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Dry Pasta Preference and Where in Boston/Burbs?

opinionatedchef Nov 19, 2011 09:47 PM

For linguine, taglierini, sheets, i always buy the silky fresh pasta from Bella Ravioli in Medford. But for orechietti(sp) and other shapes, have you tried many brands and come down to preferring one(white and/or whole wheat)? thanks so much.

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Bella Ravioli
369 Main St, Medford, MA 02155

  1. e
    emannths Dec 2, 2011 05:40 AM

    Noticed yesterday that pretty much all varieties of De Cecco were priced at $1.50/lb at the Fresh Pond Whole Foods. I think the price is good until 12/13. If you've been buying Barilla or American brands for $1/lb, you should take advantage of this sale to at least give De Cecco a try. It's a serious upgrade, IMO, and now for almost no premium. It's not the same as the $5+/lb Italian stuff, but it's also not $5+/lb.

    3 Replies
    1. re: emannths
      j
      Jenny Ondioline Dec 2, 2011 10:24 AM

      DeCecco is on sale at Star this week, buck a box.

      Given that Italian pasta is usually made from wheat imported from the US, Canada and other wheat-producing countries (it's not like Emilia-Romagna itself can produce enough wheat to satisfy the worldwide demand), I don't understand what the fuss is.

      1. re: Jenny Ondioline
        e
        emannths Dec 2, 2011 10:41 AM

        It's nothing to do with terroir, but instead the expectations of the market that it's produced for (or at least that would be my rationale). Just like "domestic" versions of things like feta, prosciutto, and other processed foods are often produced in such a way that allows for a cheaper but inferior product. There are of course domestic manufacturers of pastas, cheeses, olive oils, wines, etc that are at least as good as any of the imported products. It just seems that mass-market domestic versions of imported products often wind up to be inferior.

        With respect to pasta specifically, it is the choice of *which* wheat and how the pasta is processed that makes a difference. In my experience, just about all US-made pasta seems to be weak in flavor, super-smooth, and goes straight from chalky to gummy without becoming al dente, and I can only assume this is due to the wheat they choose to use and how they process it. I've eating Italian-made brands that are equally as middling, but many are good. If there were a US-made dried pasta that rivaled the imports, especially in that ~$2/lb neighborhood, I'd happily buy it. I just haven't found one.

        1. re: emannths
          opinionatedchef Dec 2, 2011 11:32 AM

          what excellent details; thnx so much. will follow your lead.

    2. z
      zigzag Nov 30, 2011 04:11 PM

      Pastene Whole Wheat Spaghetti, all-time favorite! No cardboard flavor here. I've only been able to find it at Shaw's for $2.49 or $2.99 a 16 oz. package. Not so keen on their WW Penne Rigate though.

      1. c
        chocojosh Nov 30, 2011 09:31 AM

        Formaggio has a brand of linguine called "Sapori di Napoli" that is fantastic. The package is about $8 and you can get 4 servings out of it (not sure of weight). Not for everyday at that price, but well worth it for a special meal. Also, it really does cook in the minute and a half that the package claims.

        3 Replies
        1. re: chocojosh
          e
          emannths Nov 30, 2011 09:43 AM

          If it's the blue-and-white packaged stuff that Chef Shop carries, it looks like the packages are 500g/1.1lbs. Formaggio Kitchen has a listing for Sapori di Casa egg pasta on their site, $9/250g. If it cooks in 90 seconds, it's egg pasta, right?

          Sapori di Napoli: http://chefshop.com/Pasta-C351.aspx
          Sapori di Casa: http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/shop/...

          1. re: emannths
            c
            chocojosh Nov 30, 2011 10:04 AM

            Oops. My mistake. It's "Sapori di Casa" and for some reason I don't see it on Formaggio's website but I've bought it in both their stores. And it is an egg pasta.

            Here's a link to the producer's website so you can see what the packaging looks like.
            http://www.saporidicasa.it/index.php

            All this stuff needs is a bit of butter, fresh pepper, and reggiano.

            1. re: chocojosh
              Gio Dec 2, 2011 10:29 AM

              And in Saugus both TJ's and Pace sell the " i Sapori del Vallo " brand. TJ's has dried pappardelli and Pace has the fresh plus other extruded pasta shapes.

