More than a year after the release of the new Barilla Bronze Die Cut pasta on the market, it’s only fair to ask about the real differences between the old and classic blue Barilla pasta box and the new line in the red package. More importantly, how have we Italians received this new line of Barilla al Bronzo pasta?
Since Barilla is the world’s leading pasta manufacturer and distributor (also number one in Italy, as you can see from this ranking), the attention and curiosity towards this new line in red packaging have been very high.
I can tell you right away that here in Italy, Barilla al Bronzo pasta has been well received and is currently highly appreciated.
According to the test conducted by Altroconsumo (a notable consumer association in Italy), published in January 2023 and conducted on more than 20 brands of spaghetti, Barilla al Bronzo Spaghetti are the best on the Italian market.
In the test, expert chefs evaluated several parameters of the 22 different brands of spaghetti in a blind test, including the raw appearance (color and tactile consistency), checking the correctness of the cooking times indicated on the label, and finally the overall evaluation of the cooked product (consistency, stickiness, absorption of the sauce, and flavor).
Speaking of spaghetti, they are always the most beloved pasta shape among Italians. To see the top ten favorite pasta shapes here in Italy, follow the link.
In the taste test, Barilla al Bronzo Spaghetti received a maximum rating of 5 stars for its pleasant taste, excellent cooking resistance, and capacity to retain sauces well.
At the end of this article, you will find the table with the complete ranking.
Obviously, as a voracious pasta eater, I also conducted my personal test. I bought, cooked, and ate various formats of Barilla Bronze-Cut pasta (someone had to do it…), both short and long pasta, to understand the real difference with the classic blue Barilla pasta box, still on sale on the shelves. Here is my verdict:
To taste, Barilla al Bronzo pasta is very good. If cooked al dente, it retains a pleasant consistency and the porous surface discreetly retains the sauce. This porosity is evident even before cooking it; the straw-yellow color suggests a slow and high-quality drying process. These two characteristics of texture and color already highlight the care in the production of this pasta.
If you’re curious to know how to spot quality pasta just by looking at it, then read the link, I’ve explained everything.
But if this new red line is better, why does Barilla continue to sell both the classic pasta in the blue package and the new one in the red “bronze-cut” package?
The reason is that these are two distinct pasta products that differentiate themselves in the market with their unique features. Let’s see what the differences are.
Differences between Barilla al Bronzo and Classic Blue Box
Barilla Classic Pasta in blue packaging and Barilla Bronze-Cut pasta are two different product lines because they differ in the pasta processing; the latter is in fact bronze die-cut, probably the quality of the wheat used is also different (although Barilla does not specify a clear difference) and finally, the weight of the packages. The al Bronzo line is sold in 14.1 oz packages (7 servings, 400 grams) instead of the usual 16 oz (8 servings, 500 grams).
Let’s look at all the differences in detail:
Barilla al Bronzo VS Classic Blue Box: Bronze and Teflon extrusion
Looking at the new packages of Barilla bronze-cut pasta, in addition to the red color, the second thing you notice is the big inscription “Al Bronzo” which quite overtly suggests the system with which this pasta is extruded.
The extrusion process consists of passing the dough made up of durum wheat semolina and water, by compression (extrusion), through the die to bring it out in the various pasta formats to be produced.
Since Barilla itself tells us that its new line in red boxes is produced with bronze dies, we suppose that the classic blue pasta packages contain pasta extruded with teflon dies.
The pasta that is produced through bronze extrusion has a rougher appearance compared to that obtained with teflon, which allows it to be more porous and maintain the nutritional qualities of the final product intact.
Thanks to the bronze extrusion, the drying, which greatly affects the quality of the pasta, occurs at very low temperatures for very long times. This ensures that all the minerals and vitamins present are kept within the pasta, in addition to characterizing it with a flavor far superior to other pasta.
The process with machinery with teflon dies is certainly faster and less costly (very suitable for highly industrial productions) and does not require high-quality flours, unlike bronze-cut pasta. The final product obtained with teflon has an intense yellow color, but above all, it is smooth.
