Barilla vs. De Cecco: Which Brand Has Better Pasta?

Published Categorized as Food
Pasta shapesLovefood Art (via Pexels.com)

If you haven’t heard of Barilla and De Cecco, you probably haven’t been spending that much time in the pasta aisle at the grocery store. Apart from being the largest and third-largest pasta producers in the world, these two Italian companies are also multi-generational family businesses whose beginnings date back all the way to the 19th century.

So which of the two has the better pasta? In this post, I’ll set out to help you find out the answer by comparing Barilla’s and De Cecco’s wide range of pasta products. I’ll also walk you through the story of each of these two pasta makers, as well as share my top pasta picks.

So keep on reading if I’ve got you curious.

How do Barilla and De Cecco compare to one another?

Barilla and De Cecco are two of the biggest pasta makers in the world. Barilla offers 77 pasta varieties in 9 pasta ranges, and De Cecco offers 255 pasta varieties across 7 pasta ranges. Both are considered “premium” pasta brands and carried by most grocery stores.

Now let’s take a closer look at each of these companies’ pasta ranges.

Barilla’s Pasta Range

Image courtesy of Barilla

From the “Classic Blue Box” and the premium “Collezione” pasta, which I genuinely recommend anyone considering Barilla, to the hip Protein+, Whole Grain, and Organic range for the health-conscious eater, Barilla is without doubt one of the best Italian pasta brands carried by grocery stores.

Barilla offers 77 pasta shapes in 9 pasta brands for professional chefs and home cooks alike:

  1. Classic Blue Box, the company’s 140-year old semolina pasta that comes in 35 shapes.
  2. Ready Pasta, fully-cooked microwavable pasta noodles made of flour, water, and extra virgin olive oil in 4 shapes.
  3. Collezione, 8 artisanal, semolina-flour, bronze-cut pasta shapes with a golden color and coarser surface (my personal favorite).
  4. Gluten Free pasta made of a blend of gluten-free corn and rice dough.
  5. Whole Grain, or 7 pasta shapes made of 100% whole-grain flour that provides 6 grams of fiber per serving.
  6. Protein+ noodles made with wheat flour enriched with plant-based protein from lentils, chickpeas, and peas.
  7. Veggie pasta made with vegetable puree from real vegetables, like tomatoes, carrots, spinach, and zucchini (great way to serve veggies to kids).
  8. Organic pasta made of USDA certified organic durum wheat.
  9. Legume, or 3 noodle shapes made of chickpea and 3 made of red lentil.

My Barilla Pasta Picks

When I buy Barilla pasta, I typically go for a product in their “Collezione” range. There’s something special about bronze-cut pasta that you can’t get from any other pasta noodle. Maybe it’s the golden color. Or perhaps it’s the way that sauce, cream- or tomato-based, clings better to noodles cut in bronze dies.

Just try one of my favorites out and, hopefully, you’ll be as blown away by the difference as I was:

De Cecco’s Pasta Range

unknown Image courtesy of Ben Cappellacci (via Flickr.com)

De Cecco offers a truly impressive range of 255 pasta shapes in 7 pasta brands. From their staple bronze-cut, 100% semolina noodles to egg, wholegrain, and organic pasta, De Cecco’s products are guaranteed to please even the most selective pasta eater.

Here’s an overview of De Cecco’s pasta range:

  • Durum Wheat Pasta is De Cecco’s staple Italian pasta that comes in a variety of 111 classic and 23 specialty shapes made of semolina flour.
  • Egg Pasta is made of semolina flour, water, and eggs from free-range hens. The range consists of 31 egg pasta shapes and 3 pasta shapes made with egg and spinach.
  • Gluten Free is a selection of 13 pasta noodles made with rice, corn, peas, and red lentils, as well as 1 corn flour and 1 polenta product.
  • Pasta Specialties offers 7 Khorasan-wheat pasta varieties, 6 spinach pasta shapes, and 3 tri-color pasta noodles to celebrate the Italian flag.
  • 7-Grain is whole-grain pasta in 5 shapes and forms that’s a great source of fiber, protein, and phosphorus for your body.
  • Wholegrain Pasta is a collection of 18 shapes made of whole grain semolina that De Cecco makes by directly grinding the wheat, without taking anything out or putting anything back in.
  • Organic Pasta consists of 11 organic durum wheat, 8 organic spelt, 9 organic wholewheat, 5 organic egg pasta shapes.

My De Cecco Pasta Picks

All De Cecco pasta is bronze-cut and made of 100% semolina flour (unless you’re looking at spinach, red lentil, and the rest of the pasta varieties in its “Gluten Free” range).

My all-time favorite De Cecco pasta varieties are:

If you’re only thinking of trying one pasta product, let that be De Cecco Egg Pappardelle Pasta.

These egg noodles are richer in aroma and flavor and thicker in size than your regular pasta noodles. They taste nothing short of luxurious with both cream- and tomato-based pasta sauces. Consider using them in my tagliatelle, tomato, and anchovy pasta recipe.

