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Barilla blues


carswell
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Made one of my go-to pasta recipes, fusilli with tuna and capers, the other day. Though there was nothing unusual about the preparation, the eating experience was another story. Not only was the pasta cooked beyond al dentetude, it was bland beyond recognition. Why, I wondered. I remembered setting the timer at the standard 13 minutes. I had opened a new box of Barilla fusili, however, so I went and looked at it. Ah, ha! Cooking time: 11 minutes. I fished the empty box from the recycling bin. Cooking time: 13 minutes. They've changed my pasta! The new box still claims to be Product of Italy but, even when cooked 11 minutes, it's more like Canadian pasta in taste and texture, not a Good Thing.

Anyone else notice this change? Anyone know what's up with Barilla?

Me, I've switched to De Cecco.

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Just a couple of observations. Regardless of the brand, the "cooking time" on any pasta box is only an approximation. I usually start checking the pasta 4-5 minutes ahead of their recommended time. Especially if I want to finish the pasta cooking in the sauce or condiment, perhaps with the addition of a little pasta-cooking water. Not sure of Barilla has changed- there may be seasonal variations of where and when the grain was harvested. When Barilla was first introduced into the US, I believe it was all "Product of Italy", after a while, checking the box indicated that they had now been producing it somewhere in the Midwest. I also usually stick to DeCecco for "everyday", then one of the artisinal makers for something a little more special. Have especially been enjoying Pasta Setaro from Torre Annunziata near Napoli for the last year or so.

Mark A. Bauman

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Regardless of the brand, the "cooking time" on any pasta box is only an approximation. I usually start checking the pasta 4-5 minutes ahead of their recommended time.

Me, too. But for this dish I found Barilla's 13 minutes right on the money.

Not sure of Barilla has changed- there may be seasonal variations of where and when the grain was harvested.

I switched to Barilla five or six years ago and, as far as I know, the fusilli's recommended cooking time has never been anything other than 13 minutes. In other words, if they're taking seasonal variation into account, it's a new thing.

When Barilla was first introduced into the US, I believe it was all "Product of Italy", after a while, checking the box indicated that they had now been producing it somewhere in the Midwest.

Yes, I learned that on another discussion group. It's one of the things that got me wondering. As I said, it's not just a cooking time thing. Though I didn't do a side-by-side comparison, the new stuff tastes more North American. I suspect mislabelling.

I also usually stick to DeCecco for "everyday", then one of the artisinal makers for something a little more special. Have especially been enjoying Pasta Setaro from Torre Annunziata near Napoli for the last year or so.

De Cecco used to be my everyday brand. Then I did some "test kitchen" comparisons and came down in favour of Barilla. Neighbourhood stores don't stock artisanal pasta, unfortunately, though I often pick some up when in Little Italy. Rustichella d'Abruzzo is my preferred brand these days. Will keep an eye peeled for Pasta Setaro.

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I used to use their pasta but I've switched over to Ronzoni which I find to taste a bit "fuller" than Barilla. Additionally, I've stopped using their pasta sauces. I used to be a big fan of their tomato basil because it tasted so fresh, but now I've noticed it tastes more "cooked". Since then I've switched over to Bertoli. It has the taste that I think that Barilla now lacks.

Believe me, I tied my shoes once, and it was an overrated experience - King Jaffe Joffer, ruler of Zamunda

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actually, Barilla in the US was always made in the U.S.--the plant is in Ames, Iowa. The box said "Italy's Number 1" pasta, and they got in a bit of legal trouble over that, given that the American product was made in Iowa, albeit with the same grain, recipe, and machines as they used in Italy. don't remember how it was resolved.

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To add to what babka said about Barilla, the company built its Iowa plant as a virtual duplicate of its most modern state-of-the-art plant in Italy. It uses the same recipes and durum wheat as it does in Italy. One possible difference in flavor (although I haven't noticed any difference) might be due to different water.

Barilla actually buys American and Canadian-grown wheat to make the pasta it produces in Italy. One reason it built the US plant was that the US government has been slapping imported pasta with huge duties -- which Barilla felt were ridiculous because its pasta was produced with American-grown ingredients!

Barilla does make different pasta shapes for the US market, based on consumer preferences.

I don't know if the company has changed its pasta sauces.

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Barilla started out in Italy making egg pastas, and the quality used to be very good.

Later on they started making regular pastas as well, in all shapes and sizes, and in competition with Buitoni. But it's never been considered top quality mass produced pasta.

Barilla used to be privately owned (the Barilla family), but it's been sold many times down the line, and always deteriorated in quality.

De Cecco, Agnesi and many others are far superior. But for excellence I would suggest the artisanal spaghetti packed in the traditional long blue packets that are available in all the better supermarkets in the US. Sadly (or not), for other shapes, you'd have to go Italy.

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actually, Barilla in the US was always made in the U.S.--the plant is in Ames, Iowa.  The box said "Italy's Number 1" pasta, and they got in a bit of legal trouble over that, given that the American product was made in Iowa, albeit with the same grain, recipe, and machines as they used in Italy.  don't remember how it was resolved.

Yep, but apparently some of the shapes sold in the US are different from Italy.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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