Cheap vs. Expensive Pasta (Why Pasta Quality Matters!). Why Expensive Pasta Tastes Better Than The Cheap Stuff-
It's all about texture, and the type of extruders used to make cheap and expensive pasta produce different results. Another factor is the quality and kind of wheat used to make the best pasta.
Craving pasta? Here are some delicious recipes to satisfy your carb loving cravings: Creamy and Easy Gemelli Pasta with Tomatoes and Mascarpone, Authentic Italian Pasta Carbonara, Authentic Italian Spaghetti alla Puttanesca Recipe, and Authentic Italian Pesto Genovese (Basil Pesto).
Okay, one more: BEST Lobster Ravioli Sauce with Lemon Brown Butter.
Cheap vs. Expensive Pasta (Why Pasta Quality Matters!) Explained...
Cheap vs. Expensive Pasta: Pasta Texture
HuffPost does a great job at explaining why texture is the main culprit in the difference between cheap and expensive pasta. Here is some of what they have to say:
Texture is one of the reasons expensive pasta tastes better than cheap pasta.
Have you ever wondered why the cheapest box of spaghetti is around $1 and other brands sell for $5 or $8?
If you closely examine low-cost pasta, you’ll notice that they are almost shiny and incredibly smooth ― that’s the work of the Teflon die.
To save even more time and produce large quantities of pasta, mass manufacturers then quickly dry the pasta, sometimes for only a few hours, before boxing it and shipping it. This ruins the texture entirely!
The smooth pasta never fully marries to the sauce, and the quick dry time requires a quicker cook time, which in turn minimizes the window of perfectly cooked, toothsome al dente pasta to just a few seconds long.
Further, even if you are lucky to nail the “al dente,” the pasta will slowly wilt in the sauce. And don’t even think about eating it the next day.
If you want to dive into how to cook pasta perfectly- here is a great guide for you. You will learn how to cook pasta perfectly EVERY TIME!
You’ll find pasta that’s swollen to twice the size it was the day before, melting like baby food when bitten.
Cheap vs. Expensive Pasta: Pasta Extruders
If you’ve always struggled with achieving al dente pasta, try buying a more premium brand. Don't forget to check out this post: How Long to Boil Pasta Perfect Every Time.
They’re extruded through brass and bronze die, which create a rough skin on the pasta. This creates a perfect texture for the sauce to grab and stick to as it coats the pasta.
Next time you stand in front of the pasta aisle at the grocery store- branch out and try something new! Why not? Life is short. Eat the better-tasting pasta.
Quality of wheat in Expensive vs Cheap Pasta Brands
Wheat quality is another reason expensive pasta tastes better than cheap pasta.
Does the kind of wheat matter in pasta taste/ texture? In short, yes! Absolutely. Here is a perfect example to illustrate this.
My uncle, Giuseppe, worked in the advertising industry in Italy for one of the biggest international pasta brands of all time (still is today).
During one of their advertising campaigns, they demonstrated why their type of pasta was "better" than the other brands. They ran a commercial with a chef who boiled two different pots of water cooking the two varieties. This compared the two types of flour used to make the dry pasta.
One, with the leading brand that only used "grano duro, or durum wheat semolina" (the better kind). This type of pasta yields to a firmer texture overall and looks heartier just by looking at it before it is cooked.
The other, used only the "semolina flour" variety found in the other brands. This one has an almost yellow, or orange look to it. When you look at the raw pasta it is almost see-through and very fragile looking.
The result- the one with "grano duro, or durum wheat semolina" held its' shape, remained "al dente", didn't fall apart in the sauce, or get mushy. The other kind did the complete opposite! You can noticeable see the difference- and if you tried it you could taste it as well by the texture.
P.S Since I am the curious type I did this test myself... and guess what? I can confirm that it is true! And, if you've been making mushy pasta by trying to save a bit now you know why it isn't turning out the same as the pasta you tasted at your favorite authentic Italian restaurant.
Buy pasta like an Italian at the grocery store
When you look at pasta labels at the grocery store you want to look for: "durum wheat semolina".
This kind of semolina refers to coarse ground refined durum. The word durum means hard (referencing the word "durable"). This word is associated with this type of wheat by the amount of force used during the grinding process.
It makes for a hearty and strong pasta that retains shape and gives the perfectly cooked pasta result you crave and taste in authentic Italian restaurants.
Dried store-bought pasta made with Durum Wheat Semolina will give you the perfect 'al dente' texture and not fall apart, or get mushy. If you want to cook pasta like an Italian this is the kind to buy :).