        2. Bob Dobalina Nov 28, 2011 05:41 AM

          Would add that Sophia's in Belmont of greek yogurt fame has a pretty varied selection of dried pasta of shapes that are more Greek than Italian, and thus a bit out of the ordinary - all sorts of tinyish shapes, all the way down to almost a pasta couscous-sized bead.

          An older relative who lived in Naples many years ago was looking for tiny, square-shaped pasta that was used in some sort of a casserole - went to every Italian market (Capone's, Salumeria, etc. etc.) and none of them had even heard of the shape. Finally, Sessa's in Davis suggested that it could be a Greek pasta. *head-slap* Of course!

          Anyway, Sophia's has a couple of versions of this shape pasta.

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          Sessa's
          414 Highland Ave, Somerville, MA 02144

          4 Replies
          1. re: Bob Dobalina
            opinionatedchef Nov 28, 2011 12:41 PM

            head slap? thouist ist too hardist on thyself. greek pasta never would have occurred to me. i had no idea.

            1. re: opinionatedchef
              Bob Dobalina Nov 28, 2011 12:45 PM

              Eh, I should have thought Greek, given the Southern Italian location and the ancient Greek influences on that region.

              1. re: Bob Dobalina
                opinionatedchef Nov 28, 2011 01:34 PM

                not really, bob. it was all about the arab traders bringing pasta from china to sicily and up.
                if the books i have been reading are correct. we have a LOT to thank them arab traders for!

                1. re: opinionatedchef
                  Bob Dobalina Nov 30, 2011 09:40 AM

                  That's right - how can I forget that Marco Polo discovered pasta in China! ;)

          2. MC Slim JB Nov 27, 2011 01:55 PM

            I'm happy to pay a slight premium ($4.19/lb) for Gragnanese brand pasta at Russo's. It is artisanally made in a town near Naples famous for dried pasta. Some but not all of it has that rough texture that suggests bronze dyes. Note that every package, every shape says "10 minute cooking time", and that's almost always way short.

            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

            2 Replies
            1. re: MC Slim JB
              opinionatedchef Nov 27, 2011 04:13 PM

              i feel like i must have been sleeping under a proverbial rock( more like a 5- rack Blodgett) these last few yrs., but what is the bronze die phenomenon? A number of CHs here are referring to it; was there some famous article/ expose about it- that I should seek? TM.

              1. re: opinionatedchef
                MC Slim JB Nov 27, 2011 05:56 PM

                Actually, bronze dies (not dyes, sorry) are older, more traditional. Commercial pasta factories have shifted to tougher modern alloys and Teflon coatings as a manufacturing efficiency. The advantage of the old way is that an uncoated bronze die creates a slightly rougher pasta surface, to which sauce clings more readily. It's like many artisanal technologies: simpler, older-fashioned, less efficient, more costly.

                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

            2. greygarious Nov 25, 2011 10:57 AM

              Lucci's is a small supermarket on Rt. 129 in Wilmington, just off Rt. 93. They are best known for the huge amount of meat they put on a sub, but they have imported versions of many staples, at reasonable prices. The imported dry pastas change from time to time and are located in two different spots, one at the front of the store in the produce section, and the other in one of the aisles. I can't recall the brand names, since I buy based on shape and price. I would never pay more than $1.50/# for dry pasta. Lucci's charges less than that.

              3 Replies
              1. re: greygarious
                opinionatedchef Nov 25, 2011 12:25 PM

                thanks greygirl; a good/hefty ital sub would def draw me there as well. btw, saw an exquisite grey at phila show yesterday and thought of you.

                1. re: opinionatedchef
                  p
                  Pa amb Tomaquet Nov 27, 2011 12:46 PM

                  In my opinion Setaro is the best brand out there. Yes it is expensive, but the quality is unsurpassed, and the packages are mostly 2 lbs. Barilla has changed since they opened up factories in Iowa, Illinois and New York state. Almost all of the Barilla in our supermarkets is made in the US, and not Italy, and it has changed the texture. For a supermarket brand I would always choose De Cecco over Barilla.

                  1. re: Pa amb Tomaquet
                    p
                    Pa amb Tomaquet Nov 27, 2011 12:47 PM

                    Forgot to mention that I get my Setaro pasta at Monica's Mercato on Salem Street in the North End.

              2. m
                misscucina Nov 22, 2011 09:10 AM

                I like Rustichella D'Abruzzo. They sell some shapes at Whole Foods (although be careful, WF has a knock off house version using similar packaging to fool you that's not as good). Also available at Formaggio. For pasta salads using orecchiette, I find Progresso to be pretty good and very reasonable at Market Basket.

