Fresh versus dry pasta: the differences and when to use which

The world of pasta is vast. Along with all the different shapes available, another quality to consider when buying noodles at the grocery store is choosing between fresh and dry noodles. Here’s what you need to know to make that decision.

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Although there are different types of fresh pasta, the packages on sale in the refrigerated section are usually egg pasta. Dry pasta can also contain eggs, but is most often made only from semolina flour and water. Dry egg pasta tends to be “a bit more brittle,” says chef Nicholas Stefanelli. On top of that, they are less commonly available, so for the purposes of this article, any reference to dry pasta will now be of the egg-free type.

One of the biggest differences between the two is in the cooking time. Fresh pasta takes between 1 and 3 minutes, Stefanelli said, while dry pasta can take 15 minutes (or more) depending on size and shape. Regardless of variety, Stefanelli urges cooks to finish cooking pasta in whatever sauce they paired it with for the last 1-2 minutes “so the starch and liquid can come together and really emulsify and be one”.


Fresh pasta, when properly cooked, has a soft, supple texture. Cookbook author Kristina Gill adds “luxurious” as another descriptor during a call from Rome. “These descriptions make dried pasta seem somehow inferior. It’s not. It’s just different,” she said. Large commercial manufacturers can dry pasta by a few hours, but “artisanal pasta goes through an 18 to 48 hour drying process,” Stefanelli said. “This process gives it much of its durability and strength.”

The difference in durability affects the use of these two categories of pastes. When combining pasta with large chunks, it’s best to dry it out, as it’s less likely to tear. On the other hand, Stefanelli prefers fresh pasta in smoother, more saucey dishes. “But the beauty of pasta is that you can still have fun with it and experiment,” he said.

When I cook a recipe, I always urge people to follow it as written, especially the first time you’re making a dish. But if you want or need to swap one for the other, you can use 1 1/2 pounds of fresh pasta for every pound of dry pasta. Gill believes in making do with whatever pasta you have on hand. “It’s not wrong, it’s just a different experience,” she said. But the two behave differently when sauced. “Because cooked fresh pasta does not absorb water like dried pasta, be careful when adding pasta cooking water to the accompanying pasta sauce or the sauce may end up being too loose. “, wrote Andrew Janjigian in Cook’s Illustrated.

When buying fresh pasta, Gill suggests using it within a day of purchase or you risk it becoming dry and brittle. If you need to keep it longer, freeze it for up to a month. Because fresh pasta tends to be more expensive than dry pasta, Gill tends to save it for special occasions.

When buying dry pasta, be aware that the best ones have been extruded through a bronze die. “Look for this information on the packaging and a more floury surface appearance on the pasta. Bronze-cut pasta releases more starch and encourages sauce to cling,” Voraciously writer Becky Krystal wrote.

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“I always recommend getting the best quality pasta possible,” Gill said. “It just doesn’t have the same consistency when cooked.” Some brands she recommends include Pastificio Mancini (“it’s the one I use a lot”), Pastificio Dei Campi (“it’s probably my favorite pasta”) and De Cecco, which is widely available in grocery stores. For Stefanelli, “one of the pasta brands I’m madly in love with is Faella,” which he stocks at Officina, his specialty Italian market in DC’s Wharf neighborhood. “Play around with different brands and see what people like best because it’s really hard to tell what everyone who’s going to read this story has access to,” he said. “So have fun with it.”