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Mar 14, 2009 02:23 AM

is dried pasta really better than fresh pasta?

i have mario batali's cookbook THE BABBO and MOLTO ITALIANO.
I am a big fan of italian cuisin and especially many kinds of pastas such as tomato spagetti and vongoles.
but i feel somewhat diffrent when i boiled dried pastas and ate them compared to my delightful memory in italian restaurant.
i have never been to near batali's BABBO or his other chains due to location of my house but i have intention to visit his if i have some chance to go there at the right time.
my big concern is that even though he divided his cook books of pastas into dried pasta and fresh pasta, i am not quit convinced if his retaurant really cook dried pasta for customers who are actually visiting in.
and i found very suprising when i witnessed many people applaude dried pasta much more positively than fresh pasta.
true. dried pasta is certainly convenient and cost efficient. and moreover i do not need to mess my kitchen around to make a fresh pasta by pasta machine. but in terms of my personal taste, i still prefer fresh pasta.
it is because my subjective experience that fresh noodle is more moist and easier to digest. and some italian restaurant i visit seemed to make noodles on their own. i dont know if any of you prefer dried pasta over fresh pasta when having two options.
and most importantly, i have to ask if you have any experience having a meal in batali's or some sort of because it seemdto me that i have no chance to confirm myself currently.
i guess that ihis cookbooks are probably designed for home cooks so he didnt highlight his some restaurant practice or may have some dried pasta industry business leaning.

could any one answer me if my guess have some validity?

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  1. I do't know if what I am going to say holds any validity, but in my opinion the difference between dried pasta and fresh pasta is huge. Dried pasta is meant to go with sauces where the sauce is thick and hearty and the dried pasta has the ability to standout. I feel that fresh pasta is better with lighter sauces. Dried pasta is good for a bolognese or vodka sauce, whereas fresh pasta is better for pestos or a carbonara. I feel that the only exception to this rule is Alfreddo. I believe that a good alfredo sauce needs the chewiness of a fresh fettuccine.

    8 Replies
    1. re: jhopp217

      I agree that dried pasta and fresh pasta each have their place. Marcella Hazan has a useful discussion about which pastas, and which shapes, go best with different sauces. I've never tried carbonara with fresh pasta - will have to give it a try.

      Edit - also, I think there are quite a few recipes for fresh pasta in the Molto Italiano cookboo.

      1. re: MMRuth

        in molto italiano, he sauced fresh tagliatelle with bologne sauce.

      2. re: jhopp217

        is tomato sauce also regared thick sauce? to me, when i cooked bucatini with tomato sauce and bacon, it tastes so dried even though i followed time instruction of De cceco. is italian noodle with sauce tend to be dry even in final process?

        1. re: hae young

          Oh - don't follow the time instructions on the De Cecco box - always far too long. I usually start with five minutes on the timer for any dried pasta, and then taste and cook until al dente. When you add the pasta to the sauce, do you do it in the pan with the sauce and heat to combine quickly?

          1. re: MMRuth

            here is what i do according to batalis' cook books instruction served for 1 person amount. (actually he tells the amount of 4 persons, but i modified)

            first, 1 tabsp of olive oil into heated pan
            second, add 1 clove of garlic thinly siliced and 1 teaspoon of pepperocino into heated pan and saute untill be golden brown and crispy.

            third, put 100 grams of tomato sauce into the pan and simmer it 7-8 mins( he do not like oversaucing. this process, i think, tend to dry sauce a little)

            fourth, around time 7 mins ended, i pull bucatini boiled for 11 mins out and put that into simmered sauce

            and i, finally, toss about 1 min and put little pasta-coooked water into the pan and heat again with a little olive oil in the end.
            that's it

            i still found the cooked pasta so dried.

            beside that, do you think de cecco's instruction boiling 12 mins is too long?
            i thought it is rather too short because noodle was still too firm.

            1. re: hae young

              Not to criticize Mr Mario, but putting the garlic and pepperocino into the oil until brown and crispy will turn the garlic very bitter, but that is a separate issue.

              But jfood still struggles with the pasta being "dried"? Is there not enough sauce? Is the pasta mushy? Is it crunchy? What is dried?

              1. re: hae young

                Do you taste the pasta before draining? That's pretty much mandatory. Unlike others here, I almost always have to cook pasta a couple of minutes longer. But I love at a fairly high elevation and that introduces the variance of boiling temp of water, etc. But tasting is a must; those times are just a guideline.

                1. re: hae young

                  Hae young, are you used to eating fresh noodles not are not Italian? If that has been your standard noodle experience, I can understand how the dried pasta might taste "dry"

          2. Me think they all have their different uses.

            pick the one you like.

            Personally, I don't use fresh pasta because either I don't think of buying some, or don't care making them.

            In restaurants, I don't care either, I will pick a course based on what I want to eat, not because it's made of fresh or dried pasta.

            1. fresh pasta does not have the bite of dried.

              1. I made my own spaghetti recently to go with Hazan's carbonara. Some people here were surprised at that. They thought dried pasta was the appropriate noodle for that. I think it was because of the egg in the homemade along with the egg in the sauce. I loved it but I think there are definite pairings that are espouses. But maybe that's like the red wine, white wine food pairing. To each his own.

                1. A general rule (and there are always exceptions) is that fresh pasta goes with cream or oil based sauces (Alfredo or pesto) and dried pasta best for tomato or meat sauces. Fresh pasta is typically made with eggs and is richer tasting. It also seems to better absorb the sauce - a nice combination of rich noodle and rich sauce. Dried pasta is often made with semolina - a very hard, high protein wheat - so more toothy. Made under high pressure and heat, dried pasta is nearly impossible to recreate at home. Fine ridges/edges on the dried pasta also tend to hold the tomato sauce to the noodle.

                  A traditional Italian tomato pasta will have very little sauce compared with some of the dishes served elsewhere. The sauce is a complement to the pasta - you could be able to taste the pasta as well as the sauce. Pasta is also always finished in the sauce. It is cooked to barely done and then added to the sauce to finish cooking. The sauce should also be given a bit of the pasta water.

                  Always taste the pasta to test doneness - times will vary. Don't use oil in the pasta water - it will cling to the pasta and create a film that will prevent a sauce to be absorbed or cling. Never rinse the pasta - the starch adds starch and richness to the sauce.

                  Batali serves both fresh and dried pasta at his restaurants.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: alwayscooking

                    One further thing - salt the pasta water until it tastes of the sea (use more than typical American cookbooks call for). To balance it, reduce the salt in the sauce.

                    1. re: alwayscooking

                      I think that's part of my altitude problem. I salt aggressively but haven't been tasting (I have heard the sea comparison before). At 6500' water boils at a lower temp so I REALLY need that salt. Thanks for reminding me.