The difference between pasta extruded through bronze and that through teflon can be tasted and even seen, and this is the reason why bronze-extruded pasta is preferred by most people here in Italy.
Barilla al Bronzo VS Classic Blue Box: Origin of the Wheat Used
Even though Barilla does not officially describe exactly the blend of wheat used for the two lines, Barilla Classic Blue Box and Al Bronzo, it seems that there is indeed a difference.
But to address the issue of “quality of wheat used in Barilla al Bronzo,” an important distinction must be made between Barilla pasta produced and sold in Italy and Barilla pasta produced and sold in the USA or the rest of the world.
Barilla Pasta Produced in Italy: Origin of the Wheat
Barilla is a multinational company, and it is obvious that its production is spread across various parts of the globe, and consequently, the sourcing of the wheat used for pasta production will be quite different. But there is an exception, and Barilla itself states it:
“Barilla Pasta that is sold in the United States is made in our plants in Ames, IA and Avon, NY, with a few exceptions. Barilla products made in Italy state ‘Made in Italy’ or ‘Product of Italy’ on the packaging. We also have product that is made in Canada. Barilla opened the Ames plant in 1998 and our Avon plant in 2007. The Barilla family was very concerned about maintaining Barilla’s high quality standards in the new plants. Consequently, the machines used in our Ames and Avon plants are the same as used in our plant in Parma, Italy. The recipe is the same as the one used in Parma, Italy. Barilla selects its wheat from the best wheat available.”Source
According to this statement, Barilla pasta produced worldwide undergoes the same processing and technologies found in the Italian facilities in Parma, the heart of the multinational. But if you read the last sentence about the wheat, we only know that “Barilla selects its wheat from the best wheat available” a bit vague, right?
We know nothing specific about the wheat used by Barilla to produce pasta, but reading this other statement, there is a clarification, at least regarding Barilla pasta sold in Italy:
“In 2019, this journey allowed us to sign a memorandum with the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, in which the Group committed to further increase its purchasing of Italian durum, and to achieve an extraordinary result: for the classic pasta formats destined to the Italian market, we use 100% Italian wheats, selected among the best varieties and characterized by elevated protein content, high gluten quality, golden yellow color, and low ash content.”Source
Here we discover that Barilla pasta sold in Italy is made with Italian wheat, selected from the best qualities of wheats. We actually find this information on pasta boxes, but is there a difference between the 100% Italian wheat used for classic Barilla pasta in the blue box, compared to the 100% Italian wheat used in the new Barilla al Bronzo in the red box? I think so!
Looking at the information found on the respective boxes, the descriptions that detail the wheat used are slightly but significantly different, and when talking about a multinational like Barilla and things written on packaging, nothing is left to chance.
- Label on the Barilla al Bronzo packaging reads: Fine Wheat 100% Grown in Italy.
- Label on the Barilla Classic Blue Box packaging reads: Selected Wheat 100% Italian.
The difference is practically all in one word: “fine” versus “selected“. I’m not a wheat expert, but I believe this small difference subtly emphasizes an obvious fact; for the Barilla al Bronzo line, select and superior blends of wheat have been used compared to the blends of wheat used for the classic Barilla line in the blue box.
Barilla Pasta Produced in the USA: Origin of the Wheat
The situation regarding Barilla pasta that can be purchased in the USA is different. On the packages, we no longer find the above descriptions informing us of the Italian origin of the wheat, simply because it would not be possible for Barilla to meet the global demand for pasta by only feeding their factories with Italian wheat.
Instead, we read “Made with high quality non-GMO durum wheat” and on the front of the package in one corner, we read “Proudly made in the U.S.A., with U.S.A. and imported ingredients”, while on the back “Made in the USA with USA and imported ingredients”.
Understandably, there is no trace of Italian wheat, especially as it’s worth remembering that Barilla is an international group headquartered in Parma, Italy, but owning 29 production districts (including one or more production sites), 15 in Italy and 14 abroad, exporting products to over 100 countries.
