Cooking with Jeanna: Fresh and Dry Pasta

When you are buying pasta, you have two options; fresh or dried. Fresh pasta is made from flour and eggs. Dried pasta is made with flour and water. The main difference between the two kinds is fresh pasta has a shorter shelf life. Another difference is dried pasta is more hardy and can handle thicker sauces. Fresh pasta is mainly used in dishes with lighter sauces. Some people will argue that fresh pasta tastes better, but it really is a personal preference. If you were to ask my fiancé, he doesn’t like the texture of fresh pasta, but I honestly don’t see a major difference. I like both!

What to know about fresh pasta:

  • The best places to buy fresh pastas are at specialty food stores or Italian bakery/grocery stores. The choices are most likely better
    than options found in a supermarket.
  • In your supermarket, fresh pasta will be in the refrigerated section because of
    the eggs in it.
  • Look for expiration dates on fresh pasta. Fresh pasta can last a few weeks after expiration as long as it doesn’t smell.
  • Look at the pasta you are buying. If it looks cheap, frail or weird texture, trust your instinct and skip it.

What to know about dried pasta:

  • When looking at brands of pasta, the best ones use ingredients like semolina flour.
  • Best Brands of Dry Pasta: Barilla, Ronzoni, De Cecco, Racconto,Lundberg Family Farms, and Ronzoni. Some of these brands are gluten free, or have whole grain options. (At my grocery store, we have whole grain options, but slim choices for gluten free. Our grocery store just recently created a mini shelf in the front of the store with gluten free foods. We are a little behind the times when it comes to this.
  • If the box is heavy and the texture looks good, then that is good box to buy.
  • In Italian dry pasta making techniques, the noodles purposely have ridges and small bumps on the noodles, so they can hold sauce better. This technique is more expensive and timely, but the noodles are better.

[Tweet “Pasta should have a rough surface and not too smooth, as smooth pasta will not hold onto sauce. The noodles should be compact and heavy for their size in order to stay together when cooking. Remember to stay away from mass-produced cheap pasta, you will just be disappointed come dinnertime”]

I’m from International Falls, MN, a tiny town on the border of Canada. My pasta options are pretty limited, especially for specialty foods. I went to one of two grocery stores in my town to look at options for pasta. As I suspected, they don’t sell any fresh pasta. Fresh pasta, unlike dried pasta, has an expiration date, so I wasn’t that surprised that fresh pasta wouldn’t be an option. There were several varieties of dried pasta to buy, but many of the brands my grocery store has to offer are the mass produced kinds. The most promising brand I found was Creamette, so that will be the kind I use in this week’s pasta recipe.

A place where I always find good pasta both dry and fresh is at Trader’s Joes. We don’t have one near us, which makes me very sad. Every time I go to the twin cities, I always make a stop to get some of my favorite snacks.


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