Fresh vs. Dry Pasta
When to have, where to have, and more
Thanks to the recent cold snap, ice, and other weather-related troubles, most of us are feeling the need to cuddle up in front of the fire with a big bowl of comfort food. Pasta tends to come to mind – but is fresh or dry the better choice? Let's break it down:
Dry pasta: Dry pasta is what we all see in the grocery stores. It comes to us under names like Barilla, Bertoli, Ronzoni, and Mueller's. It’s made mostly of semolina flour (unless it’s fancy and gluten free), water, and salt and has a very, very, very long shelf life. It’s pretty firm, taking about 8-10 minutes to cook, and holds up well to thick sauces like Bolognese or Alfredo.
Fresh pasta: You can find this usually in the freezer or fresh food section of the grocery, since it’s made up of eggs, water, flour, and salt. It’s very tender, lighter and more delicate than the dry pasta variety. As a result of its being more delicate, fresh pasta doesn't hold up as well under heavy sauces, but does provide a great bed for light garlic and olive oil concoctions or simple basil and tomato toppings.
So, one isn’t necessarily BETTER than the other, but your general rule is that fresh is better for lighter sauces and dry is better for heavy sauces. Want to create it on your own? Here’s Mario Batali's recipe for fresh pasta:
- 3 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 4 extra large eggs
Create a mound of the flour on a large wooden cutting board, then make a well in the middle of the four and add the eggs. Using a fork, beat together the eggs and begin to incorporate the flour starting with the inner wall of the well. As you combine, push the flour up to retain the well shape. The dough will start to come together when about half of your flour is incorporated.
Start kneading the dough with both hands, using mostly your palms. Add more flour in ½ cup increments if the dough is getting too sticky. Once the dough is all together, remove it from the board and scrap up any leftover bits. Lightly flour the board and continue kneading for another 3 minutes until the dough is elastic and only a little sticky.
Knead some more, remembering to dust your board with flour when the dough becomes too sticky. Finally, wrap the dough in plastic and set aside for 20 minutes at room temperature.
Roll out the dough as thin as a credit card. Cut into strips of desired width with a very sharp knife. Dry the pasta on a floured baking sheet for about 2 hours. Then, boil the pasta in salted water for a few minutes until pliable but still having a bit of bite.