“GO BUY ME A KILO PASTA, WILL YOU?????”
This Italy here is a crazy country and always will be, but important priorities are respected. A good bowl of pasta is hardly ever refused. So easy, so good, so comforting. It’s in our genes, in our blood, it’s the mother of foods. Pasta comes first, not for nothing we call it primo.
Eating store-bought dried pasta is so fundamental to Italian life that we have gotten organized. And I don’t mean grandma rolling fettuccine for the kids, I mean industrial amounts.
In Gragnano, South of Naples, artisan pasta makers have been producing high quality pasta for as long as 500 years. Until relatively recent times the whole town was decorated with kilometers of noodles hanging to dry outside the pasta workshops. In the late XIX century the town was even granted the right to open a train station to be able to “export” their product to Northern Italy.
From then on, industrially produced pasta became the cheap and convenient food that by now appears on the tables of a large portion of the world’s population.
If you look for good dried pasta make sure that what you buy is made with 100% durum wheat semolina, not with tender wheat flour which is used for bread, fresh pasta and general cooking.
To make the pasta, semolina is first mixed in a dough and then extruded through a die -named trafila in Italian - to obtain the desired shape. Dies are made of teflon or bronze. Standard pasta is teflon drawn, it’s quite smooth and yellow. High quality pasta is bronze drawn – trafilata al bronzo – and has a lovely powdery surface like that one in the picture above.
The bronze extruder makes the surface of the pasta more porous so that the sauces clings to the uneven surface of it rather than slipping away.
Bronze drawn pasta is widely available in Italy. However, there is one brand, which in our house has been nicknamed the “antimafia”, that sums up all goodness of flavor and thinking.
The Libera organization produces organic bronze-drawn pasta using wheat that is cultivated on estates confiscated from the mafia lords. Volunteer work by young people who believes in future.
So next time you come on holidays you know one more thing about this country.
We have some really good pasta. Sometimes we have some real courage.