Why does pasta have ridges? There’s actually a great reason: Ridges help sauce stick, but it’s so much more complicated than that. The experience of eating fusilli versus farfalle is fundamentally different due to mouthfeel, surface area, and the ever-fascinating sauce-to-noodle ratio. So even though most Italian pastas are made from the same basic ingredients, there are countless varieties of pasta that are unique.
Now, you can become far better acquainted with over 250 versions of pasta, featured in Pop Chart Lab’s latest print, The Plethora of Pasta Permutations. Like all of the studio’s mega illustrations, this piece on pasta is organized categorically, sorting machine-made and handmade, tubes and triangles, and every semi-related permutation in between. Amidst the tempting carbohydrates, you can even discover a bit of history, as pasta shapes have often reflected the culture they fed.
"My favorite is the Dischi Volanti, which translates to ‘Flying Saucers,’" explains Pop Chart Lab Editorial Director Patrick Mulligan. "In the UFO craze of the '50s an enterprising pasta maker came up with a way to extrude these saucer shapes. There’s also Marziani, so named because they resemble the antennae of movie Martians."
For much of their research, Pop Chart Lab turned to the Encyclopedia of Pasta. It’s one of a few fascinating books on the topic of pasta design, which shouldn’t exclude The Geometry of Pasta or Pasta by Design. Whether you’re a food or design geek, it’s fascinating to learn that pastas like torchio are designed to actually grab the big pieces floating inside a chunky sauce just to provide a more satisfying bite. So often, it’s difficult to understand how designers sweat the smallest details. But anyone can tell the difference between each of these pastas, no matter how granular the variations in ridges, tubes, or length may be.
Noodles really are an amazing platform of innovation within the food world, single-serving objects of near endless variety, crafted for the infinite expanse of niche experience.
The Plethora of Pasta Permutations is available now for $32.