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Old 04-25-2012, 07:30 AM   #1
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Luca’s lengthy treatise on Italian pasta – Part II

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 (dry pasta)
Pasta fresca (fresh pasta)
Pasta all’uovo (egg pasta)

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, water and, in some cases, eggs.

Pasta secca (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
– Water

Pasta fresca (minimum moisture required: 24%) must be produced only with:
– Durum wheat semola
– Soft wheat semola may be used
– Water

Pasta all’uovo 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.

Stuffed pasta
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.

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Old 04-25-2012, 08:36 AM   #2
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Why do the Carabinieri always travel in pairs?
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Old 04-25-2012, 10:25 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by justplainbill View Post
Why do the Carabinieri always travel in pairs?
Because one can read, the other can write...
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Old 04-25-2012, 10:41 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Luca Lazzari View Post
Because one can read, the other can write...
Must be true, I heard the same thing 45 years ago; but they used to carry bigger guns than the civilian police.
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Old 04-25-2012, 10:48 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Luca Lazzari View Post
...must be made only with durum or soft wheat semola, water and, for some products, eggs...what are the ingredients? As I said they are basically wheat, water and, in some cases, eggs...

For which products or in which cases are eggs used?
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Old 04-25-2012, 10:55 AM   #6
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Buonasera Luca,

Como stai ? I am writing this note to let you know that I have read your informative post on my favorite country´s Pasta Varieties. Enjoyed and thanks for posting.

Grazie,
Kind regards.
Margi Cintrano.
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Old 04-25-2012, 11:03 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy M. View Post
For which products or in which cases are eggs used?
Andy M., according to the law, eggs can be used only to produce pasta which is labeled "pasta all'uovo" (uovo means egg in Italian).
Practically, tagliatelle, tagliolini, lasagne and pappardelle are some types of pasta all'uovo (even if you can find variations of these shapes which are made without eggs). Pasta all'uovo is traditionally more common in central and northern Italy then in the south, while the south is the homeground of durum wheat pasta, like spaghetti, rigatoni, bucatini etc.
Basically, law was introduced to rule a well-established tradition and to ensure high and consistent quality levels in the production, packaging, storage and delivery phases, without limiting the diversity of the wide range of pre-existing pasta types around the nation.
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Old 04-25-2012, 11:24 AM   #8
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Thanks, Luca. our two-part treatise is very informative.
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Old 04-25-2012, 05:09 PM   #9
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Thank you for the interesting and informative post.
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Old 04-25-2012, 05:39 PM   #10
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Good stuff, Luca! Thanks!
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