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From our Freshologists: Pasta From the Old Country

Italians may not have invented pasta – most historians now say the Chinese actually did _ but they’re certainly the ones who perfected it. And of all the places where pasta is made in Italy today, one of the most legendary is Gragnano, near Naples.

They’ve been making pasta in Gragnano for more than 500 years. Within Italy, it’s widely considered the best place to get dried pasta, reportedly because the spring water has just the right mineral composition to produce it perfectly. The town even calls itself “The City of Pasta.”

Of the 11 companies that still manufacture pasta in and around Gragnano, the most famous is probably Garofalo, which dates back more than 200 years. Once sold only in Italy and then throughout Europe, the company more recently has expanded to the United States.

For which we say: Grazie.

Because Garofalo produces really delicious pasta. It has a firm but still tender texture, and a taste that is just a little nutty, not as bland as many mass-produced noodles out there. It’s best, like most good pastas, when you cook it al dente. But even if you get distracted, as I am known to do, and let it boil a little too long, it still doesn’t seem to dissolve into the gummy, gluey mess that some lesser pasta brands do.

Also, the pasta seems to have a slightly rougher, more textured surface, with lots of tiny ridges where sauce can collect. That means your marinara or Alfredo clings better to the noodles, and doesn’t end up left behind in the bowl.

Garofalo makes dozens of pasta cuts, or shapes, and FRESH usually stocks several, including familiar cuts like fusilli (the corkscrew one), penne and regular spaghetti.

But I am especially partial to the more unusual cuts, like cute, tiny farfalline. (They look like an itty-bitty version of farfalle, the bowtie shape, and work great in soups.)

The best news? This quality doesn’t come at a premium. It is affordable enough for everyday. Which, coincidentally, is about how often I could eat it.