It is typical for Barilla to source wheat from various regions across the globe. Most come from Italy, while a good part also comes from other European countries such as France, Greece, Bulgaria, Spain, and other parts of the world, primarily Canada, USA, Australia, and Mexico.
That being said, exactly like the Italian Bronze-Cut Barilla, it is easy to think that the wheat used for the American Barilla al Bronzo might be of higher quality than the wheat used for the American Barilla Classic Blue Box.
Given the difference in the origin of the wheat between the Barilla pasta produced in the USA and that produced in Italy, can we say that one is better than the other? I have no idea since I have always only eaten Barilla pasta bought in Italy, for now.
Barilla Bronze-Cut VS Classic Blue Box: Quantity of pasta in the box
Looking at a box of Barilla al Bronzo next to a Barilla Classic Blue Box of the same type of pasta, the difference in grams that these two boxes contain immediately catches the eye.
The al Bronzo box is marketed in 14.1 oz packages (7 servings, 400 grams) of pasta, whereas the Barilla Classic Blue Box has always been sold in 16 oz packages (8 x servings, 500 grams).
Could this be a case of shrinkflation? Actually, no… As this is precisely a novelty and not a “shrinking” of a product already on the market.
Barilla, like all other pasta brands or other products, is indeed free to launch novelties in packages or at the weight it deems most appropriate. It is always up to the consumer, evaluating the price per weight, to choose whether or not to purchase a particular product.
This does not mean that, since we somewhat take for granted that pasta is sold in 16 oz / 500 grams packages, one might be surprised to find that in this case, it is only 14.1 oz / 400 grams.
Here is Barilla’s official response:
“In the interest of consumers, we have expanded the offering: the red 14.1 oz / 400-gram box indeed joins the classic traditional blue 16 oz / 500-gram box, but only in the Bronze-Cut formats because they are more “full-bodied and enveloping,” with a thicker and more robust texture, and therefore 80 grams per serving are suggested. The red format was created for this reason at 400 grams; the blue one, the classic Barilla pasta, remains at 500 grams and has not undergone any variation.”Source
Barilla al Bronzo VS Classic Blue Box: Prices
For completeness of comparison, I also report the respective prices, both in Italy and in the USA for the Spaghetti format as a classic example:
- Price of Barilla al Bronzo Spaghetti in the USA (14.1 Oz / 400 grams): $2.99
- Price of Classic Blue Box Spaghetti in the USA (16 Oz / 500 grams): $1.76
- Price of Barilla al Bronzo Spaghetti in Italy (14.1 Oz / 400 grams): €1.49
- Price of Classic Blue Box Spaghetti in Italy (16 Oz / 500 grams): €1.25
Ranking of the best Spaghetti on the Italian market
|1||Barilla Spaghetti al Bronzo||Best overall, regardless of price||79|
|2||Italiamo (Lidl) Spaghetti di Gragnano IGP||78|
|3||Armando lo Spaghetto||77|
|4||La Molisana Spaghetti 15||77|
|5||Granoro Dedicato Spaghetti n.180||75|
|6||De Cecco Spaghetti n.2||74|
|7||Pastificio Liguori Pasta di Gragnano IGP||74|
|8||La Marca del Consumatore Spaghetti||73|
|9||Pasta Reggia Spaghetti 19||Best Buy||73|
|10||Alce Nero Spaghettoni Cappelli Biologico||72|
|11||Agnesi Spaghetti n3||72|
|12||Selex Spaghetti n.4||72|
|13||Garofalo Spaghetti n.2||71|
|14||Voiello Lo Spaghetto n.104||70|
|15||Barilla Spaghetti n5||70|
|16||Tre Mulini Eurospin Spaghetti||68|
|17||Cellino Spaghetti||Best Buy||68|
|18||Rummo Spaghetti n.3||62|
|19||Divella Spaghetti Ristorante 8||59|
|20||Conad Spaghetti n.5||58|
|21||Le Stagioni d’Italia Spaghetti Senatore Cappelli||54|
|22||Carrefour Classic Spaghetti n.5||50|