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where do you buy dried pasta? and what kind?

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after a dismal experience with trader joe's spaghetti, i'm looking for a better alternative. where do you go? and what brand?

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  1. Bay Cities Deli in Santa Monica sells dozens of dried imported Italian pastas. Almost any kind and shape you can think of including ones I've never seen before.

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    Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery
    1517 Lincoln Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

    5 Replies
    1. re: wienermobile

      Second Bay Cities. I always go with De Cecco. You can find De Cecco at other stores but sometimes it'll cost you almost twice as much compared to Bay Cities. I also like getting olive oil and canned san marzano tomatoes at Bay Cities. Don't forget to pick up some pancetta or guanciale while you're at it. Not to mention some aged Parmigiano-Reggiano and peccorino...basically, its your go to place for italian cooking goods.

      1. re: Porthos

        Third Bay Cities. I usually buy Latini -- just because I've had good experiences with it.

        1. re: aventinus

          I've tried all kinds, but Latini has always been the best for me. Also available at Bristol Farms.

        2. re: Porthos

          Guidi Marcello has a great selection of pasta and all of the above. As well, lovely, personalized service. Guidi Marcello is where the restaurants buy their Italian foodstuffs. Bay Cities is for the public. Guidi is primarily wholesale. Those who know and love Guidi Marcello feel blessed to walk through those narrow aisles and select the best of the best. Be sure to peek into the freezer for the pizzas and desserts. Those desserts will look very familiar, as they are served in so many restaurants. The pizzas are great. They are pretty bare bones (thin crust, light layer of sauce), so be prepared to be creative. Fun being creative with Guidi's condiments (e.g. carciofi, aglio & olio). Great mozzarella & speck.

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          Guidi Marcello
          1649 10th St, Santa Monica, CA

          1. re: Porthos

            2nd DeCecco!

        3. that makes me sad that Trader Joes no longer sells their bucati or trotolle pastas, (the imported pasta in the brown bag) best pastas ever, bucati is better than spaghetti and the trotolli was the most versatile pasta shape I've ever had, you could use it for macaroni (and other pasta casseroles) with marina, bolognose, alfredo, ala olio, pesto (omg the combination with pesto was insane) or just butter and shaved parmesan and it was a fantastic match for every way you could dress it. :(

          I get my pasta from bay cities or Wallys cheese box now, rustichella d'abruza brand.

          1. In the TJ price range I like the Costco 100% whole wheat pasta.
            You get 6 assorted packages of pasta (16 oz each) for a little over $6.

            1. I adore Rummo. Very much like De Cecco in quality - but for much less money.

              I get it at Super King, you can often find it at Jons too.

              1. I buy Barilla pasta... and, um, you can pretty much go to any grocery store chain to buy it. You would find it in the "pasta" aisle.

                1. According to Cook's Illustrated - they did a comparison test of a variety of dried pasta - spaghetti. There was only one that was "High Recommended" and it was the cheapest. Ronzoni! You find it at Albertson's and I'm sure many other supermarkets.

                  "Ronzoni won tasters over with its firm "rockin'" texture and its "nutty," "buttery," "classic" flavor. "Tastes most like pure pasta," said one taster. "

                  In second place was De Cecco - and merely "recommended"

                  ""Chewy" came to mind for more than a couple of tasters when sampling this pasta. Perhaps "a tad chewy for some," said one, "but great for me." Some tasters detected a distinctive wheat flavor, though others found it a bit "bland" or "plasticky."

                  Barilla came in 4th...

                  "Tasters favored pasta with some chew, and several found chew to be lacking in Barilla, calling it too "soft" and "yielding." While a few tasters also found Barilla lacking in flavor, others noted a pleasant "wheaty" and "toasty" flavor."

                  The best way to do this is buy a few (pasta's cheap) and get a few pots boiling with water and try them yourself. I am AMAZED at the difference of time it take to cook one pasta vs another. Specifically - De Cecco takes a good 10 minutes to cook bucatini/perciatelli where the Ronzoni varient takes less than 5 minutes (if I recall correctly). BTW - hard to find Ronzoni perciatelli on the west coast. I get mine mail order.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: foodiemahoodie

                    Most of my adult life, I've used -- and loved the taste of -- De Cecco pasta, which has long been available all over Los Angeles and Orange County. One of its many fine properties is the slow pace of softening in boiling salted water, so even amateur cooks can figure out when it's ready to eat. I'm skeptical about Ronzoni brand, a fave at Hometown Buffet and Olive Garden, I'd bet, but I'll try it on the recommendation of Cook's Illustrated.

