What is Dry Pasta?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

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.

Dry orzo.
Dry orzo.

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.

Dry pasta can be stored for a very long time.
Dry pasta can be stored for a very long time.

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.

Spinach can be added to pasta to add color and flavor.
Spinach can be added to pasta to add color and flavor.

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.

Boxed dry pasta is typically made with enriched wheat flour.
Boxed dry pasta is typically made with enriched wheat flour.

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.

Dry pasta can be colored with a variety of dyes, including ink from a squid.
Dry pasta can be colored with a variety of dyes, including ink from a squid.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

tigers88

The other day in the store I saw dried tortellinis which I didn't even know existed. They actually have cheese in the middle. I thought you could only buy this kind of pasta fresh and refrigerated. I bought some because they were cheap but I haven't had a chance to try it yet.

gravois

I always have dry pasta in my pantry, but whenever I can I use fresh pasta, preferably homemade. The flavors barely compare. Dry pasta can be great, but it has to be fresh for a really great meal.

When tomatoes are in season I cannot bring myself to pair them with dried pasta. Good tomatoes deserve good pasta. It would be like eating a great burger on a terrible bun. I have a pasta maker at home and whenever I have the time and the spark I make it myself.

backdraft

I cannot tell you guys how many times I have opened a box of pasta, used a little bit and then put it haphazardly back into my cupboard. The next time I open the cupboard the box of pasta falls out and spills spaghetti or macaroni all over my kitchen floor. It is inevitable and a huge pain in the neck.

I finally wised up and bought resealable containers to put my pasta into. They have tightly closing lids that won't bust open even when they are dropped. And I think my pasta stays a little bit fresher, even if it is dried. It has saved me a lot of frazzled moments hungry with a broom and a dust pan.

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