One of the biggest differences between the two comes down to cooking time. Fresh pasta takes between 1 and 3 minutes, Stefanelli said, while dried pasta can take up to 15 minutes (or more) depending on size and shape. Regardless of the variety, Stefanelli urges cooks to finish cooking the pasta in whatever sauce they’ve paired it with for the last 1-2 minutes “so the starch and liquid can come together and really emulsify and become one.” .
Fresh pasta, when cooked correctly, has a soft, pliable texture. Cookbook author Kristina Gill adds “luxurious” as another description in a call from Rome. “Those descriptions make it seem like dry pasta is somehow inferior. It is not. It’s just that it’s different,” she said. Large commercial manufacturers can dry pasta in a matter of hours, but “artisanal pastas go through an 18- to 48-hour drying process,” Stefanelli said. “That process gives it a lot of durability and strength.”
The difference in durability affects the use of these two categories of pasta. When combining pasta with large chunks, it’s best to keep it dry, as it’s less likely to break. On the other hand, Stefanelli prefers fresh pasta in milder and spicier dishes. “But the beauty of pasta is that you can always have fun with it and experiment,” he said.
When I cook a recipe, I always urge people to follow it exactly as written, especially the first time you make a dish. But if you want or need to swap one for the other, you can use 1-1/2 pounds of fresh pasta for every 1 pound of dry pasta. Gil believes in getting by with whatever pasta you have on hand. “It’s not bad either, it’s just a different experience,” he said. But the two behave differently when skipped. “Because cooked fresh pasta doesn’t absorb water like dry pasta does, be conservative about adding pasta cooking water to the accompanying pasta sauce, or the sauce may be too loose.” Andrew Janjigian wrote in Cook’s Illustrated.
When buying fresh pasta, Gil suggests using it within a day of purchase, otherwise you risk it drying out and becoming brittle. If he needs to store it longer, freeze it for up to a month. Since fresh pasta is usually more expensive than dry pasta, Gil tends to reserve it for special occasions.
When you buy dry pasta, know that the best ones have been extruded through a bronze die. “Look for that information on the packaging and a more floury surface appearance on the pasta. Bronze-cut pasta releases more starch and makes the sauce stick,” wrote Becky Krystal, writer for Voraciously.
A guide to pasta shapes and how to combine them with dishes and sauces
“I always recommend buying the best quality pasta you can get,” Gil said. “It just doesn’t have the same consistency once cooked.” Some brands she recommends include Pastificio Mancini (“that’s the one I use a lot”), Pastificio Dei Campi (“that’s probably my favorite pasta”), and De Cecco, which is widely available in grocery stores. For Stefanelli, “one of the pasta brands I am madly in love with is Faella”, which is stocked in Office, your Italian specialty market in DC’s Wharf neighborhood. “Play with different brands and see what people prefer because it’s really hard to know what everyone who’s going to read this story has access to,” he said. “So, have fun with it.”