When I was growing up, the only brand of pasta you'd find in our pantry was that blue box that starts with a B. The frequent commercials showed images of Italians in Italy eating it, so it must've been the best, right?
Then I actually went to Italy, to study abroad and then later for grad school. While I found boxes of my tried-and-true pasta at the neighborhood grocery stores, there was another blue box that squeezed up against them on the shelf. I'd seen this brand in the States, but hadn't paid much attention it.
After making friends with locals, learning the language, and cooking a whole lot of pasta, I learned one very important thing: I'd been buying the wrong pasta my whole life. Turns out, the Italians buy the other blue box.
De Cecco Should Be Your Everyday Pasta Brand
You see, I trust Italians when it comes to pretty much all food — especially pasta. When I went to friends' homes for dinner, I noticed they always reached for De Cecco when they cooked dry pasta.
Seeing this inspired me to ask my professor, who taught our class on pasta (yes, I took a class on pasta), about which brand Italians were loyal to. It turns out De Cecco is a well-loved and well-trusted brand in the country and what most Italians reach for when they're at the grocery store and need a box of dry spaghetti for a quick weeknight dinner.
Why De Cecco Is a Better Dry Pasta
The reason De Cecco is preferred is because it's a higher-quality product. While both De Cecco and Barilla hail from Italy and use 100% semolina flour (the flour of choice for dry pasta), De Cecco takes an extra measure: they use bronze dies to cut the pasta.
You see, the cheaper, faster way to cut pasta is to use a machine that extrudes the dough through Teflon dies. That results in pasta with a smooth surface. The traditional way, however, is to use a machine that has bronze dies.
It's All About the Bronze Dies
This is a slower, more expensive process, but the result is pasta that has a rougher surface. That rough surface is the key to an awesome bowl of pasta because it helps the sauce grips to the noodles; if the surface is smooth, the sauce will slip and drip right off. Pasta is just as much about the sauce as it is the noodles, and you don't want that sauce in a pool at the bottom of your bowl rather than coating every inch of the noodles.
That means De Cecco is the closest you'll get at your everyday grocery store to the fancy boxes of dry pasta you may sometimes splurge on at specialty stores. Plus, De Cecco really doesn't cost any more than Barilla, so it's a no-brainer.
I've also found that it has a much more consistent cooking time, with a perfect al dente texture and overall better flavor. Oh, and De Cecco comes in shapes that are sometimes hard to track down in other brands, like bucatini and fusilli corti bucati (which look like telephone cords and make me smile).
So next time you're picking up a box of pasta for dinner, I urge you to give De Cecco a try. You may just switch your allegiance like I did.
Do you have a favorite everyday pasta brand?