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Rustichella d'Arbuzzo - one of the best brands of pasta?

After having tried about 20 brands of pasta, I have finally settled on one that I am happy to live with as my regular pasta brand.

This is Rustichella d'Arbuzzo. It is delicious, has great al dente texture and holds pasta sauces well. These are all the qualities to look for in great brands of pasta. Plus, it is affordably priced at about S$5 per 500 gram packet.

Actually, I was introduced to Rustichella d'Arbuzzo via a packet of pasta that costs a lot more money. I paid S$10.95 for it, which, to date, remains the highest price I ever paid for a packet of dried pasta.

The 'first grain'

This pasta is called Primograno - which means "first grain". It is the premium brand of pasta produced by Rustichella d'Arbuzzo. It is produced in very limited quantities using a special type of wheat that the makers of Rustichella d'Arbuzzo commissioned farmers to grow, paying them a premium price for the special wheat.

My previous highest price was S$8 for another of the artisanal brands of pasta called Martelli. I bought it a few times but never thought it good enough to buy on a regular basis.

Now this PrimoGrano costs about 37 percent more - and about three times as much as other relatively good pasta brands like De Cecco. Is it worth the money? Well, if money is not an issue for you, I recommend this pasta very highly. It is, by far, the best pasta brand I ever tried.

Curiously, from what I've read, it seems that PrimoGrano costs less than Martelli in the United States. If that is the case for you, then again it comes highly recommended. I find it far better than Martelli which had received mixed reviews with some people rating this brand highly, while others actually gave quite poor ratings.

In my case, money is an issue so I won't be buying this on a regular basis, But it will certainly be an occasional treat whenever I feel rich. This is very excellent pasta.

For the first time ever, I was greeted by a pleasant aroma of wheat the moment I opened the pasta packet. It was not a strong smell, more of a subtle fragrance. But it was very discernible. And when I cooked, this pasta made me realise that the pasta brand can have a very big impact on the 'al dente' quality of the pasta, more so that the method of cooking provided you follow basic instructions.

This was the best-textured among the many brands of pasta I've eaten.

The firm texture of PrimaGrano means, however, that it may not be suitable for those who do not like their pasta firm. From reading various comments (and laments), I gather that most people eat their pasta too soft and over-cooked. Asians, especially, tend to treat their pasta more like noodles and usually eat their pasta very much softer than the Italians do.

Those who are particular about pasta being al dente generally recommend checking the pasta for doneness two or three minutes before the recommended cooking time is up. With PrimoGrano, you need not worry about this. Even if you cook it three or four minutes longer than recommended, it remains relatively firm and "al dente".

I am not the only person who raves about this. After I bought, I found an artilce on the Internet that described PrimoGrano as "a pasta worth waiting for."

Rustichella d'Arbuzzo

Well, you can say the world waited more than 80 years for this. PrimoGrano is a new pasta from an old company, Rustichella d'Arbuzzo, whose history dates back to 1924. I did not know about Rustichella d'Arbuzzo when I first came across PrimoGrano at a "Pasta Fair" at Meidi-ya Supermarket in 2010. But the two brands of pasta were displayed together.

The regular Rustichella d'Arbuzzo pasta cost about half the price, which I thought was reasonable, just slightly more than mass-market brands like Barilla and De Cecco. Initially, I wanted to buy both for comparison. In the end, I decided to "save money" by purchasing only the more expensive version. Makes sense? Ha ha!

The word Arbuzzo was, however, familiar to me. I vaguely remember reading it about being associated with good pasta and when I checked again, I realised it is a region in Italy known for the quality of its durum wheat - the best durum wheat is said to be grown in Arbuzzo - and therefore famous also for its dried pasta. I also realised that Rustichella d'Arbuzzo was highly-rated by many chefs and home cooks alike, who consideered it one of the best brands of pasta.

And now we have a new pasta from the same company, selling at about double the price!

The history behind Primograno is this... A man named Gianluigi, the grandson of the founder of Rusticella d'Arbuzzo, set out to create a pasta that tasted exactly like the one his grandfather created, to mark the 80th anniversary of the family. He worked with the nearby University to study a new variety of wheat that had very good flavour, although its yield was small. That wheat was finished in 2002 and the following year, he started a small project to grow three hectares of it, just to make a small amount of pasta for the company's 80th anniversary.

The result was not only a great-tasting pasta but, because of improvements in production technology, the texture is said to be much better than what was achievable in the 1920s.

The project did not stop there, however. It expanded into a bigger project in which farmers are paid a premium to grow this better quality. lower yield wheat. So today there are about 100 hectares of this special wheat being grown - enough for commercial scale production of Primograno, but still as a limited edition pasta.

Not many places in the world have PrimoGrano. I consider myself very fortunate to have tasted this truly excellent pasta.

But didn't I say somewhere that I need to watch my budget? I am certainly not one of those who can afford costly brands of pasta like PrimoGrano on a regular basis. After that very positive introduction, I tried the regular Rustichella d'Arbuzzo and found it to be nearly just as good.

True, the PrimoGrano did have an edge. But I still found the regular Rustichella d"Arbuzzo to be one of the best brands of pasta that I have tried. While some of the other brands of pasta were better than others, none really stood out. This one did.

Right now, there are only a few other brands of pasta that I have not yet tried, but these are what I consider the ridiculously priced brands, that cost close to S$20 for a 500 gram packet. I don't think I want to try them. At that price, I rather pay a bit more to eat in an Italian restaurant.

Click here to read about my experiences with other good and reasonably priced brands of pasta.

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