5@5 - Nate Whiting
May 18th, 2011
05:00 PM ET
Share this on:

5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Nate Whiting is the executive chef of Tristan restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina. He's also one of dried pastas biggest advocates - a 'fresh is always best' naysayer, if you will - and serves it every day at his restaurant in dishes like spaghetti with English peas, morel mushrooms, pickled ramps, thyme and oregano.

"These days the use of dried pasta in professional American kitchens is almost always looked down upon, which has trickled down to home cooks as well," said Whiting.

"Now, most self-respecting chefs consider it a short-cut. Dried pasta is thought of as bulk and infinitely inferior to its fresh cousin. However, I think it is one of the most misunderstood ingredients in the country. I think people just need to learn some of the nuances and how to use it correctly."

Five Things You Should Know About Dried Pasta: Nate Whiting

1. Durum Wheat
"Durum in Latin means hard, which is a suitable name for the hardest of all wheat. It is milled with the yellow endosperm (called semolina), which gives pasta its color.

When mixed with cold water, the flour produces a strong and firm dough that holds up to proper cooking and saucing techniques. Whether it is industrial or artisanal pasta, I always look for durum wheat semolina."

2. Bronze die and slow drying
"The best dried pastas are created using the traditional method of cold water, bronze extruder dies and a long, slow drying process.

Lower quality commodity pastas are often made using hot water, Teflon dies and industrial kilns, which speed production, decrease quality and increase profits.

An easy test of the quality of dried pasta is to rub it between your fingers. Commodity pastas will be smooth and glass-like, while higher quality pastas will have a coarse surface, which will help to 'grab' the sauce.

If you don’t start with great pasta, you will not make great food. Luckily, great pasta is only a little more expensive than average pasta, so you have no excuse not to cook the best."

3. It’s Italian fast food
"Whether I am at home or at the restaurant, I can’t think of a faster way to create a satisfying meal with only a few additional ingredients. Being completely shelf stable, it’s always consistent and ready to go. If we are ever running late for a quick lunch for the staff, I make a pasta dish 10 out of 10 times."

4. Relatively Easy to Cook
"All you have to do is follow the rules. For the meticulous cook, remember the old rule of thumb: 10g salt, 100g pasta, 1000g water. If you don’t own a gram scale, just use lots of salted boiling water (at least 5 liters for one box of pasta), and be sure to TASTE YOUR WATER. It should be seasoned like soup.

Stirring frequently and using abundant boiling water is your best bet to keep it from sticking. You can add oil if you must, but only a little. Cook it as much as you want to, but please don’t take al dente too literally, just be sure the white circle inside the pasta (animella) is no longer visible.

Always lift the pasta out of the water and put directly into the sauce, which should be hot, where you will finish dressing it. Never dump it out or rinse it - this will rob it of all its starch. Pasta touches the water once, and waits for no one. Make sure your sauce is ready, and make sure everyone is at the table."

5. Some brands I like
"Like any other group of things, there are always a few that stand out. Spend some time at your grocery store and find one you like. Here are my favorites.

Industrial pastas: DeCecco, Barilla and Trader Joe's
Artisanal pastas: Rustichella d’Abruzzo, Garofalo, Gragnano, Benedetto Cavalieri, Latini"

In the great pasta debate, where do you stand: Fresh or dried?

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

Posted by:
Filed under: 5@5 • Bite • Products • Think

soundoff (133 Responses)
  1. Luc


    May 19, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  2. V

    Don't put any oil in your pasta water. IT can easily be shown with minimal science that it will only do 2 things- 1-the vast majority of the oill will simply float around and do nothing- eventually ending up in the sink. 2- the small amount that does actually stick to and permeate the pasta will act as a waterproof coating meaning that your sauce will not sitck as well since the starches will be trapped in the pasta ratehr than be free to interact with the sauce. Use oil in the sauce, or annoint your pasta with it after saucing, but never in the cooking water. All you need there is salt.

    May 19, 2011 at 10:33 am |
  3. carol

    Nope, disagree 100% with the author. I wouldn't think of opening a box of pasta any more than I would consider getting sauce from a jar–ugh!.
    I buy semolina in bulk and have 2 pasta machines – one with the discs to make all shapes and make gnocci by hand occasionally and ravioli.
    no comparison to boxed.

