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I've noticed that even when I buy two different pasta shapes of the same brand (and so presumably the exact same recipe), they still taste subtly different, to the point that I consistently prefer the tastes of certain shapes of pasta. Is there any basis for this, or am I experiencing some form of synesthesia?

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It will be slight variations in the recepies, slight variations in how you cookied it or it will be your mind playing tricks. Shape will not affect the taste of pasta. One shape however may be thicker than others, and if not cooked taking that into account, you may have a different taste, but cooked to the same level, no difference.

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That's an excellent theory. Pasta is/are just three ingredients: flour, egg and salt. Go figure. However, I hate macaroni and that's just one shape, while I do like all other kinds of pasta. Oh, well. –  BaffledCook Jan 17 '11 at 23:27
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@GUI Junkie: Most dried pasta is just flour, egg-based pasta is less common, unless fresh. –  Orbling Jan 18 '11 at 0:18
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Even if you cook them to the same level, I realize that in a thin pasta will be evenly cooked throughout, while a thick pasta will be more cooked on the surface and less in the interior. Maybe this has an effect. –  Ryan Thompson Jan 18 '11 at 17:28
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Right you are @Orbling, but one has to maintain some illusions. –  BaffledCook Jan 19 '11 at 11:48
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Different forms of pasta are going to have different surface-to-mass ratios, which will affect how the pasta cooks; the cross-section may affect how much starch gets rubbed off as the pasta boils. (I can only assume that more's going to stay in a spiral or a tube than will on something that can rub up against other pasta)

But I'm going to assume that you're not eating the pasta plain ... and the different shapes will hold sauce differently, and that can be quite significant.

The other thing that Tom Gullen mentioned is variation in cooking -- I personally avoid capellini (aka angel hair), because I've had it overcooked so many times ... overcooked pasta is disgusting, in my opinion.

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The surface area is the key. I often prefer penne to smooth noodles for optimal sauce adhesion. Farfalle is problematic to cook evenly, but also better in this regard. –  zanlok Jan 19 '11 at 21:37
    
@zanlok : not all penne is rough; it depends on what material the dies are made from. (harder materials last longer, but makes for smoother pasta). There's also specifically penne rigate which has ridges cut into it. –  Joe Jan 19 '11 at 21:56
    
point taken. I've always ended up with rigate, apparently. I thought smooth was called something else like ziti, though that's a squared edge. Checking up now, wikipedia says it's penne lisce or mostaccioli when it's smooth. –  zanlok Jan 19 '11 at 22:51
    
I suspect it's largely a difference in how the sauce holds to the pasta. There's a reason certain shapes are traditional for certain types of sauce... –  DrRandy Jun 29 at 19:40
    
@DrRandy : thickness matters, too ... if you ever get a chance, try pici ... it takes much longer to cook than most other pastas because it's so thick, and has a significantly different character than other pastaas. –  Joe Jun 30 at 15:14
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