When prepared well, these long, wide noodles are greater than the sum of their short ingredient list, showcasing a clean flavor and a hint of springy chew. But which fettuccine should you buy?
Published Aug. 1, 2016. Appears in Cook's Country TV Season 10: The Italian American Kitchen
Fettuccine is a simple product that’s been made with two ingredients—flour and water—for centuries. When prepared well, these long, wide noodles are greater than the sum of their short ingredient list, showcasing a clean flavor and a hint of springy chew. But which fettuccine should you buy?
Two major companies, Barilla and New World Pasta, control 50 percent of the American market. New World Pasta, which makes Ronzoni, also produces five popular regional pasta brands (Prince, American Beauty, Creamette, San Giorgio, and Skinner); we’ve learned in previous pasta tastings that they use the same formula to make them all. After weeding out the duplicates and smaller brands, we were left with only a handful of nationally available supermarket pastas that differ.
But just how drastic are those differences? To find out, we served fettuccine from four major brands to 21 America’s Test Kitchen staffers. Using the cooking times listed on the packages as a rough guide, we boiled the pastas until al dente and served them tossed with neutral-tasting canola oil and in our recipe for Fettuccine with Butter and Cheese.
Good news: Every product we tried was pleasantly springy with clean, subtly wheaty flavor. Though we know from previous pasta tests that drying time, temperature, and the type of machinery used to roll out the dough can all affect the pasta’s final texture and flavor, we found that the differences were minimal: You’ll get good results from any of the pastas we tested.
Still, as serious pasta nerds, we had some minor preferences. We gravitated toward wider, thicker noodles, which tasters deemed more substantial and chewy. Our favorites were up to 6.9 millimeters wide and 1.9 millimeters thick when cooked, while lower-ranked options were 5.4 millimeters wide and 1.6 millimeters thick.
One product in our lineup, from Ronzoni, was an outlier: Like most fresh (but not dried) fettuccine, it contains eggs (and is clearly labeled as “egg fettuccine”). While our tasters liked this pasta, we preferred the cleaner, less-distracting flavor of those pastas without egg. (We included this pasta because it’s the most widely available fettuccine from Ronzoni.) The Ronzoni fettuccine also comes in only a 12-ounce package—an inconvenience for our recipes, which usually call for a full pound.
Ultimately, Garofalo Fettucce emerged as our new winner. These wide, thick noodles were bouncy and springy, with just the right amount of chew. That said, there wasn’t a bad noodle in the bunch. Our advice when shopping for fettuccine: Choose pastas with shorter ingredient lists, buy what’s cheapest, and take pains to cook it well. We typically boil pasta in...
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