    May 19, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • Marla

      The beauty of any food is that everyone has their own taste preferences and opinions. I personally like both fresh and dry equally for completely different reasons.

      May 19, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  4. Rich

    Not quite sure how he sees Barilla in the same league as DeCecco. Barilla tastes more like San Gorgio and Muellers.

    May 19, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  5. bill

    NUmber 3, ITS CHINESE , explorers brought over from china, read your history books

    May 19, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  6. Tony

    Newman's, Barillo and Bertolli's sauces are great for the price. As for whole wheat, the 51% blend by Barilla is my go-to

    May 19, 2011 at 10:08 am |
  7. Charles Haynes

    If you think Barilla pasta is better than fresh homemade... write for a racing form or something. Yeesh! In Italy Barilla is only pretty good for a dried pasta. In the US, it's not; water, flour, production process, I don't know. It's just not the same.

    Fresh pasta is flour, eggs, oil, 45 minutes and another world. Pasta is NOT food an ignoramus. Where the heck do these people come from? :-)

    May 19, 2011 at 9:40 am |
  8. Stacie

    I know, I know, I'm a wet blanket here – but pasta is one of the main reasons americans have such high rates of diabetes. Eating massive amounts of processed carbs all at once is a horrible idea for your health. And the "lowfat" craze made it worse, making people think that eating a bunch of pasta is healthy because it doesn't have a lot of fat...

    May 19, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • Lifelong Vegetarian

      Pointing a finger at one thing and trying to blame that thing for all the woes in whatever topic without doing the research just doesn't make for a healthy mindset.

      Actually, pasta made with egg and durham semolina is a healthy food for diabetics. Not only is this type of pasta full of fiber, but it's got a good balance of protein to non-fiber carbs.Fat isn't so much of a problem for diabetics; it's the carbs that get turned into fat that have to be watched. Balancing out carbs to protein, the right type of carbs, and all that, is trickier than it looks. People actually have to read the labels of their pastas to make sure they're getting durham semolina (hint, the blue box? not durham wheat). Then people need to control portion size and the sauce they put on that pasta (including checking protein to carb ratios) in order to balance into a healthy diet.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
  9. Rick R

    This cook (chef would make fresh) is an idiot. Fresh pasta is way better and I would never eat at a crappy establishment that can't take 15 extra minutes to make it from scratch. Terrible article...

    May 19, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • Fresh pasta give away

      Here, check out this fresh pasta coupon.


      May 19, 2011 at 9:29 am |
      • Rick R

        I didn't click on a "rick roll" website, that was funny (not really) a year ago. You are as dumb as the chef who uses dry pasta.

        May 19, 2011 at 9:35 am |
      • Fresh pasta give away

        Yeah it was a dumb joke and was meant to be. So what. Lighten' up beotch and stuff your fresh pasta riight in your kiss hole.

        May 19, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
      • Flippity Flappity@RR

        Fuktard pasta moron. Go back to FOX entertainment news.

        May 19, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
      • JJ@RR

        Yeah, and a year ago you were an epic idiot and a year later you still are.

        May 19, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  10. Cook

    Pasta is a food for ignoramus. All the nutrition has already been wrung out and to make the b i t c h taste good you have to put a lot of things in it. What a waste!

    May 19, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  11. Joel

    Articles like these are presented for consideration and alternate views. Not to be run through the hypocritical American Spell Check device or Opinion Machine. If you disagree with his opinion, it's awesome you share with us some ideas that conflict or that you've found to not hold up. Otherwise, you surf the opinion wave with embarrasing flaw- and we know what the opinion wave is made out of (think about the saying).

    And if you want to know how Italy does it, research it. Google is pretty neat I hear.

    May 19, 2011 at 8:58 am |
    • San-Marzano

      Although I mostly despise what I read on the "opinion wave", especially specific topics that I am educated in, regional Italian cuisine being one of them. It is important to hopefully at least in one case make a positive influence. Spark their interest into researching something and educating themselves in an area they never thought twice about before. I for one picked up one small thing after sifting through posts.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:22 am |
1 2
| Part of

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,974 other followers