Since you’re reading this article, you probably came here to learn what bronze-cut pasta is, and how bronze-cut pasta is different from regular pasta. This is exactly what I want to help you achieve by the time you’re done reading this article, so you’ve come to the right place.
I’ve been a home cook for as long as I can recall. And if there’s one lesson I’ve learned over, and over, and over again, it’s that the quality of your ingredients matters. Often more than we care to give it credit.
Quality becomes especially important for commercially-made products like dried pasta. The biggest pasta factories produce 1,400 tons of pasta noodles a day. As in all other areas of food-making, some do it better than others.
In this case, “better” means the machines, called pasta extruders, and shapes, called pasta extrusion dies, that the producer uses to form and cut the pasta noodles.
It turns out that the material that these dies are coated with makes a big difference when it comes to the shape, color, and texture of dried pasta noodles.
So what is bronze-cut pasta in the first place?
Bronze-cut pasta is made using bronze pasta dies. Compared to regular pasta, it has a more saturated golden color and a rougher surface, which allows the pasta sauce to cling better to it.
If you’re curious to know why (and to see my top three bronze-cut pasta picks), then keep on reading.
How Dried Pasta Is Made
To make the dried pasta noodles that consumers like you and me buy in grocery stores, pasta producers use machines that mix flour, water, and, occasionally, eggs into a dough.
They then run the dough through pasta extruders, which push it through circular plates called pasta dies.
These circular plates have holes in them. In these holes, producers put pasta die inserts—the molds that take pasta dough from one side and shape it into pasta noodles on the other.
Pasta extruders can be small and manual, like the ones in artisanal pasta shops and home kitchens, or big and automated, like the ones that produce pasta on industrial scale in factories.
The freshly-made dough passes through the pasta die and comes out in the shape of a specific pasta noodle, like spaghetti, macaroni, and penne, that’s ready for drying.
The shape of the pasta is determined by the cuts on the pasta die inserts placed in the pasta die. The noodles that come out are named after the process and called extruded pasta.
The extruded pasta is dried, packaged, and entered into the retail supply chain.
Through distributors and wholesalers, it gets to the shelves of pasta aisles at grocery stores and, ultimately, ends up as a home-cooked pasta meal on your dinner plate.
Bronze-Cut Pasta Compared to Regular Pasta
Here’s something that few TV chefs and food bloggers will tell you about dried pasta: the die that producers use for extruding pasta determines the quality of noodles that you get.
Pasta extrusion is one of the final steps in pasta making. It’s also one of the most critical as it determines the shape, color, and texture of the pasta noodles that come out of it.
The dies used for extrusion affect the shape, color, and texture of your pasta. By all criteria, bronze dies tend to produce higher-quality pasta noodles.
This is determined by the material that the pasta die inserts—those small cylindrical plates with holes in them that take pasta dough in and push pasta noodles out—are coated with.
The pasta dies (and pasta die inserts) that pasta producers put in their pasta extruders are usually coated with one of two materials: bronze and non-stick.
Bronze pasta dies are more traditional but more expensive to buy and use. Non-stick dies, on the other hand, are more modern and tend to cost less to purchase and operate.
But the real difference is in the quality of the pasta noodles that come out of them.
Pasta produced in bronze pasta dies, known as bronze-cut pasta, has a golden color and a rougher, more porous texture than the one made in non-stick dies. Pasta produced in non-stick dies has a smoother surface and holds on to its shape better.
Clearly, there are ups and downs to each method. But, at the end of the day, bronze-cut pasta is better because it has a golden color and pasta sauce clings better to it. Its surface, filled with tiny imperfections, captures small particles of sauce saturated with aroma and flavor.
If you want your home-cooked pasta meals to look, smell, and taste better, cook mostly with bronze-cut pasta.
Where to Find Bronze-Cut Pasta
Look for bronze-cut pasta products on the pasta aisle in your neighbourhood grocery store.
Some pasta brands produce all of their pasta products using bronze dies. Others do so only for their higher-end pasta packages, stating that clearly on the label.
Alternatively, you can shop for bronze-cut pasta online. Especially if you buy in bulk (i.e., 10-12 packs) and store the pasta in your pantry, you can find some good deals out there.
Bronze-Cut Pasta Brands: My Top Three Picks
Some time ago, I wrote about the best Italian pasta brands you can find in most grocery stores.
I recommended De Cecco, Barilla, and La Molisana—and I continue to stick to my choice.
These three companies have a long history of pasta making that, for some of them, dates back as far as 100 years ago.
Yes, they’ve grown since then and so have their operations. But keep in mind that commercial pasta-making is no easy feat. Consistently churning out high-quality products in these quantities is always a challenge; these firms tend to know how to tackle it.
So look for their bronze-die products when you shop at Walmart and Target. Or, if you’re the online shopping type like I am, here are three of my best picks at Amazon:
What brands and pasta varieties are your favorites? Let me and the rest of this post’s readers know by leaving a comment under this article.
Yes, you and I are not cooking in a professional kitchen. Nor do we work in a pasta factory. We are simply home cooks.
But it never hurts to know where the food in your frying pan and on your plate came from. And how the small, but important, choices that its producers made in the process will influence its characteristics and quality.
Since I first learned about bronze-cut pasta, I’ve been buying mostly pasta noodles made in bronze-coated dies. Are they better? Yes. Am I biased? Probably.
At least I know I’m getting the highest-quality product made in the most traditional way. Which must count for something.