Hard Truths: Dried Pasta Buying Guide

Not all pastas are created equal

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

Dried pasta is hard. Hard to know what brands are the real deal. Hard to tell who's using bronze dies and long drying times–both of which you want for pastas that keep their nutrients and cling to sauces.

We enlisted some dried pasta enthusiasts to help us separate the high-quality wheat from the supermarket chaff.

What chefs drop in boiling water

Setaro; available at buonItalia.com
Sara Jenkins likes this third-generation manufacturer from the town of Torre Annunziata, south of Naples. She uses it at Porsena in New York.

Campo; available at Amazon.com 

Justin Smillie, chef at Il Buco Alimentari in New York, uses Campo's busiate (a thin corkscrew pasta) for its wheaty perfume and texture.

De Cecco; available everywhere

"I always have De Cecco wagon wheels in my cupboard for mac 'n cheese," says Anthony Strong of Locanda in San Francisco of his surprising choice.

Benedetto Cavalieri; available at Sur La Table and Amazon.com

This fourth-generation producer from Puglia dries its pasta at low temperature for up to 40 hours. "They've been using the same traditional methods since 1918," says fan Cathy Whims, chef at Nostrana in Portland, OR.

Sfoglini; available online, in gourmet markets and in some West Elm shops

This Brookyn-based "small batch" organic pasta producer specializes in hard-to-find shapes (reginetti, which resembles a scrunched ribbon; ditalini, short, stubby bucatini).

Giuseppe Cocco; available at specialty markets and Amazon.com

Frank Castronovo (NYC's Frankie's Spuntino, Prime Meats in Brooklyn) uses this at home. Mostly: "One day my wife tricked me," he said. She swapped in some Trader Joe's brand. "I couldn't believe it, but after looking at the package, it's legit: Italian, organic, a real steal."