What We Talk About When We Talk About Pasta:
Five Best Pasta Brands in Bangkok
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about Italy?
Chances are it will be Pasta. Italian food is famous everywhere and you are probably not too far from an Italian restaurant as you are reading this, no matters where in the world you are.
Bangkok is no exception, here the diversity of Italian cuisine is on display and synonymous with fine dining. Delicious pasta dishes are presented every day by skilled chefs in fancy restaurants and hotels. Classical sauces are frequently reinvented in fusion recipes. These dishes prove that a mix of tradition and innovation is critical to succeed in one of the most competitive foodie destinations in the world.
There are many kinds of pasta. Various shapes and types are named differently according to the region of origin, methods of production, whether dry or fresh, homemade with eggs or other special ingredients.
Usually when we cook pasta at home we refer to the dry common pasta which is made of semola di grano duro (durum wheat semolina) and water. This is industrially produced with machines in a pastificio (pasta factory).
The history of Pasta is ancient with debated origins. The first traces date back to the Etruscans of the 17th century, when several pastifici started flourishing in Italy due to the invention of torchio meccanico (mechanical press) and other technical developments. These were primarily in the Campania region thanks to good climate conditions supporting the production of dry pasta.
During these times, pasta became affordable for the vast majority of the population and became a common food for every day consumption. It started appearing on every table to the point that poor people and Italian emigrants were often referred to as macaroni (from maccheroni, the old generic name for every pasta type).
“But of all simple things the only one I can eat day in and day out, not only without disgust but with the eagerness of an appetite unimpaired by excess, is macaroni.”W. Somerset Maugham
What makes Pasta unique and so popular is its simplicity. It is probably the quickest and easiest way to cook a delicious meal. However, it is important to follow some basic principles and use the best ingredients available starting from the main one of course: the pasta itself.
There are a few elements that determine the pasta’s quality. These are primarily related to the temperature and amounts of raw materials used during the production processes. These factors can be detected and analyzed at the tasting stage as well.
The texture and taste are strongly affected by the quality of the water and semola di grano duro used as well as by the chemical reactions of starches and gluten proteins. The resulting liquid after the cooking stage contains starches and salt which can be used to improve the sauce and pasta. The more the water appears cloudy, the more the pasta has released its starch which weakens its gluten structure. Cooking water from good quality pasta (which mixes well with sauces) should appear almost transparent.
It is worth noting that an artisanal process, if top quality ingredients are used, will most likely result in a premium and unique pasta artigianale. However, the price will be much higher and it may be more difficult to cook than a pasta made by industrial processes as the latter one will have standardized quality, cooking times and outcomes.
Among the numerous industrial pasta brands on the market there are many differences in the final product in terms of production methods, quality of ingredients used and value for money. Our team spent a month testing eleven popular pasta brands under a variety of cooking methods. These are our favorites based on: price-quality ratio, availability in the local market, taste without condiments and the ability to mix with sauces.
Garofalo pasta is made right in the place where the dry Italian pasta was born and thrived in the sixteenth century. As part of the Pasta di Gragnano PGI consortium it must follow the techniques and quality conditions linked to the old traditions of the town synonymous for pasta, Gragnano in the Campania region.
The best qualities of this pasta are the taste, firmness and porosity. Especially short formats like mezze maniche rigate or penne rigate are the best choice for a delicious pasta dish with a succulent sauce like ragù.
De Cecco is considered by many the best industrial pasta. This brand from the Abruzzo region is Italian excellence and it is easy to understand why many professional chefs actually use this pasta in their restaurants. The iconic spaghetti De Cecco is probably the best choice for a simple pasta dinner at home, not only for the outstanding quality but most important for the great consistency which remains al dente even if you don’t remove it from the water at the right time or you are a bit too slow with the mantecatura (the act of mixing the pasta with its sauce).
La Molisana from La Molisana arguably ranks at the first spot in the price-quality ratio. For products of similar quality to the brands rated here the price at Makro supermarkets in Bangkok is considerably lower. It is available in a 3 kg pack which will assure you at least twenty abundant Pasta dishes to cook at home. The texture is very good for all formats and you can find special ingredient pasta as well like the squid ink spaghetti.
Rummo is more difficult to find in Bangkok supermarkets. It is more expensive than the others but the quality and especially the ability to stay perfectly al dente (thanks to the registered method of a Lenta Lavorazione) are of the highest standard.
Alce Nero is the choice if you care about bio products as all the production in Italy is from bio farms. There are many special and whole wheat varieties available with high quality and good value.
 Campania is a region in the south of Italy with a long coastline and a mild climate, cooler inland due to the Campanian Apennine mountains. For centuries this climate has been considered ideal for humans and the land very fertile. The Romans in fact called it Campania Felix (fertile).
 Pasta Artigianale, meaning crafted or artisanal, is the final product of processes carried out mostly by hand. The production stages include: impasto (mixing); trafilatura (drawing); taglio (cutting) and essiccazione (drying).
C. RODANÒ (1935), Pasta alimentare, in Encyclopedia Italiana Treccani
R. Rovetta, Industria del pastificio, 3a ed., Milano 1929.
Collected Short Stories Volume 3, Volume 3 By W. Somerset Maugham