                2 Replies
                1. re: misscucina
                  Karl S Nov 22, 2011 12:21 PM

                  Progresso? Do you mean Pastene?

                  1. re: Karl S
                    m
                    misscucina Nov 22, 2011 02:42 PM

                    D'oh! Yes, Pastene.

                2. n
                  nachovegas Nov 22, 2011 08:55 AM

                  I used to really love a brand called Torino for dry pasta which I found at the Shaw's in Brighton. I haven't been able to find it in quite awhile, but if you come across it, it's really really good.

                  1. StriperGuy Nov 22, 2011 07:00 AM

                    Salem Foods in Waltham has a good selection and good prices in Waltham:

                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/807986

                    And there is a little grocery store across from the Turkish place in Somerville that has good stuff too. Forgetting the names of both.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: StriperGuy
                      opinionatedchef Nov 22, 2011 10:11 AM

                      across from Istanbul'lu?

                      1. re: opinionatedchef
                        StriperGuy Nov 24, 2011 08:19 AM

                        Yes, sort of catty corner across.

                    2. lipoff Nov 21, 2011 09:10 PM

                      The Regina Food Store on Main St in Everett has an unusual mix of Salvadoran grocery items and an incredibly wide variety of dry Italian pastas in unusual shapes. Salsa Roja Paccheri or Queso Fresco Cavatappi anybody? Seriously though, the only other store that I can think of that comes close in the variety of dry pasta is the Farmland in Wakefield that also has a very wide selection. The J. Pace & Son in Saugus also has quite a few different kinds of dry pasta.

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                      J. Pace & Son
                      325 Main Street, Saugus, MA 01906

                      1. d
                        DoubleMan Nov 21, 2011 06:32 PM

                        I love the Setaro dried pasta sold at Central Bottle. It's brass extrusion, and I think in a completely different league than the boxed stuff at supermarkets. While it's not cheap, $9ish for a kilogram isn't bad at all.

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                        Central Bottle
                        196 Massachusetts Ave, Boston, MA 02115

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: DoubleMan
                          opinionatedchef Nov 21, 2011 08:54 PM

                          when i asked the ingenue at Formaggio yesterday, she handed me an 8 ou pkg of orechietti for $10.......NOT. That's $20 lb. for DRY pasta!! nope, i'd much rather that go toward a downpayment on foie gras, thank you very much. i did spring for a lb+ of imported benedetto cavaglieri for $8. we shall see.

                          1. re: opinionatedchef
                            d
                            DoubleMan Nov 22, 2011 04:37 AM

                            I think the problem with orecchiette is that it is hand formed while most other dried pastas are just extruded. I've purchased good dry orecchiette at Russo's and I think it was in the $4 range.

                            1. re: DoubleMan
                              StriperGuy Nov 22, 2011 06:53 AM

                              Uhhh, not really. They LOOK hand made, but they are also made by machine.

                          2. re: DoubleMan
                            ecwashere7 Nov 22, 2011 06:34 AM

                            I love Setaro. It is very pricy though. I get mine at Salumeria Italiana

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                            Salumeria Italiana
                            151 Richmond St, Boston, MA 02109

                          3. g
                            Guido Nov 21, 2011 06:05 PM

                            Barilla is my go-to. Haven't really been blown away by the "brass extrusion die" artisanal pasta thing. Love Dave Fresh Pasta but limited varieties. Surprisingly, the Meat House in Arlington Heights has a good selection of dried artisanal pasta.

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                            The Meat House
                            1285 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Guido
                              StriperGuy Nov 22, 2011 07:01 AM

                              I like the bronze die pastas, they hold sauce better which is why they are prized in Italy. At home we eat both standard Barilla and the fancier stuff.

                              1. re: Guido
                                e
                                emannths Nov 22, 2011 07:09 AM

                                I find it very difficult to get Barilla properly al dente. It seems to go immediately from chalky to floppy, without pausing in that awesome toothsome, chewy-not-chalky al dente zone. I've had much better success with the Granoro brand that recently popped up at Market Basket for $0.79-0.99/lb.

                                I wish the Costcos out here would start carrying better pasta. For a while they had De Cecco for under $1.50/lb, and the ones in the Midwest still have Garofalo for a similar price. Both are much better than Barilla for only a tiny premium.

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