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Which are the differences from commercial and artisanal pasta, the discovery of quality

Now I want to talk about one of the most iconic Italian foods in the world: pasta.

The story of pasta in Italy starts from Magna Graecia and Etruria to continue with romans and the other ages. There is an ancient relationship between pasta and the area that now we call Italy.

After more than 2 millenniums of history, we can enjoy of many kinds of pasta: with or without eggs, fresh or dry, wholewheat, with spinach, tomato, ink squid, truffles, pumpkins and many other mix but, in this video, I want to give some information about the most common one, the common pasta you find on shelves at the supermarket or in a deli and that you can keep in your cupboard for long time, the classic dry pasta.

Pasta is a very easy product: it is done with flour and water.

The classic pasta is done with durum wheat flour.

This kind of wheat is perfect for pasta because it normally has a good quantity of gluten and proteins, 2 important elements to have a great result but also nutritionally important for a balanced diet.

In the market there are many prices of pasta, from some cents per kg to many euros/dollars/pounds.

The difference could be very high,

How you can image, the quality of pasta starts from the quality of wheat before and flour then.

To understand why there are different prices of pasta, we must know that there are more than 100 varieties of durum wheat and each one has different peculiarities.

The pasta can be done with a blend or with only a variety of wheat. Each wheat can be cultivated to support more quality or quantity.

For example, one of the most famous varieties for quality in Italy is Senatore Cappelli, an old wheat variety with very interesting peculiarities in terms of proteins, gluten and flavour but I will talk about it in another video.

When we have the raw material, the other important differences are on the processes of wiredrawing and drying.

The wiredrawing is the process to create the shape. Traditionally it is done with a bronze die-plate to give the porousness and roughness at the pasta, very important features to absorb the sauces and have an amazing homogenous final result in your plate.

Why bronze and not another material? The bronze is resistant, and its texture creates the roughness of pasta, but the friction increases the temperature, and the speed of production cannot be too fast.

This process can stress the dough and it is not well supported with a low-quality wheat.

The bronze die process can conflict with the industrial production where they use Teflon dies.

Teflon has a smooth surface and also the surface of pasta will have the same feature.

With Teflon the production can be very fast, the dough is not stressed, and every quality of flour can be used.

After the shape, the last important part of process is the drying. This process can change completely the structure of pasta, also on the nutritional side.

The drying can be done with low, high and very high temperatures.

The low temperature drying is called LTLT process, Low Temperature Low Time, it simulates the natural aeration but with a better control of all parameters. It needs many hours to be completed, from 20 to 6 days and the temperature used is maximum 50˚ Celsius (122˚F) but it is normally done with a lower temperature, about 35-45˚ Celsius.

When we talk about high and very high temperature, we are talking about industrial productions. The different temperature changes completely the timing and also the final quality. The company that wants a commercial pasta but with a better quality, it uses a High Temperature process (HT): this process is completed in about 7-10 hours with a temperature of maximum 75˚ Celsius (167˚f).

The companies that want only high quantities use the Ultra-High Temperature treatment (UHT), it is closed in maximum 5 hours and the temperature is over 80˚C (176˚F), it can arrive at 120˚C (248˚F).

Especially with the ultra-high temperature the internal structure of pasta is completely “crystallized”, but the production can be double than a high temperature process.

In the industrial process with a high or ultra-high temperature, the dough is literally cooked. The internal structure of the proteins and gluten is modified and there is a sort of crystallization.

The high temperature helps to build homogenous structure of proteins and gluten, the differences of flours are fused together to create the standard the company wants.

Part of nutrients are destroyed as vitamins but also proteins.

Some studies found that also the digestion is altered, and it looks more difficult, nothing dangerous obviously but it’s a fact.

Commercially the industrial pasta can be faster to cook for the customer and can resist more time at the overcooking because the internal structure is more resistant.

The final colour of pasta is an indicator of the process used. It can very different. With the high temperature the colour is a clear and bright yellow, with a sort of transparency. The low temperature keeps the natural colour of dough, the difference is clear.

When you eat the pasta also the sensation in the mouth is different, the structure from a high temperature process is more layered and, a not politically correct person, could tell you it seems like plastic.

Now we have enough information to choose the right product, in line with our expectation.

If you love pasta and you have never tried before a high-quality product, this is the moment to look for it. Remember that pasta is rich of proteins, vitamins B, Potassium and complex carbohydrates with a slow release, it can be perfect to do sport, but it is always a good food for everyone…

To storage the pasta, do not forget to close properly the pack in your cupboard: as every product with cereals, pasta can attract bugs and butterflies, nothing dangerous but probably they are an upgrade of proteins not requested.

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Enjoy your pasta!

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