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This weekend, I was shopping at the grocery store and found that the Lasagna was priced at about double per pound compared to other pasta shapes. That got me wondering if different pasta shapes are more/less hard for factory machines to make, or if these prices differences have more to do with consumer preferences? Is it somehow harder to build machines that make certain shapes? Are there other considerations I am missing that might cause some pasta shapes to be costlier than others to manufacture?

Edit: For the purposes of this question, I am interested in this question holding as much else fixed as possible. For example, fixing a single brand, should the cost of manufacturing vary by pasta shape?

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  • $\begingroup$ Which wheat? Cheap ‘n nasty brand? Tried Harrods? $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Feb 17, 2022 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ I should clarify: I would like to know within a single brand. For the sake of argument, let's say Barilla... $\endgroup$ Feb 17, 2022 at 21:27
  • $\begingroup$ What operations are needed? Cuts, serrated edges? Tubes? Rods? What assumption are you about to add? $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Feb 17, 2022 at 22:13
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    $\begingroup$ See Spaghetti harvest in Ticino. $\endgroup$
    – Transistor
    Feb 17, 2022 at 22:17

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For extrusion adding an inner hole in pasta will make the machine much more complicated. So a tube pasta should cost more than spaghetti.

Adding additional step after extrusion should also increase the cost, so a butterfly pasta (farfalle) should cost more than spaghetti. Because of the bend a butterfly pasta pieces have.

Short pieces of irregular length should be cheaper than long pieces of precise length, because their cutting is easier to do, just continuous process and one rotating knife after the extruder with many holes. So a screw pasta (fusilli) should cost even less than spaghetti.

Pasta is cheaper if extrusion Is possible in a small diameter, to not to make a large machine. Lasagna requires large diameter.

Lasagna scores 2 out 4 expensive characteristics that I can think of. Large size and precise cut. It doesnt have holes and doesnt have bends. So it should not be that expensive.

But if you try to compare other pasta types with this list, their cost isnt dependent on it. Pasta machines are complex, but they are paid off by the scale of production.

And here is the main point, I have no idea how to cook lasagna. I can and do cook lots of other types of pasta that are simpler, and I think this affects the cost the most - popularity. And simplicity of use. If you can sell lots of pasta, you can spend more money to build more efficient machine, for whatever type of pasta that sells the best.

pasta types

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    $\begingroup$ Among other odd jobs, I was the plant engineer of a pasta factory, and elbow Macaroni was about the cheapest stuff to manufacture. The die price is really lost in the production cost when you are making two tons an hour for ten years. Wall thickness affects drying time. Spaghetti was the most expensive to make of all our pasta. We didn't have a lasagna line. That is more costly. The virgin semolina cost us about 13 cents per pound at the time. Regrind from the spaghetti hooks an ends cost about half that to reprocess on site. $\endgroup$
    – Phil Sweet
    Feb 18, 2022 at 0:15
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    $\begingroup$ We could sell USDA thick wall bronze die elbows in 50 pound boxes for about 25 cents/pound. You can't run regrind in angel hair pasta - it doesn't work. So all the regrind went into thick wall pasta. $\endgroup$
    – Phil Sweet
    Feb 18, 2022 at 0:15
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    $\begingroup$ The real cost driver is the production you can get out of a given floor space. Spaghetti and lasagna have to be dried very slowly and sit in a finishing drier for hours. There is no real storage method except for the drier capacity. Then you have to saw the dried pasta to size, and convey the pasta to the packaging area. Elbows just get dumped into silos and conveyed with simple belts. We could store about 50 tons per line and package 24 hours of production in one 8 hour shift. $\endgroup$
    – Phil Sweet
    Feb 18, 2022 at 0:27
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    $\begingroup$ @PhilSweet Sounds like an answer. What material do they use for the dies anyways? Do they use hardened tool steel like metal punching dies? Or do they use something softer since...it's pasta. Actually, it's probably austentic stainelss steel now that I think about it, because food and rust. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Feb 18, 2022 at 5:17
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    $\begingroup$ The round dies were steel about 5" thick with holes for the inserts that made the different shapes like elbows or rotini or ziti. The inserts were varied. Teflon was used for the better ones ever since it was invented. Bronze and brass didn't give as good a finish, but it all cooked the same. $\endgroup$
    – Phil Sweet
    Feb 19, 2022 at 1:18

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