Pasta is an ancient food typical of the Mediterranean diet. Seasoned with vegetables, legumes, cheese, eggs, fish or meat, it is a versatile, healthy and balanced single dish. It provides all the nutrients we need, with a balanced intake of fats and proteins and with an estimated 40% calorie savings.
The real Italian pasta
The whole world knows and appreciates pasta, a symbol of Italian cuisine and one of the leading products of the Mediterranean diet, known and appreciated for its nutritional balance. But how do you recognize real Italian pasta? How do you choose authentic pasta?
There are 4 types of pasta: fresh, egg, filled and dry. Dry pasta accounts for 80% of Italian production. So the word pasta is what Italians use to commonly refer to dry pasta. To indicate the other types they add the word fresca (fresh), all’uovo (egg) and ripiena (stuffed).
The types of dry pasta
Spaghetti, linguine, rigatoni, macaroni, farfalle, penne… Dry pasta comes in many forms, to be chosen according to the sauce you want to use. In fact, each form is better suited to retain a certain type of sauce.
Until the end of the fifteenth century the shapes of long pasta and short pasta were all called “maccheroni”. Later, the word identified only the long one, often shaped as a tube. The other types of pasta were given different names, mostly based on the shape it resembles, e.g. farfalle (butterflies) or penne (the nib of a fountain pen).
Pasta is a simple and popular dish consisting essentially of 2 ingredients: durum wheat semolina and water.
It all therefore revolves around the authenticity and quality of these two ingredients and their processing. Only by following strict rules imposed by the experience handed down through Italian tradition is it possible to obtain the real pasta, the good one.
Authentic Italian pasta has unique characteristics. Firstly, it is to be produced only with durum wheat semolina. In Italy the law requires it: dry pasta must be made using only durum wheat (in pasta destined for foreign markets, common wheat can also be used). Why? First of all because durum wheat contains more proteins, gluten, more antioxidant carotenoids, and has a lower glycemic index. It also has a greater ability to retain starch and ensure perfect cooking. In fact, durum wheat cooks much more slowly than common wheat.
The stages of processing traditional Italian pasta
The extruding process allows you to roll out the dough and then shape it into the chosen shape. Many of the qualities of the pasta depend on the extrusion process. There are 2 types of extrusions: the traditional bronze and the more modern Teflon. In both types, the external casing of the dies is always in bronze, while inside there is an insert either in Teflon or in bronze.
Teflon extrusion: With Teflon the processing times are faster and therefore we can produce more quantities of pasta in the same time frame. The Teflon drawn pasta is smoother and more yellow and is always perfect in shape, because Teflon eliminates any defect and imperfection.
The bronze drawing: It is that of tradition and requires slower times. It is the pride of the best Italian pasta factories. An artisanal technique that gives the pasta a coarse and opaque consistency, covered with a veil of starch: perfect for holding sauces.
Once shaped, pasta was dried in the sun. So the slower the drying process and at lower temperatures, the more the pasta keeps its traditional qualities.
In real Italian pasta, in fact, the addition of aromas is prohibited. So the more the pasta dries slowly and at low temperatures, the more the original aroma and flavor of the dough remains.
Teflon allows the use of higher temperatures, over 90 degrees, and a drying time of about one and a half hours.
Bronze instead requires a drying time of many hours, during which the pasta passes through different climate zones at a temperature between 76 and 60 degrees.
The many years of experience of the Italian Pasta Masters guarantees perfect shapes, without any imperfections, even for bronze-extruded pasta, slowly dried at low temperatures.
Holding its firmness
As they say in Italian, good pasta holds its cooking. It is characteristic of high quality durum wheat. If many white or black dots appear when cooking, it signifies the presence of soft wheat flour or bad drying. Striped pasta shapes hold the sauce better than smooth pasta, but are more prone to overcooking in the thinner lines, therefore decreasing the cooking time.
Cooking: The boiling water must be plenty, very abundant. This is one of the secrets of the Italian tradition. In fact, Italians will always use a large pot, even if there are only two people eating. Salt must be added when it starts boiling, never before. If we want to reduce the absorption of salt we can delay its addition to halfway through the cooking, but no later.
Al dente is better to digest: With the expression "al dente" in Italian we mean when the pasta is cooked to perfection, that is, drained when it is tender on the outside and still slightly hard on the inside. At this point the pasta has the best taste. But there is more: science tells us that al dente pasta is easier to digest because it extends the work of salivary enzymes and therefore slows down the absorption of carbohydrates, providing a lower risk of rapid rise in blood glucose.