How we tested
Elbow macaroni is much more popular in the United States than it is in Italy, where it’s known variously as chifferi or gomiti. This pasta has become a staple in such distinctly American recipes as macaroni salad and macaroni and cheese. But with so many brands of elbow macaroni on the market, which one should you buy? Are they all the same? To find out, we rounded up eight contenders and tasted them simply dressed with vegetable oil and in our recipe for classic macaroni and cheese. What did we discover?
An Italian brand that makes pasta for the American market domestically (notably, it doesn’t make elbow macaroni for the Italian market) won our tasting by a large margin. Our tasters praised this pasta for its “wheaty,” “buttery” flavor and “firm texture,” and they especially liked that these elbows have small ridges and a slight twist that “holds sauce well.” After this candidate, our tasters didn’t notice much difference among the next five brands, all of which were deemed acceptable.
We did, however, throw our tasters two curveballs by including two new products in our blind tasting. The tasters actually preferred (albeit only slightly) the product that was simply traditional pasta enriched with extra fiber and calcium. The other—a multigrain pasta made with wheat, lentil, chickpea, barley, and flaxseed (among other) flours—had a dark appearance and “health food” flavor that were real turn-offs.