Barilla vs. De Cecco Pasta

So, what’s the bottom line?

How do Barilla and De Cecco pasta weigh against one another?

Both Barilla and De Cecco are Italian family-run companies with humble beginnings that grew into two of the biggest pasta companies in the world. They make boxed pasta from 100% semolina flour and their products are carried by almost every grocery store.

Compared to Barilla, which only cuts its Collezione range using bronze dies, De Cecco goes the extra mile and bronze-cuts all of its pasta noodles. But that doesn’t necessarily put De Cecco pasta ahead of Barilla.

BarillaDe Cecco
ClassificationPremium pasta brandPremium pasta brand
Selection77 pasta varieties in 9 pasta ranges255 pasta varieties in 7 pasta ranges
Standard flourSemolina flour (unless stated otherwise)Semolina flour (unless stated otherwise)
Standard cutNon-stick-cut (except for “Collezione” pasta)Bronze-cut

At the end of the day, your choice of pasta is your own business. Food bloggers like me can try to convince you all they want of the merits of one brand compared to the other. 

The truth is that both Barilla and De Cecco are family-run Italian companies that make fantastic pasta. And you won’t make a mistake no matter which one you end up choosing for your home cooking.

Who Is Barilla Owned By?

Barilla is an Italian family-owned company that wears the title of the biggest pasta maker in the world.

Its history dates back to September 28, 1877, when Pietro Barilla Sr. opened a bakery shop on Vittorio Emanuele Street in Parma, a city in Italy’s northern region of Emilia Romagna. The shop did exceptionally well, supplying the locals with baked bread and fresh pasta dough.

In 1981, Pietro opened a second bakery in Parma. His attempt to expand the business was unsuccessful and he was forced to sell the second shop three years later. But the family persisted and, by the year 1905, Barilla was making 2,500 kilograms of pasta per day.

In 1910, Pietro Barilla Sr. passed away. His two sons, Gualtiero and Riccardo Barilla, took over the family business. They built a pasta factory in the outskirts of town that employed 80 workers and produced 80 tons of pasta per day.

At the time, Barilla also baked bread. A 24/7 continuous baking oven, designed by the German company Werner & Pfleiderer in the city of Stuttgart (known as WP Industrial Bakery Technologies today), churned out 20 tons of baked bread a day.

In 1947, Riccardo’s sons took over Barilla after his and Gualtiero’s passing. They took the landmark decision to stop baking bread and focus the company only on dried pasta in 1952.

The brothers established the Barilla logo, colors, and packaging as we know them today.

By the 1960s, Barilla had become a joint-stock company and produced 600 tons of pasta noodles a day. For a brief period of time, the family business was sold to American company W.R. Grace (which continues to exist today and specializes in chemicals and materials).

In 1971, Pietro Barilla bought back the company after 8 years of foreign ownership. Barilla Holding S.p.A. remains an Italian family-owned company headquartered in Parma, Italy, to this day.

During the 80s and 90s, Barilla began an international expansion by acquiring companies in Greece, Turkey, and France in Europe. It also has pasta factories in the U.S. and Canada.

Most of the Barilla pasta varieties sold in the U.S. are made in the company’s two U.S. factories in Ames, IA and Avon, NY, with a few exceptions (Barilla Tortellini and Barilla Oven Ready Lasagne).

Today, Barilla is chaired by Guido Barilla, fourth-generation heir to the Barilla family business.

Who Owns De Cecco?

De Cecco is an Italian family-owned company and the third-largest pasta maker worldwide.

In 1886, Nicola and his brother Filippo De Cecco founded the “Mill and Pasta Factory of the De Cecco Brothers” with the aspiration to produce the best flour and pasta of the surrounding countryside.

The De Cecco family business did well and created a name for itself among the locals. In 1908, the two brothers created the iconic De Cecco trademark of an Italian country girl carrying two wheat sheaves.

During World War II, De Cecco’s first factory in Fara San Martino was destroyed by bomb attacks. As soon as the war ended, the family rebuilt the factory.

In 1950, De Cecco opened a second factory in Pescara to meet the growing demand from consumers.

In 1980, De Cecco expanded its Fara San Martino factory with a second facility, doubling its production output. In 1986, De Cecco added olive oil to its product portfolio. Since, De Cecco has also started to make canned tomatoes, ready-made sauces, gnocchi, and grains.

As of 2013, after a series of acquisitions and pasta factory openings, De Cecco officially became the third-largest pasta producer in the world.

Today, De Cecco continues to operate as a private family-owned company headquartered at Via Filippo De Cecco street in Fara San Martino, Italy. In 2017, the family told Reuters that they were considering making the company public on the Roman stock exchange.

In Conclusion

Which brand do you prefer, Barilla or De Cecco? And what’s the one boxed pasta from either of the two that you and your household can’t get enough of? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

By Jim Stonos

When Jim isn't in the kitchen, he is usually spending time with family and friends, and working with the HCW editorial team to answer the questions he used to ask himself back when he was learning the ropes of cooking.