Fresh pasta is often lauded as superior to dried pasta. One reason might be because the concept of ‘freshness’ has become synonymous with quality. Products that are touted as ‘fresh’ are often thought of as wholesome, healthier and more flavoursome, free of troublesome preservatives.
And most of the time, they are. At Pasta Evangelists, we’re convinced that nothing beats fresh, handmade pasta paired with a delicious artisanal sauce. But it’s important to remember that dried pasta also has its place in the kitchen. So, what’s the difference? Here’s our insider’s take on what actually distinguishes fresh from dried pasta, and how they should be used.
What’s the difference between fresh pasta and dried pasta?
The most obvious difference is the ingredients. Whether you’re indulging in a bowl of trofie with basil pesto or a hearty beef lasagna, fresh pasta is made with flour and egg (although the vegan version, made with flour and water, is equally delicious). Dried pasta, on the other hand, is made simply with durum wheat and water.
In Italy, almost every town has its own pastificio supplying locals with their fresh pasta (only when nonna is unable to, obviously). Fresh pasta is seen as a treat, something to savour on special occasions. Not many people have the time to enjoy a plate of their favourite tagliatelle or tortellini every day – eating fresh pasta is an event, a weekly highlight to look forward to (unless you have Pasta Evangelists, that is).
Dried pasta, on the other hand, is valued because of its convenience. This takes dried pasta back to its origins, having been brought over by Arab traders to Sicily. It could be transported easily and stored for a long time – these days it can last up to 2 years beyond its ‘best by’ date.
Fresh Pasta Vs Dried Pasta Nutrition
While nutritional values vary according to the ingredients used, fresh pasta generally has more cholesterol and fat content than dried pasta – owing entirely to the use of egg. Dried pasta, conversely, usually has more carbohydrates. This is due to the type of grain used, and changes that occur during the cooking process. As our head pastàia Roberta notes, the more water the pasta absorbs, the less calories it has – though don’t sacrifice al dente in the name of calorie-counting. If you opt for a bowl of fresh pasta, a moment on the lips is rarely a lifetime on the hips!
How are fresh and dried pasta used differently?
Pasta is a vessel for the sauce or filling and has to be paired to compliment it – this means matching the shape to the type of sauce, and using fresh or dried pasta as appropriate.
As a general rule, fresh pasta is better with butter-based sauces and fillings. Their delicate flavour makes way for the texture of the pasta, soft yet retaining a gentle bite. Ricotta-filled parcels of tortelloni, for instance, are perfect when combined with a silky reduction of burro e salvia.
Dried pasta, alternatively, is more appropriate for heavier meat sauces – it’s less liable to tear than the fresh variety and can hold chunky sauces. There are exceptions though – you’ll notice that all of our ragù recipes are paired with sturdy fresh pasta shapes like pappardelle or mafalde, which are ideal holding rich, meaty sauces.
So, there we have it. In our humble opinion, there’s little better than a bowl of fresh pasta combined with a homemade sauce, using only the finest Italian ingredients. While fresh pasta offers a delicious, healthy meal, dried pasta shouldn’t be overlooked – it also has its place in the kitchen.
At Pasta Evangelists, our chefs create a weekly menu of fresh pasta dishes using the finest ingredients straight from il bel paese. If you’re looking for an authentic Italian experience, take a look at what we’re cooking up this week.