Dry pasta is pasta which has been dried to make it shelf-stable. As a general rule, as long as dry pasta is stored in a cool dry place, it will keep indefinitely, making it a very handy staple food, as college students around the world have noted. Dry pasta comes in a range of shapes, sizes, styles, and flavors, and it is carried at most markets and stores which stock food items.
To make dry pasta, companies manufacture fresh pasta and then hang it on racks or screens to dry. Once the pasta is completely dry, it can be packaged for sale. You can do exactly the same thing at home with your own fresh pasta. The ingredients used in dried pasta are incredibly varied; dry pasta can be made with or without eggs, for example, and it may include seasonings like spinach, sundried tomato, lemon juice, or pepper. Dried pasta can also be colored with a variety of dyes, such as squid ink for black pasta.
The drawback to dry pasta is that it takes much longer to cook than fresh pasta, because it must be rehydrated and softened. However, this disadvantage is often outweighed by the significant advantage of prolonged storage capability. Packages of dry pasta are often used to stock household cupboards to ensure that some form of food is always on hand, and dry pasta can also be packaged in kits which allow people to make pasta soups and other dishes with minimal effort.
When selecting dry pasta, you may want to think about the desired cooked texture of the pasta. Pasta made with semolina or durum wheat tends to be very hard, retaining a chewy texture through the cooking process which many people find enjoyable. Durum wheat pasta is also extremely useful for soups, casseroles, and other dishes in which the pasta may be subjected to prolonged cooking, because the hard texture ensures that the pasta will not fall apart. If you want a softer, more tender pasta, you may want to use egg pastas, or pastas made with softer forms of wheat.
Shape is also a consideration when stocking up on dried pasta. Thick, chunky sauces require large, sturdy pasta shapes, while more delicate sauces fare well with lighter, more delicate pasta. If you're a fan of runny pasta sauces, you might want to choose a shape like shells which will help hold the sauce, while pasta for soups and casseroles is typically small and hollow, to allow full penetration of the surrounding flavors.