Reviews you can trust.

See why.


Are the specialty brands and Italian imports worth the extra price?

Published July 1, 2007. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 8: Pasta and Tomatoes, Reimagined

See Everything We Tested

What You Need To Know

In the past, domestic brands of dried pasta have repeatedly won top honors with our testers, but now that more specialty brands and Italian imports have hit store shelves, we decided to give fancy pasta another taste. We tried eight brands of penne, with some costing as much as $5 per pound. Though none were deemed unacceptable, there were significant differences among the brands we tasted.

Many Italian brands claim to maintain traditional techniques and ingredients, such as slow kneading, mixing cold mountain spring water with hard durum semolina, extruding the dough through traditional bronze cast dies for a coarse texture, and prolonged air-drying. Supposedly, these practices make for stronger flavor and more rustic, sauce-gripping pasta. Yet three expensive imports landed at the bottom of our rankings. Tasters liked three other Italian offerings, but top honors stayed at home.

The bottom line: At least when it comes to penne, money may buy you fancy packaging, but it doesn't buy you better pasta. Pricey Italian imports aren't worth the cost or the trip to the specialty store.

Everything We Tested

*All products reviewed by America’s Test Kitchen are independently chosen, researched, and reviewed by our editors. We buy products for testing at retail locations and do not accept unsolicited samples for testing. We list suggested sources for recommended products as a convenience to our readers but do not endorse specific retailers. When you choose to purchase our editorial recommendations from the links we provide, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices are subject to change.

Reviews you can trust

The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing.