There are those who will shun spaghetti. Dan Pashman, host of The Sporkful podcast (no relation) and creator of the new pasta shape cascatelli, famously said that he hates it. And hearing that made me want to flip over a car. Read these next words slowly and through my gritted teeth: Spaghetti is beautiful.
It absorbs whatever sauce you decide to cook it in like a deliciously edible sponge. Spaghetti hugs sauce like an old friend, saying, “Get in here, pal.” Spaghetti is used in three of the four classic Roman pasta dishes. Is that not good enough, Dan? Do you need more? Fine: Spaghetti is also the quintessential pasta to serve with meatballs. The twirl of a forkful (or sporkful, if that’s easier for you to relate to) of spaghetti is so iconic that it’s literally art. It’s the pasta of the everyman. Plus, children love it. Watching a child messily eat handfuls of spaghetti and sauce is a classic and heartwarming sight. Do you hate children, Dan Pashman? Do you want to tell my nephew that spaghetti sucks? No, spaghetti doesn’t suck. Spaghetti is like good pop music. Lots of people love it for good reason.
I really needed to get that off my chest. Thank you.
Alright, we did a spaghetti taste test. Here’s what we were looking for in the ideal spaghetti: Thick noodles. If the noodle is thin, the package better say “thin spaghetti.” But if it says “spaghetti,” we want a thick, tubular noodle. It shouldn’t be too slick, either. Slick noodles don’t grab sauce. Spaghetti should have heft, texture, and a slight hint of flavor. It shouldn’t break in the pot, and it should be affordable. Good spaghetti should be available to all. I’m Danny Palumbo, and this is the platform I’m running on for head of the pasta council. Oh, and here are the best spaghetti brands we tasted.
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- Rao’s Bronze Die Cut Spaghetti
Rao’s makes good pasta sauce and (surprise!) they also make good pasta. But what does “bronze die cut” mean? Well, basically, a die is the mold shape through which the pasta dough is extruded at the factory. Those molds, or dies, are typically made of Teflon or bronze. Teflon produces a slicker, less desirable texture (Teflon is also cheaper), whereas bronze produces a rougher, more desirable texture, which helps noodles hold onto sauce
Rao’s bronze die cut spaghetti is the perfect thickness for spaghetti, and the long strands of pasta are delightfully chewy. There’s a subtle semolina flavor here, too, with some nutty and sweet undertones to each strand of spaghetti. The big selling point, though, is the texture produced from the bronze die. There’s a noticeable, ridged quality to this Rao’s noodle. That means that the spaghetti will cling to the sauce better. It’s all about that cling, baby. Rao’s just doesn’t miss.
Credit: Ryan Martin / Amazon
- De Cecco Spaghetti No. 12
For as long as I cooked in Italian American restaurants, De Cecco was the brand of pasta used. It’s reliable, restaurant-quality pasta. De Cecco combines high quality durum wheat semolina, which they grind themselves, with mountain spring water to make most of their pasta. They use the aforementioned bronze die, and they also slow dry their pasta. That means their spaghetti has tenacity, texture, and a delightful chew. There’s no strong semolina flavor, but that’s just fine with us. Salt the water well, and this pasta will never, ever steer you wrong. De Cecco is the perfect spaghetti for spaghetti and meatballs, and it’ll work well for the fancier Roman dishes (like cacio e pepe), too. De Cecco is my brand of choice.
Credit: Ryan Martin / Amazon
- Garofalo Spaghetti
Garofolo makes really good spaghetti. It has a rough surface, but it also has a springy texture and a toothsome bite. That makes me think of spaghetti and meatballs. With spaghetti and meatballs, you want a rougher texture to cling to the sauce, but you also want something chewy to compliment the bulky meatballs. Garofalo absorbs sauce well, which is absolutely necessary because there’s nothing worse than red sauce that just slips and slides off of a noodle. It’s on par with De Cecco, just not as readily available at stores.
Credit: Ryan Martin / Amazon
- Good & Gather Bronze Cut Spaghetti
Good & Gather makes a chewy, springy spaghetti that is delightful to eat plain. That makes it a good choice to pair with a butter sauce. Me? I like butter and extra virgin olive oil mixed together when I make buttered noodles. I’m thinking this spaghetti would be really good with butter, olive oil, some leftover vegetables from the fridge, and a ton of cheap parmesan cheese. There’s nothing wrong with that, by the way. When nobody’s looking, I tend to bastardize the hell out of my personal pasta dishes. The fancy stuff I save for Instagram.
Credit: Ryan Martin / Target
- Anthony’s Spaghetti
We tried a lot of low-cost, American-made pasta, and this one was far and away the best. Anthony’s story is great, too. In 1906, Anthony Bizzarri left Italy with $40 in his pocket and came to Los Angeles where he found a job peddling pasta door-to-door. Anthony bought the first modern pasta press west of St. Louis. The man is an Italian-American SoCal icon.
And this pasta ain’t bad. I don’t know if this spaghetti is bronze cut or not (neither the packaging nor the website says either way), but it’s not as slick as some of the other cheap brands we tried. Anthony’s is sturdy, reliable, and cheap as hell. I think dried pasta should be all three of those things.
Credit: Ryan Martin / Walmart
- Reggano Spaghetti
The best thing Reggano has going for it is value. It’s very, very cheap. I mean, for two pounds of pasta it cost us $1.69. That’s insane. If you need to feed a lot of people on the cheap (maybe you are the cook at a firehouse or have a dozen children or one growing teenage boy), or you need to feed yourself several times over the course of a week (and don’t mind eating lots and lots of spaghetti), then I’d go with Reggano. It won’t be best for anything too fancy, but it will get the job done just fine.
Credit: Ryan Martin / Instacart
Best of the Best
Best with Meatballs
Best with Butter
Best Extreme Budget
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