Nowadays Food Universe is wider and more confusing than ever.
To read and fully understand the label of a product, not only you might need a magnifying glass but also a certain familiarity in numbers and data.
How to get out of it?
As producers, we could give our contribution to the process, showing in a simple and immediate way the path behind our product: the supply chain.
In addition to that - in the universe of dry pasta – there are some easy features that can help the consumer to immediately understand if a product is an high quality one or not.
So let's start listing them one by one.
A good Pasta must have a light color, close to ivory.
Simply because that’s the color of the semolina (durum wheat ground).
When you run into a pasta which got a burnished or orange color it means that has experienced a violent and artificial drying process (i.e. at high temperature).
The starches contained were literally burned, passing from their light color to a caramel one.
The result will be a Pasta with a sweet taste and a bitter aftertaste, typical results of the caramelization of sugars.
A good pasta must have a rough and dull surface.
The texture of the pasta is given by the extrusion technique.
A bronze drawn pasta will have a rough and porous surface because drawing it with metal caused a friction.
The friction between the surface of the bronze and the dough generates the classic abrasive effect typical of bronze-drawn Pasta.
Opposite to that, a Teflon drawn pasta - which is a self-lubricating plastic material - will have a smooth, almost “plasticky” surface, given precisely by the total absence of friction.
A good pasta havent’t got signs of “bottature” and slight red spots, nor white or black tips.
“Bottature”- a traditional term that indicates micro breaks inside the pasta texture, visible to the naked eye against the light- are defects deriving from an evident drying problem.
Normally the gluten mesh, generated from mixing wheat proteins and water during the making of the dough, needs a certain amount of time to get stable. If the drying time of the pasta is too fast or undergo excessive changes in temperature, then the gluten mesh might show breaks.
At the moment of cooking it, those flaws becomes even more evident: you can notice them when the pasta flakes or breaks into the water.
The black or red or white points, on the other side, indicates a not-pure semolina.
Does a pasta have a good smell?
A good pasta yes, of course!
If it has been produced in the proper wat, a good pasta retains the typical smell of wheat.
A smell very similar to the bread crust or fermenting yeast. Slightly acidic but always fragrant.
If the pasta lacks of these smells, it means that everything "alive" and natural contained in it has been destroyed.
And that’s certainly not good!
5: Starch release
A good Pasta must have a controlled and controllable starch release during cooking time!
What does it mean?
A glossy or sticky effect is never pleasant.
So why do certain "artisanal" pasta release so much starch? (Please note: The term artisanal is incorrect, in this case it only serves to help the reader understand the topic of discussion)
Releasing too much starch is also a defect: it’s the proof that in the process of making the pasta has been used a poor quality wheat protein.
As we said before: the gluten mesh created during the mixing of water and semolina has the task of maintaining the structure of the pasta but also of balancing its components, including starch.
If the gluten mesh is fit and well structured, starch release will be controlled.
During cooking times for instance, with greater stimulation (eg: during creaming or “risottatura” way - to reach a creamy consistency) there will be a greater release of starch
but without stimulation a good pasta will remain perfectly shiny and never glossy!
6.:Al dente or not al dente
Never take for granted the cooking time!
A good pasta does not necessarily has to be cooked for a long time, quite the contrary!
Cooking times generally depend on the size and thickness of the pasta.
Sometimes the thickness has been decided by the producer’s taste and will, other times it becomes necessary in order to maintain the structure of the pasta shape.
Thicker pasta is produced to gain more resistance, sometimes even because the raw materials are not excellent.
If a Pasta is made of high quality grains instead , there will be no need to make it too thick.
It will be the wheat protein that will keep it "in good shape”
Once you will cook a good Pasta you will also be amazed from the result:
A good pasta is able to "go back in time”: thanks to the strength and the elasticity of its gluten mesh, once the hydration in boiling water is over, pasta will shrink again and then regroup itself.