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Fettuccine

Published August 2016

How we tested

Fettuccine is a simple product that’s been made with two ingredients—flour and water—for centuries. When prepared well, these long, wide noodles are greater than the sum of their short ingredient list, showcasing a clean flavor and a hint of springy chew. But which fettuccine should you buy?

Two major companies, Barilla and New World Pasta, control 50 percent of the American market. New World Pasta, which makes Ronzoni, also produces five popular regional pasta brands (Prince, American Beauty, Creamette, San Giorgio, and Skinner); we’ve learned in previous pasta tastings that they use the same formula to make them all. After weeding out the duplicates and smaller brands, we were left with only a handful of nationally available supermarket pastas that differ.

But just how drastic are those differences? To find out, we served fettuccine from four major brands to 21 America’s Test Kitchen staffers. Using the cooking times listed on the packages as a rough guide, we boiled the pastas until al dente and served them tossed with neutral-tasting canola oil and in our recipe for Fettuccine with Butter and Cheese.

Good news: Every product we tried was pleasantly springy with clean, subtly wheaty flavor. Though we know from previous pasta tests that drying time, temperature, and the type of machinery used to roll out the dough can all affect the pasta’s final texture and flavor, we found that the differences were minimal: You’ll get good results from any of the pastas we tested.

Still, as serious pasta nerds, we had some minor preferences. We gravitated toward wider, thicker noodles, which tasters deemed more substantial and chewy. Our favorites were up to 6.9 millimeters wide and 1.9 millimeters thick when cooked, while lower-ranked options were 5.4 millimeters wide and 1.6 millimeters thick.

One product in our lineup, from Ronzoni, was an outlier: Like most fresh (but not dried) fettuccine, it contains eggs (and is clearly labeled as “egg fettuccine”). While our tasters liked this pasta, we preferred the cleaner, less-distracting flavor of those pastas without egg. (We included this pasta because it’s the most widely available fettuccine from Ronzoni.) The Ronzoni fettuccine also comes in only a 12-ounce package—an inconvenience for our recipes, which usually call for a full pound.

Ultimately, Garofalo Fettucce emerged as our new winner. These wide, thick noodles were bouncy and springy, with just the right amount of chew. That said, there wasn’t a bad noodle in the bunch. Our advice when shopping for fettuccine: Choose pastas with shorter ingredient lists, buy what’s cheapest, and take pains to cook it well. We typically boil pasta in plenty of salted water—4 quarts of water per pound of pasta, unless a recipe specifies otherwise—and stir frequently to prevent sticking. The cooking times listed on packages are a good rough guide, but we also make sure to taste the pasta frequently while cooking: A minute can make the difference between pasta that’s perfectly al dente and pasta that’s mush.

Methodology

Twenty-one America’s Test Kitchen staffers sampled four top-selling, nationally available fettuccines cooked al dente and served tossed with canola oil and in our recipe for Fettuccine with Butter and Cheese. Sales data was obtained from IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm. Ingredients and sodium amounts were taken from nutritional labels. Thickness and width were measured using calipers and averaged across four cooked noodles per product to account for variability. Results appear in order of preference.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Skippy Peanut Butter

In a contest that hinged on texture, tasters thought this "smooth, "creamy" sample was "swell" and gave it top honors, both plain and baked into cookies. Its rave reviews even compensated for a slightly "weak" nut flavor that didn't come through as well as that of other brands in the pungent satay sauce.

$2.39 for 16.3-oz. jar (15 cents per oz.)*
Recommended

Jif Natural Peanut Butter Spread

The big favorite in satay sauce, this peanut butter's "dark, roasted flavor"—helped by the addition of molasses—stood out particularly well against the other heady ingredients, and it made cookies with "nice sweet-salty balance." Plus, as the top-rated palm oil-based sample, it was "creamy," "thick," and better emulsified than other "natural" contenders.

$2.29 for 18-oz. jar (13 cents per oz.)*

Reese's Peanut Butter

This is what peanut butter should be like, " declared one happy taster, noting specifically this product's "good," "thick" texture and "powerful peanut flavor." In satay sauce, however, some tasters felt that heavier body made for a "pasty" end result.

$2.59 for 18-oz. jar (14 cents per oz.)*

Skippy Natural Peanut Butter Spread

The only other palm oil-based peanut butter to make the "recommended" cut, this contender had a "looser" texture than its winning sibling but still won fans for being "super-smooth." Tasters thought it made an especially "well-balanced," "complex" peanut sauce.

$2.39 for 15-oz. jar (16 cents per oz.)*
Recommended with Reservations

Peanut Butter & Co. No-Stir Natural Smooth Operator

Though it says "no-stir" on the label, this "stiff" palm-oil enriched peanut butter was "weeping oil" and came across as "greasy" to some tasters. However, it turned out a respectable batch of cookies—"chewy in the center, crisp and short at the edge"—and made "perfectly good" satay sauce.

$4.49 for 18-oz. jar (25 cents per oz.)*

Maranatha Organic No Stir Peanut Butter

On the one hand, this organic peanut butter produced cookies that were "soft and sturdy" yet "moist," with "knockout peanut flavor." On the other hand, eating it straight from the jar was nearly impossible; its "loose," "liquid-y," and "dribbly" consistency had one taster wonder if it was "peanut soup."

$5.69 for 16-oz. jar (36 cents per oz.)*
Not Recommended

Smart Balance All Natural Rich Roast Peanut Butter

Besides being unpalatably "tacky" and "sludgy," this "natural" peanut butter suffered from an awful "fishy" flavor with a "weird acidic aftertaste" that tasters noted in all three applications. Our best guess as to the culprit? The inclusion of flax seed oil, an unsaturated fat that's highly susceptible to rancidity.

$3.59 for 16-oz. jar (22 cents per oz.)*

Smucker's Natural Peanut Butter

With its only additive a negligible amount of salt, the only truly natural peanut butter in the lineup elicited comments ranging from mild dissatisfaction ("needs enhancement with salt and sugar") to outright disgust ("slithery," "chalky," "inedible"). Cookies were "dry and crumbly" with a "hockey puck" texture, and the satay sauce was "stiff," "gritty," and "gloopy."

$2.69 for 16-oz. jar (17 cents per oz.)*