It's understandable why packet pasta is a go-to midweek meal of choice for busy people, but the convenience of dry pasta doesn't mean you have to sacrifice flavor and quality. If you don't have time to create your own dough from scratch (who does?), there are a handful of pre-made pasta brands that will do well in the absence of its freshly made counterparts. Even chefs and food experts turn to dried pasta sometimes, and they've definitely got opinions on which brands boast the best flavor and texture.
For example, Michael Easton, chef and owner of Il Corvo Pasta in Seattle, says it doesn't matter how perfectly you cook pasta—if it's poor quality, the meal will be a letdown. "If you buy better brands of dry pasta, you'll find you have a much broader window of how long you can cook them," he tells Insider.
According to Easton, other chefs and food experts, these store-bought and pasta brands are worth buying. Most are widely available at your nearest grocery or specialty store, or online. Scroll down to discover your next favorite and update your shopping lists accordingly.
Pow! Pasta gluten free pasta is derived from chickpea, lentil, and quinoa flour and packed with 25 grams of protein per serving—a good choice for those with gluten or wheat allergies. Bestproducts.com recommends cooking Pow! Pasta al dente and tossing with olive oil, roasted garlic, and shaved parmesan cheese.
For deep wheaty flavor and delightfully rough texture, Renato Sardo's Baia Pasta is made from organic whole durum wheat (semolina), and spelt. The Wall Street Journal attests that a drizzle of olive oil and flaky sea salt is all this pasta needs.
The consistency and elasticity of Barilla's Fettuccine impressed Chef Mark Ladner, who noted to Bon Appetit that the reason he didn't use it in the past is because he had issues with it sticking together, "but this isn't clumping as much as I feared," he explained during a taste test with the magazine. He added, "It's rare to find so much stretch and pull in a dry pasta."
Benedetto Cavalieri's pasta has been made according to family tradition for generations. The brand's tagliatelle pasta in particular boasts a coarse texture, perfect for sauce to cling to for maximum flavor with each bite.
Head chef and recipe developer at HelloFresh Claudia Sidoti loves Colavita's Orecchiette and Cavatappi pasta for its flavor and "firm but toothsome chew, especially when cooked al dente," Sidoti tells Eat This Not That. Try them with hearty sauces like bolognese, or a rich tomato cream sauce, per her recommendation.
Lots of internet praise has been showered on De Cecco brand pasta for its ability to hold its texture after boiling, its flavor, and the fact that pasta sauce clings firm, which "hold their texture after cooking to al dente,” Alfred Portale, former Executive Chef of Gotham Bar and Grill in NYC told Eat This Not That.
Here's another gluten-free option that tastes as good as it looks on the plate. Garofalo Casarecce pasta is made from a blend of corn, rice, and quinoa flour. "A traditional free-form shape looks gorgeous plated," writes Bestproducts.com. The brand also makes whole wheat pastas in long and short cuts.
Gerardo Di Nola
At his DC restaurant Masseria, Chef Nick Stefanelli reaches for pastas from Gerardo di Nola. "The pastas have great flavor. You can really taste the wheat,” Stefanelli told The Washington Post in 2016. “It’s a slight nuance, but for me, it’s worth the price that we pay, because it builds into the flavor and layerings and everything that we put into the dishes,” he adds.
Lundberg Family Farms
Being allergic to gluten doesn't mean you have to skip pasta altogether. Try Lundberg Family Farms' Organic Brown Rice Spaghetti Pasta; its mild rice flavor makes it versatile for a variety of Italian pasta recipes.
When food magazine Saveur conducted a dried pasta tasting panel in 2017, Martelli was one of the pricier imported artisanal brands that garnered praise, including superlatives like "clear winner," "really nice bite," and "nearly perfect."
Another standout in Saveur's dried pasta brand tasting panel was Rigorosa, though the air-dried pasta needs a bit longer than usual to cook; 14 minutes. Rigorosa pasta is made in Gragnano, a region in Italy that birthed dry pasta.
Chef Michael Easton considers Rummo brand pastas on par with other chef favorites De Cecco and Rustichella d'Abruzzo. Its higher protein content means it takes longer to cook, which means "you can overcook them a couple minutes, and they [will] still have beautiful texture and are absolutely al dente."
Rustichella d'Abruzzo's bucatini pasta is made from stone-ground semolina flour (also known as durum wheat), air-dried and shaped by hand-carved bronze dies for superb sauce-gripping ability. Try it in a creamy, saucy pasta dish like cacio e pepe or bucatini carbonara.
Porcini mushrooms boost Sfoglini's Special Edition Porcini Trumpets pasta, made from organic semolina flour. This one's a great vessel for sauce too, thanks to its thicker shape and curved edges. We're definitely not mad at it for scooping up freshly grated cheese and herbs, either.
At an attractive price (see: 99 cents a pound) and an endorsement by Grubstreet ("great aroma and nutty, malty flavor," and "great performer"), we're keeping Trader Joe's spaghetti stocked in our pantry at all times.