For the layperson, linguine and spaghetti might be interchangeable, and if your supermarket is out of one of those kinds of pasta, you can also substitute it with the other one, right?
After all, they are both long and thin and are made out of the same kind of pasta dough, anyway.
Traditionalists maybe prefer the comforting shape of their favorite childhood pasta, whereas others simply like the slightly different texture linguine provides, but that, at first glance, seems to be all there is to the linguine vs. spaghetti discussion.
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What's the difference between Linguine and Spaghetti?
The main difference is that while spaghetti noodles are round, linguine - are flat and about 6 to 9 cm wide. While there is no rule book to follow when deciding which pasta to use with which sauce, you can make the best use of their different shape when you keep in mind that flatter and thicker shapes of pasta go better with more substantial sauces.
When you think of maybe the most traditional pasta dish of them all, spaghetti with tomato sauce, you will notice that in this case, these slim noodles are accompanied by a smooth sauce without any big chunks. Other popular choices like Aglio e olio, a sauce made of garlic and olive oil, are equally light and liquid.
Sauces stick to flat, broad pasta better than to the round, thin surface of spaghetti. Therefore, linguine is traditionally served with sauces that are a bit more substantial, like pesto, marinara sauce, or seafood-based sauces.
Is All Pasta Made the Same Way?
Having always assumed that all pasta is made from the same dough, I decided to do some research to either verify my preconception or prove me wrong.
As it turns out, I am half wrong and half right - while it is true that different shapes of pasta do not require different ingredients in the dough, there are largely two distinct ways to prepare pasta dough: you can buy either fresh pasta or dry pasta.
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Both kinds of pasta are made from flour - traditionally semolina flour -, water, and salt. For dry pasta, that is all there is to it. After the pasta is formed into its desired shape, it is dried.
This is the kind of pasta you find on the shelves in your grocery store or supermarket. It has a very long shelf life, and therefore most people tend to stock up on pasta always to have something to eat in stressful times when they cannot go out and buy fresh food.
On the other hand, fresh pasta is what you find in the refrigerated section of the store. It does not have an equally long shelf life and needs to be stored in the refrigerator. Like dry pasta, it is made of flour, water, and salt, but that is not all. It also contains eggs and usually more water than dry pasta.
Since it is more tender than dry pasta, it just takes half of the time to cook. Its texture is smoother, so that it goes very well with creamy sauces.
Another difference between different kinds of pasta is that between expensive Italian pasta and the cheaper ones, usually the store brands you find in your run-of-the-mill neighborhood grocery store. Expensive, high-quality pasta is shaped and cut in bronze molds.
Cheaper pasta is made in Teflon-coated molds. The pasta that comes out of bronze molds is more porous than that made of more inexpensive molds, which means that sauce can cling to it much better.
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Besides these distinctions in the production process, more genuine pasta is also made with semolina flour, while cheaper brands (and, importantly, brands that offer pasta for those with gluten intolerance!) go for all-purpose flour, or, in the latter case, special gluten-free flour.
Semolina flour is made from hard durum wheat and is high in gluten, fiber, and protein. Hard and coarse in texture and yellow in color, it makes pasta perfect in color and shape. The high gluten content makes for a dough that is not sticky but very elastic so that it does not break when molded into different shapes.
Semolina flour is more nutritious, and since it is digested more slowly than all-purpose flour, it provides a good continuous energy source.
Semolina is good for your health as it's rich in protein, fiber, and B vitamins. Semolina may even support weight loss, heart health, and digestion. If you can tolerate semolina and its gluten content, you should be adding it to your diet as it's healthier than all-purpose white flour and keeps you full for a longer time. Semolina is better for your health than white flour, and some studies also found that it is inflammatory and can lower your LDL levels by up to 5%.
Some of the gluten-free alternatives to semolina flour available are rice semolina, arrowroot flour, oat flour, and tapioca starch that is easy to digest and low in sodium. The easiest way to find the most suitable flour alternative for your pasta cooking needs is to understand the ingredient.
Rice semolina or rice flour, made from rice, is a gluten-free alternative for wheat semolina, and it is very common in Indian cuisine. Rice semolina is made from the entire rice grain. Arrowroot flour is a less common gluten- and grain-free powder. It's made from a starchy substance extracted from a tropical plant known as Maranta arundinacea and can be used as a thickener too. Oat flour is a whole-grain flour made from rolled oats, and it is rich in manganese, copper, biotin, vitamin B1, magnesium, chromium, and other nutrients. It has a bit of bitter, nutty flavor, where tapioca starch, for example, gives that sweet kick in flavor.