The most Loved Food on our Tables
President: Riccardo FELICETTI - PASTIFICIO FELICETTI S.p.A., Secretary: Luigi Cristiano LAURENZA
A love story about pasta
From daily meals to gourmet recipes, pasta is perhaps the most versatile, loved and familiar food on our tables. Its ancient, millenary history can be traced back to the origins of civilization, when humans abandoned nomadic life and started devoting themselves to agriculture. They started to cultivate wheat, a precious grain that when mixed with water could be smoothed into thin sheets and cooked on hot stone. The first evidence from the classical era dates back to the 4th century BC, also found in the writings of Aristophanes, who mentioned “laganon”, a dough made with water and flour that was stretched and cut into strips. The same recipe also conquered Rome at the time of Cicero, who wrote about “laganum”, sheets of pasta that were the predecessor to today’s tagliatelle. In the late Imperial Period, the recipe didn’t go unnoticed by Apicius, who celebrated the pasta in his “De re coquinaria”, one of the oldest cook books in the world.
Between present and future
Today pasta is a symbolic food of the Mediterranean diet, known and appreciated all over the world thanks to its versatility, which makes it easy to combine with the typical ingredients of all the various national and regional traditions. It is an extremely simple product that manages to combine a set of characteristics like no other food does: nutritional properties, long shelf life, extremely versatile to use, easy to cook, cheap and genuine. In a perfect synthesis between health and taste, pasta represents “good” food par excellence, able to satisfy all palates with its infinite combinations of flavours.
A symbolic dish in any Italian meal, pasta is the trademark of Made in Italy in the world, as its untranslatable name demonstrates: simply “pasta” for everyone. Italians consume 23.5 kg of pasta per person per year, which correspond to a total production of 3,300,000 tonnes for a value of 4,735 million euros, more than half of which is exported (1,935,905 tonnes for a value of 2,160 million euros). An industry with a capital “I” and is a driving force and reference model for the entire Italian production system.
The pasta-making process has changed over the years, but the product has always remained the same: a simple mixture of durum wheat semolina flour and water. While fresh pasta is also made with soft wheat flour, in Italy only durum wheat semolina flour is used for dry pasta. Durum wheat and soft wheat are two varieties of the most popular cereal in the world: wheat. Both are grown in Italy: the first is more widespread in the southern regions, especially in Apulia; the second grows better in Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia Romagna. Italian law establishes that only durum wheat semolina can be used to produce dry pasta. This is because durum wheat semolina is high in gluten, which allows cooked dry pasta to remain intact and “al dente”.
Below, the various stages of the production process for dry pasta.
But how is pasta produced? Its production cycle can be summarised in 7 stages:
The selection of durum wheat semolina is an important and delicate process that influences the quality of the final product. This is why the semolina is selected in full compliance with the highest quality standards, which at the same time take into consideration the physical (specific weight and impurities) and technological (protein, quality of gluten and yellow index) characteristics of the raw material. For making pasta, only the semolina obtained from the wheat middling is used, which has a uniform yellow colour, no bran particles, a high protein content and high-quality gluten.
The wheat is delivered to the mill to be sifted, cleaned of impurities and finally ground in order to obtain the highest quality semolina. During the milling process, the wheat passes through a series of roller mills which gradually break down the wheat kernels, removing the outermost layers and gradually reducing their size. At this point the ground wheat is passed through sifters which separate the bran, middlings and germ. Finally, cylinders are used to regrind the wheat to produce refined flour and obtain the final products: semolina flour and semolina.
3 KNEADING AND GRANULARITY
The durum wheat semolina flour is mixed with pure water in special kneading tanks. Starch and proteins interact in water to establish bonds and form gluten, a protein network that binds hydrated starch grains. The granularity, or the particle size of the ground semolina flour, influences the final properties of the dough. A semolina flour with a coarser particle size (> 450-500 micron) enhances the technological properties of the wheat to the fullest, giving the dough a compact and uniform appearance.
4 WIRE DRAWING
During the wire drawing process, the dough is shaped by die plates. The die plate is a cylindrical or rectangular parallelepiped shaped tool, with inlet and outlet holes, that moulds the dough into the shape of the pasta being produced. Die plates can either be made of bronze or Teflon. Bronze wire-drawn pasta has a rough, porous surface, which is much better for sauce adhesion, but it tends to overcook more easily. Pasta obtained from Teflon drawing, on the other hand, is smoother, shinier, withstands cooking much better and is suitable for different types of sauces.
Drying is the most delicate stage in the entire production cycle. The pasta is left to rest in dryers and ventilated with hot air to reduce the water content and reach the maximum humidity limit of 12.5% required by law. Inside the dryers, the electrically operated ventilation units generate streams of hot air which hit the pasta and dry it. The duration of the drying process varies, depending on the type of pasta being produced.
6 COOLINGAt the end of the drying process, the pasta is cooled in special coolers. This is where the pasta, still warm from the drying process, is brought back to room temperature.
At the end of the production cycle, after having been stored in silos, the pasta is packaged inside cardboard boxes or transparent bags. The packaging stage has the dual function of preserving the product from contamination by external agents and providing it to the consumer with the appropriate information label.