Hello friends. As my grandmother Maria used to say, “ogni promessa č debito”: a promise is a promise. After writing the first part of my treatise on Italian pasta
, here I am with the second one: the ingredients of Italian pasta. I’ll try to keep it short and simple (but I’ll fail
And, not, pasta doesn’t grow on trees, as the supposed first April Fool by BBC pointed out
If you want to keep it super simple, you can just get this basic information: Italian pasta alimentare must be made only with durum or soft wheat semola, water and, for some products, eggs. Except for some special cases...
The ingredients of Italian pasta
As I said in the first part, the Italian word comes from Latin “pasta” which meant “flour mixed with water and salt”. In Italy pasta is a generic term, but in this post I’m talking about “pasta alimentare” (pasta intended to be used as a food) and the making of pasta alimentare in Italy is ruled by precise guidelines (DECRETO DEL PRESIDENTE DELLA REPUBBLICA 9 febbraio 2001, n. 187).
According to our law, in Italy you can basically make and sell three kinds of pasta alimentare:
– Pasta secca
– Pasta fresca
– Pasta all’uovo
Some info: Italy is by far the main producer of pasta and Italians are the greatest devourers of the thing around the globe (each one of us black-haired mandolino players gobbles up around 60 pounds a year of the delicious stuff). A precise production technique must be followed to make pasta, which I will spare you for the sake of simplicity (anyway, who cares? Let the Carabinieri check those pasta-producing folks…).
But let’s get back to the basics: what are the ingredients? As I said they are basically wheat
and, in some cases, eggs
(maximum moisture allowed: 12,5%) must be produced only with:
– Durum wheat semola, produced from Triticum durum wheat
– A negligible percentage of soft wheat semola (less then 3%), produced from Triticum aestivum wheat
(minimum moisture required: 24%) must be produced only with:
– Durum wheat semola
– Soft wheat semola may be used
must be produced only with:
– Durum wheat semola
– Whole chicken eggs (or a product derived from whole chicken eggs, known as “ovoprodotto liquido”): the required proportion is 200 g egg for 1 kg of semola
Not only durum wheat…
It is possible to produce pasta with different cereals, but the label must clearly show it. A typical example is pasta for gluten-free diets, made with rice, maize (corn) or other cereals.
Another case is “pasta speciale”, special pasta. This kind of pasta is made adding other ingredients to the mix, like green vegetable (spinach, basil, parsley) to produce green pasta, red vegetable (tomato, red beet) for red pasta, cuttlefish ink for black pasta and so on.
Talking about gnocchi, they are not strictly considered pasta: the main variety of gnocchi currently made in Italy in fact contains potatoes (not all of them; for example, gnocchi alla romana are baked semolina disks, but this is another story…).
Warning: according to Italian law, pasta for the foreign market can be prepared with ingredients and techniques different from those required for the Italian market, provided that the product complies with local laws and it’s healthy for human consumption. I must admit my ignorance on this point: I don’t know if Italian pasta makers sell different lines of products for domestic and foreign markets.
Obviously, stuffed pasta needs stuffing ingredients other then wheat, water and eggs. The variety of stuffing makes it impossible to propose you a proper list. We have dozens of different stuffing around the nation, used to prepare many different shapes of pasta ripiena: from agnolotti to tortelloni, from ravioli to cappelletti, from casoncelli to pansoti. Maybe I’ll cover this subject in another part of this series of posts.
As you can see, Italian pasta is a very simple product and simplicity is one of the pillars of Italian cuisine. Being so simple, pasta is highly versatile and can be mixed with quite everything that grows, runs, grazes, flies or swims to produce an endless variety of beautiful recipes. You can find some of these recipes in the “Pasta, Rice, Beans, Grains...
” section of this wonderful forum.
Buon appetito and arrivederci to the next issue!
As always, please let me know if you would like me to cover some specific subject. I’ll try to serve you the best I can.