can taste slimy and squishy, but then again it all depends on your palate’s preferences, although al dente is always the recommended goal.
Shape and Sauce
The shape of the pasta will determine how it holds the sauce and this can make all the difference in taste. Plain ziti in tomato sauce tends to really soak up the sauce while ziti with lines holds the sauce like a grate. This is the ziti you push around on your plate to soak up just the right amount of sauce.
We can’t leave out the sense of sight when it comes to food. Presentation, color, and many other variables will automatically give you a preconceived notion of what something is going to taste like. When the waiter brings your plate, you either exclaim, “That looks good!” or your silent. Sometimes you’re presently surprised, especially if it is a dish you’ve never seen before but when it comes to familiar food like pasta, you can usually lend your eyes to be correct with the first impression.
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