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The excellent long-running PBS show Cook’s Country recently taste tested the various commercially available dried pastas and concluded that the brand De Cecco was the best. The test kitchen here at DowntownTV did so as well, and we agree with their conclusion. De Cecco is night and day different from the other mushy gummy pasta brands.
The De Cecco pasta forms a much better “al dente” firm texture because they do not mix in a cheaper finer durum variety of wheat. They use pure semolina wheat. The durum leaches out the starches into the water more than semolina, which has more gluten. (Obviously, if you are avoiding gluten, then De Cecco is not for you.)
For sauces, Cook’s Country chose “Classico” brand, which is only about $3 per jar. We also found this to be superior to most others. If you want true gourmet sauce, Rao’s is hard to beat.