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Hard Truths: Dried Pasta Buying Guide

Not all pastas are created equal

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."

Porsena 21 E. 7th St. New York NY 10003 212-228-4923 Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria 53 Great Jones St. New York NY 10012 212-837-2622 Locanda 557 Valencia St. San Francisco CA 94103 415-863-6800 Nostrana 1401 SE Morrison Portland OR 97214 503-234-2427 Frankies Sputino 570 Hudson St. New York NY 10014 212-924-0818 Prime Meats 465 Court St. New York NY 11231 718-254-0327

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