Pasta brands recommend
One of the most common questions I get asked is- What pasta brands do you recommend?
As an Italian, I am passionate about quality pasta. It makes all the difference in ANY pasta recipe. Here are my brand recommendations (not in order). This is not sponsored and these opinions are my own.
1️⃣ 💙Barilla- we cook with it in Italy and the United States. It's a staple for a reason. It’s the best “bang for your buck” as far as good quality. Delivers al dente texture every time.
I must note that Barilla in the United States and Barilla in Italy are not the same. The Italian variety is not fortified with vitamins and minerals while the U.S kind is. This does play into the taste a bit.
2️⃣ 💛DeCecco- you can find this in most grocery stores. It’s made with coarse grain semolina, cold mountain water, and has a bronze-drawn texture. The quality of DeCecco is hard to beat for the price. It is a very good product.
3️⃣🧡DeLallo- superior pasta shape and texture and made the authentic Italian way. Found in U.S.A grocery stores. They have excellent gluten-free and whole pasta varieties.
4️⃣ 💚Rustichella D’Abruzzo. Made in Italy and not enriched. Ingredients: semolina di grano duro, Aqua. I love their spaghetti and unique shaped pasta varieties. You can find this brand in most specialty Italian stores worldwide.
5️⃣ 💜 U.S.A grocery store brands that are pretty good: Kroger private selection, HemisFares, and WholeFoods.
🌟RULES of thumb WHEN BUYING PASTA-
- Make SURE the pasta is made with DURUM WHEAT SEMOLINA. Try to find brands that are made in Italy UNLESS it is a quality small business produced elsewhere.
- Look for bronze cut varieties.
- Avoid any additional ingredients that don’t belong in pasta.
- Look for “slow-dry” pasta varieties.
I could go on and on with specialty brands I love, but these are brands that are accessible to most people!
What Pasta Goes Best with What Sauce?
This is a question I get asked a lot. In Italy, we think about what pasta shape goes with a particular sauce before cooking the meal (most of the time!).
This is also why my pasta pantry is full of all varieties just in case I need that special variety of pasta.
It's important to pair the correct pasta with a particular type of sauce so that the sauce can bind to the pasta or allow the pasta to absorb the sauce dependent on its style.
And then there’s the super important fact that pairing the right pasta with the right sauce means you’ll get more per mouthful. So if you are ever tempted to make traditional carbonara recipe with orzo pasta (stop!! Ha, and think twice).
“When you have a pasta that doesn’t necessarily pair well with a specific sauce, parts of the sauce might slide off, and you’ll end up eating a noodle without the maximum amount of flavor,” says Tal Ronnen, founder and chef of Crossroads and author of New York Times bestseller, The Conscious Cook.
Now, will your pasta dishes totally go to waste if you don't do this and just grab whatever you have on hand- NO! However, keep this in mind if you want to try something fun and new.
It's how real Italians think about pasta. It's more than just a starch it is the start of a delicious, thoughtful, and tasteful meal.
Delicious Italian pasta sauces you can't live without: Classic Italian Tomato Sauce (Sugo al Pomodoro), BEST Italian Beef Short Rib Ragu, and Seafood Pasta with Red Sauce (Linguini Frutti di Mare).
How To Correctly Pair Pasta Shapes With Sauces
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when deciding on which pasta goes with which sauce the best. See this graphic created by, Delish, to help make your pasta and sauce pairing a marriage made in pasta heaven.
Image source: Delish
Links to some of my favorite pastas that you can purchase on Amazon.
Barilla Farfalle - best deal per box unless you find on super sale at grocery store
De Cecco Pasta Fusilli - my favorite brand for fusilli
CampO'ro Orecchiette - best bang for your buck
Rustichella dAbruzzo Bucatini - straight from Italy!
Bonus: Can you guess what type of pasta I pair with this pink sauce recipe? See post to find out! Hint: it starts with a "p" and derives from the word pen!
Try these delicious pasta recipes:
- Orzo Skillet with Sun-dried Tomatoes Shrimp and Artichokes
- Orecchiette with Sausage Peppers and Arugula (video)
- Cheese and Broccoli Pasta Bake with White Sauce
- Creamy Pasta Shells with Sweet Peas and Bacon
- Pasta e Ceci (Italian Pasta with Chickpea Soup)
- Creamy Sausage Baked Ziti "White Baked Ziti"
And many more! Mangia! (Eat!)
If you want to learn how to make your own pasta try this recipe: Authentic Homemade Pappardelle Pasta Recipe. Don't forget to buy our handmade pasta stirrer and measuring utensil! It is designed after my nonna Laura's spoon.
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