                    I'm skeptical, in part, because the description of that tasting comparison in my volume of "The New Best Recipe" (from the editors of Cook's Illustrated) says nothing about: (1) The experimental methodology. (2) The qualifications of the tasters. (Descriptions of other C. I. tastings imply that they're probably employees up-and-down the closest hallway. Whether that includes secretaries, accountants, and other non-food professionals, I can't say, but even food chemists may not have the knowledge and physical abilities to be consistent and accurate tasters.) (3) The manner of presenting the cooked pasta to the tasters. Plain and natural? Coated with a little butter or olive oil? In which case, we need to know if the brands that hold fat better seem to taste better. And what happens when the sauce is tomato- or broth-based, e.g.? (4) The manner of assuring that the different brands -- which, as foodiemahoodie points out, have widely different cooking times -- are cooked to exactly the same degree of doneness (plus or minus .1 nanoaldentes ;-). ... problems with different rates of salt absorption, different thicknesses of the same cut of pasta, ... (N) Etc.

                    I can't pull off a double-blind test myself, but I'll do my best to compare Ronzoni with De Cecco (and will probably include Rustichella d'Abruzzo, another good brand available here) and report on the experience in the Home Cooking board. Inquiring minds need to know whether it's possible to "save your money and ... [not] bother with most imported pastas," as Cook's Illustrated claims.

                    -Harry

                    1. re: Harry Niletti

                      Most important thing with pasta is to cook it properly. After that I'd love to see someone accurately pick out their "favorite" brand under whatever sauce they are putting on top from some other brand... lol

                      1. re: Servorg

                        I've already decided to try each cooked pasta: plain, with a little good olive oil, and with my San Marzano tomato sauce + fresh basil + reggiano.

                        -Harry

                      2. re: Harry Niletti

                        If you post your findings on the Home Cooking board, would ya mind posting the link here for easy access? Pretty please? =)

                        1. re: OCAnn

                          Oh, all right!

                          -Harry

                          P.S. It will be sometime this week.

                    2. Costo: Garofalo spaghetti. Easily the best deal in town for high quality spaghetti (the LA times gave it high marks in an old taste test, linked below).
                      Ralph's: DeCecco for stuff other than spaghetti when it's on sale... they had it for $2/box last week, so i bought several varieties. I also use barilla's angel hair in a pinch.
                      Whole foods: for Rustichella bucatini only (and only because i now live too far from bay cities).
                      Claro's: a lot of their product is mediocre, but every once in a while, they'll have some good stuff marked down.

                      here's the LA times spaghetti taste test link (note that they rated DeCecco pretty low for spaghetti... i actually like dececco spag; the reason i don't buy it is that i use the costco garofalo):

                      http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: Bert

                        With all this talk of pasta "[holding] the flavor of the olive oil," they seem to be turning one of my criticisms into a virtue -- what happens when the sauce isn't fat-based? I've never tried their favorite, Latini, and there's no explanation for why they chose only Italian brands, but I'll add the winner to my list, if it's available at 7-11.

                        -Harry

                        1. re: Harry Niletti

                          Latini is one of those pastas that is extruded through bronze dies (supposedly pasta which is extruded through bronze dies has microstriations -ridges, grooves, etc.- to capture and hold the sauce better). I get the feeling that, while this may be true at the micro measurement level the taste of the pasta with the sauce on it has no discernible difference to the human senses.

                          1. re: Servorg

                            Although I'm the guy who linked it, i'd pretty much have to agree. with Servorg. It's one thing to do a side-by-side comparison of spaghettis where you're instructed to rank your favorites... It's another altogether to just simply be eating one by itself with some sauce without an immediate comparison. I'm not sure I could tell you the difference in taste.

                            The two things that I do always notice, however, are 1) the texture, and 2) how well the pasta holds the sauce (generally, the rougher the pasta, the better). That's why i don't like Barilla spaghetti, for example... As the LA Times thing points out, it's just kind of slippery. It's also why I disregard the Times' criticism of De Cecco as being bland. I use well-salted water and flavorful sauce, it's never bland for me.

                            1. re: Bert

                              "I use well-salted water and flavorful sauce, it's never bland for me."

