Old 03-14-2003, 01:47 PM
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: NY/NJ, USA
Posts: 5,074
Pasta numbering system

All the various brands of pasta seem to feel that names are inadequate. They have to give numbers to the many types as well, like "Elbows #35" or "Linguini #127" or "Fettucini #74".

Why do they need these numbers?
Who is in charge of assigning them?
Is there any pattern to them?

Just wondering...
Old 03-14-2003, 02:00 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Atlanta
Posts: 46
From ronzoni.com/faq

"What do the numbers on the carton or package mean?

The number associated with the shape, or cut, of pasta is known as a "cut number". Cut numbers are commonly used in the pasta industry. These numbers identify the actual cut, shape, length or width of the extruder that is used to product that particular shape of pasta."
Macho Business Donkey Wrestler
Old 03-14-2003, 02:20 PM
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: NY/NJ, USA
Posts: 5,074
Thanks, but I wonder why the name isn't enough. And is there a list somewhere that shows all the many varieties?
Old 03-14-2003, 02:49 PM
Join Date: Nov 1999
Location: Phoenix, AZ, US
Posts: 7,672
All these years I thought the number implied a size and the name specified the shape. Really, I did since I was a kid. I dind't sit and analyze the numbers but I guess that at some really well stocked pasta emporium they'd have specific sizes of fettucini or something. Kind of like #00 buckshot vs #7-1/2 bird shot. Okay, so lead shot doesn't come in elbow or rotini shapes but you get the idea.
Old 03-14-2003, 03:19 PM
Join Date: Aug 2001
Posts: 24,645
Originally posted by Keeve
Thanks, but I wonder why the name isn't enough. And is there a list somewhere that shows all the many varieties?
Well, the spaghetti on the shelf at my local supermarket comes in two numbers: 8 and 9. The no. 9, somewhat counter-intuitively, is thinner than the number 8. In this case, it appears that the name (spaghetti) designates the style of pasta, and the number designates the gauge, or the width.
Old 03-14-2003, 03:46 PM
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: NY/NJ, USA
Posts: 5,074
mhendo, that's part of why I want to see a list of them all.

The impression I get is that #8 is never used for anything but the thicker spaghetti, and #9 is never used for anything but the thinner spaghetti, while #7 and #10 are entirely different shapes, with whatever thickness people like for those shapes.
Old 03-14-2003, 04:10 PM
Join Date: Aug 2001
Posts: 24,645

I haven't managed to find a list, but i have found one explanation of where the numbering system comes from. According to this site, the numbering system is a hangover from earlier times.
Often you will see pasta with numbers on the package like Thin Spaghetti #9. Why? What does it mean? Well, in the "old days" there were waves of immigrants that came in to work in the factories. There were the Irish, the Asians, the Germans, the Italians and numerous other ethinc groups. Other than the Italians, none of these other groups really spoke the language, and were much less able to pronnounce or decern or know the difference between "spaghetti or spaghettini". So, before the days of automated computers, the factory managers had to get everyone straight, so it was much easier to say "today, we are making #9".
Old 03-14-2003, 07:16 PM
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Naugatuck, CT
Posts: 6,760
Barilla has a really cool pasta Q&A on their website. Alas, they do not answer this question, but very informative nonetheless.
Old 03-14-2003, 07:38 PM
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: A better place to be
Posts: 26,718
Angel hair and vermicelli, which resemble spaghetti and thin spaghetti/sphagettini but are much thinner, have lower numbers than the other two -- and Barb and I regularly buy linguine fine, a thinner linguine than the normal cut. (Unfortunately, what we have on hand is Mueller's, which doesn't have numbers on the boxes.)

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