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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
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
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
4. Relatively Easy to Cook
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
Industrial pastas: DeCecco, Barilla and Trader Joe's
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.