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Dried Pasta


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7 replies to this topic

#1 docsconz

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Posted 23 September 2004 - 07:13 PM

This new thread popped up on the Italy and Italian food forum. Any thoughts?
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

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#2 pamela in tuscany

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Posted 23 September 2004 - 11:09 PM

I'm not sure what I could add of value. Taste is subjective and everyone has a valid opinion on that. Let's just say that if we were on a sinking ship, I'd jump in the rowboat with slkinsey or fat guy (how can you argue with member #1 with 17,890 posts?).

I used to say that my friend Gianluigi Peduzzi at Rustichella d'Abruzzo makes in one year what Barilla makes in one day. He recently corrected me to 'what Barilla makes in a half day.'

For the record, the artisanal dies are bronze, not copper or brass.
Pamela Sheldon Johns
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#3 gkg680

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Posted 24 September 2004 - 12:25 AM

This thread is intriguing. I'm just an amateur, but I cook a lot of dry pasta, and I have trouble discerning quality, probably partly because I find it easy to overcook.
I've done a lot of reading, including Marcella, and I find it especially interesting that some highly regarded Italian chefs say never to rinse cooked pasta, because the starchy exterior is what the sauce adheres to, whereas other experts say that no, you must rinse the pasta before saucing.

A few years ago, I recall a Food And Wine magazine article, wherein Pino Luongo and 3 other food professionals in New York, I forget the others, Lydia Bastianich may have been included, tasted boxed pasta drizzled with olive oil.

I believe that Delverde was the winner, Agnesi was 2d or 3d, De Cecco was down the list but in the top 6 or 8.

Near Chicago, there's a large Italian market named Caputo's, known for their wonderful deli and fresh cheeses, with a huge selection of Italian goodies, oils, vinegars, frozen pasta sauces, etcetera.

They have their own brand of dry pasta called La Bella Romana, which, when on sale, is two pounds for a dollar, and sometimes on special occasions even a bit cheaper, advertised as "imported from Italy". Do any of you know how an amateur such as myself can tell if it's any good? I'm never sure if there's something wrong with it, or if it's cheaper because they sell such a vast quantity, or if it's a loss leader to lure people into the market. I'm always tempted to buy 20 pounds of penne, spaghettini, and other shapes that I use most often, but I'm never sure if it's as good as some of the other brands. Caputo's, of course, has half a dozen other brands of dried pasta in stock as well.

Thank you in advance for any thoughts you may have.

Greg in Chicago

#4 pamela in tuscany

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Posted 24 September 2004 - 01:08 AM

There are significant differences in PRICE, TEXTURE, FLAVOR, and NUTRITION between artisanal dried pasta and industrial dried pasta (fresh pasta is another story altogether).

PRICE is a consideration, and it is more expensive to make an artisan pasta. First, they are using bronze dies which are more expensive, more labor intensive (to clean), and have to be replaced more often than the teflon dies which can be cleaned easily, last forever, and spurt out pasta at an unbielieveable rate. It is the bronze die that gives the TEXTURE that holds the sauce. If you've ever had your pasta run to one side of the plate, and the sauce to the other, you know what I'm talking about!

FLAVOR You need to be the judge for taste, it depends on what you like. You can see in the thread that there are a lot of opinions! Pasta with no flavor is the reason you need to make an elaborate sauce packed with distraction. Artisanal pasta tastes wonderful with just a little e.v. olive oil and some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. mmmmmm.

NUTRITION and FLAVOR are lost when the drying process goes to extreme temperatures, as you see in the industrial process.

These taste tests need to be qualified, as was pointed out in the other thread. Apples/Oranges. For me, the comparison between industrial and artisanal paste is like comparing supermarket balsamic vinegar with traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena or Reggio Emilila. They are worlds apart. They have different audiences and different uses. In the realm of industrial paste, I would agree with Lidia Bastianich (if she was, in fact, one of the jurors, and this was her opinion...) that Delverde is quite good.

I don't know much about Chicago's markets (except that a friend of mine started Fox and Obel Market, and he has very good taste). I do know that there is a large ital/amer population there, so I would guess you could find some wonderful imported product, maybe some domestic, traditional-style products.

Anyone can private label a product, and "imported from Italy" doesn't guarantee that it is an artisanal product. In fact, the price you mention somewhat preculudes that. The only way to tell if it is good (for you...) is to taste it!

I will be in Chicago in the spring (mark your calendar if you want to come to my class at Sur la Table on March 17!). I'll be sure to check out Caputo's!
Pamela Sheldon Johns
Italian Food Artisans
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#5 trillium

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Posted 24 September 2004 - 10:35 AM

I will be in Chicago in the spring (mark your calendar if you want to come to my class at Sur la Table on March 17!). I'll be sure to check out Caputo's!

View Post


Not to usurp the discussion, but I liked Joseph's Food Mart (8235 West Irving Park Rd) even better then Caputo's while I lived in Chicago. It's what I miss most about living in Portland. Seasonal stuff like moscato grapes, chestnuts, milk fed lamb, Italian seedlings for the garden, and then that mortadella that is over a foot wide, the capers and anchovies packed in salt and sold in bulk, fresh ricotta, etc. etc.... great working class place run by a family originally from Naples. Check it out too!

regards,
trillium

#6 russ parsons

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Posted 24 September 2004 - 11:11 AM

hi pamela!
let me chime in with an interesting experience i had when working on a story on dried pastas. i was tasting a whole range, from very artisanal to commercial and, to tell the truth, except for a few very bad, cardboardy ones, it was pretty much like tasting different shades of beige. at the last minute, i noticed that on two types of pasta, i wasn't getting much difference in the wheat flavor, but they tasted like there was much more (and better) oil drizzled on them. i think it's important to remember that hte primary role of pasta is to convey flavor, not to be a dominant flavor on its own. the two best were rustichella and my first choice, latini. the runners up were distant.

#7 slkinsey

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Posted 24 September 2004 - 12:08 PM

Interesting that you say that, Russ. I have to say that my experience is a little different. I can't say that I can immediately put my finger on a distinctive flavor, but artisinal dry pasta does taste different from the industrial stuff to me. Here is the example I had in mind when I started the referenced thread: I didn't have much in the pantry or much time, so I cooked up around a pound of Setaro ditali and dressed them with a half cup of chicken stock, some butter and some whole parsley leaves.

Now, this is an "emergency" dish I have made before with other brands of dry pasta. It has never been much more than filling -- certainly never interesting. This time, however, I couldn't stop eating it. It was delicious! I'm sure it had more flavor than it would had I eaten the pasta completely unadorned, but I wouldn't say that it tasted of either butter or chicken stock and I'm not sure I would describe the pasta's function in this dish as primarily one of conveying flavor. So it tasted of something, and definitely something different (and better!) than the De Cecco I had normally used. Would I have discerned as large a difference in flavor between Setaro and Latini as I tasted between Setaro and De Cecco? That's harder to say.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#8 pamela in tuscany

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Posted 24 September 2004 - 09:55 PM

Look, I trust Russ' taste buds (especially since they are in accord with mine on this...). It is not even that you have to define a 'distinctive' flavor, it is that the industrial product has essentially 'no' flavor. I want to sum this up by saying that if you don't believe there is a difference between industrial and artisanal pasta, do a side by side tasting, with nothing more than a light touch of olive oil on it. Both want a good amount of salt in the cooking water.
Pamela Sheldon Johns
Italian Food Artisans
www.FoodArtisans.com