                              An important point, Bert. Appropriate shapes of properly cooked DeCecco are great, bitey vehicles for pesto, ragù bolognese, fine-chopped vegetables with herbs in broth (fabulous and easy, if you haven't had it), and other flavorful sauces. As an Italian-American research scientist, I can't wait to perform this most-objective and wildly uncontrolled investigation in scientific history! ;-) Don't worry -- I'll be painfully honest (and will put a notice here after I post something on the Home Cooking board).

                              -Harry

                        2. re: Bert

                          Looks like the panel had a clear preference for "wheat" flavor. I like the longer cooking time of DeCecco because it allows me to finish the pasta in whatever sauce I'm cooking it with without getting too soft. I tried Barilla pasta once. It went from al dente to too soft in less than a minute. Made it impossible to flavor the pasta with the sauce that I was cooking it with.

                          Personally, I don't want wheat or nutmeg tastes in my pasta. I prefer a chewy texture and I want my pasta to pick up the flavor of the sauce that I'm cooking be it carbonara or bolognese. Spaghetti con vongole may be a bit off for my tastes if my pasta had inherent nutmeg flavors.

                          1. re: Porthos

                            I agree. We have pasta several times a week, and the DeCecco and Latini both hold their texture better than the other brands. I just tried Ronzoni and it was lousy, don't care what CI tests showed.

                            1. re: BubblyOne

                              Take it out of the water sooner!

                              I often test pasta to see how long it cooks. And with the Ronzoni - the different between al dente and a little soft is a minute. But even with DeCecco - it's not like the window opens up to two minutes.

                              1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                Made blognese yesterday with DeCecco Mafaldine. Cooked it until al dente. Tossed the pasta into the sauce to simmer for another minute or so of me since I prefer al dente and then another 30 seconds or so more since my friend prefers a bit softer. It never became too soft or lost its texture despite the additional cook time. That's why I prefer DeCecco. The al dente window is about 2 minutes or so depending on pasta shape.

                                This was not true with my experiences with Ronzoni or Barilla.

                        3. Bay Cities, Latini

                          1. Ah, here is a topic I can get behind. There is nothing wrong with barilla, de cecco is better, latini is pretty good, the organic Garofalo from Costco mentioned is really good, but to me the king is Rustichella from Abruzzo, the most noted wheat producing region of Italy. I get it both at Whole Foods and Surfas. Compare the mass produced uniform orichette from Barilla to the artisanal version from Rustichella where you can see the thumbprints of each Italian lady that made it by hand. It's about 6-7 dollars a package. The triangular shaped Trenne they make is fantastic. Big vote for Rustichella can't say enough good about them. BTW just saw the Spaghetti Bolognese episode of Heston Blumenthal's In Search of Perfection, he tried about 12 different pastas and picked Rustichella as the best and even did a tour of their factory. Awesome.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: rezpeni

                              Rustichella is great, Latini is too. I live out in Claremont and neither is available close to home, so I buy Delallo at the Sprout's down the street, which has a rough texture so it works pretty well. I like De Cecco. Never tried Garofalo but will look for it.

                              Re: Barilla, I find the longer ones get too gummy on the outside before cooking through and then stick together too much, which means the inside cooks even less evenly. I like the TJ's pasta a bit better than Barilla (and it's cheap), but again, the long ones stick together too much as compared with De Cecco or the better brands that cook more evenly. But for shorter pastas (farfalle or penne), I'm OK with the TJs brands even though it's slippery.

                            2. finally getting back to it - i tried dececco spaghetti. it was perfectly acceptable, and easy to find(big plus right there). thanks for all the info, folks - and i'd be very interested to hear what the side by side taste test turned up for you, harry.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: debershell

                                My favorite pasta, bar none is Spinosi from Guidi. At $8 a box (4 servings) it is not cheap but if you don't eat pasta alot (I do, oink oink) it's a nice treat. I prefer the papardelle and taglionini myself.

                              2. Sorry about your experience w/ TJ's spaghetti; the only noodles I buy there are the pappardelle, which I find quite satisfactory.

                                I agree with all the comments about De Cecco, that the al dente level is very easy to adjust to one's personal liking, and the flavor is excellent as well. This is true of most good Italian pasta, in my experience - the Roma Market, just down the street from me in Pasadena, has a huge variety of Italian pastas in packages and in bulk, and I've very much enjoyed trying different ones. As someone who needs to watch his carbs, I've also cooked a lot of different Dreamfields pastas, and they're pretty good too, if a little trickier on the cusp between al dente and soft.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Will Owen

                                  I too like Dreamfields Pastas. Great choice if you are looking for a lower carb pasta and you can find it at Ralph's.