The artisan pasta top 3 qualities that trump industrial ones
There are many things to be said about why homemade pasta is better than commercial pasta, but here we decided to give you a top 3 of the most important qualities you should look for, as a gourmet passionate for exquisitely good food, when tasting and choosing your pasta suppliers, regardless of their origins (but homemade artisan pasta actually always wins, as you'll see)...
But let's see which are, actually, the differences:
Dry or Dried Pasta making
- The first type is the fresh pasta (pasta fresca), which is made using mainly flour, water, and eggs, plus some salt and eventually flavors (or various additives for the industrial versions) and eventually colorants.
- The second type is the non-fresh pasta, which can be either dry pasta (pasta secca, eggless pasta) from the beginning, made only using flour and water as the main ingredients but also dried pasta, which can start as the fresh pasta followed by a drying process (this usually happens with the artisan pasta).
- Dough mixing
- Dough extrusion into typical pasta shapes
- Drying of pasta
Differences in pasta-making phases for industrial vs homemade versions
The making of artisan pasta takes skills, time, and dedication from the artisan itself, directly related to the pasta. Making homemade pasta is a form of art, ultimately. We showcase a special collection of artisanal pasta by IngiPastaArt on this website ourselves.
Industrial pasta making only takes a well known, trusted, and tried recipe; the workers don't need to know anything about pasta to obtain the same quality all the time, but rather technological knowledge, know-how, and skills related to the production processes and machines.
- The artisan makes the dough by mixing the ingredients manually, carefully adjusting the quantities by the feel of their hands.
- The factory mixes the dough mechanically, in large quantities, with no room for human calibration at all.
A very important factor here is also the type of flour used.
A big mistake would be to use exclusively all-purpose flour instead of the traditional pasta recipe using only durum semolina flour, but commercial pasta makers have found a mix or blend of flours in various proportions in between to be more suitable to the industrial pasta making processes.
The pasta was normally made in Italy using exclusively 100% durum semolina flours (most times ground manually), back in the day.
- Many traditional-oriented artisans nowadays try to source the finest semolina flour from the same old regions where the durum (Triticum Durum) wheat was cultivated for centuries. Durum wheat flour has certain attributes that make it perfect for making pasta.
- Industrial pasta makers currently choose to use mixes of flours which would ensure a certain palette of dough traits that help to speed the next processes in the chain (extrusion and especially drying).
Once the dough has been mixed, the shape is created by extruding the pasta.
What exactly is extrusion? This is the process that takes place when the dough is pushed through a form and then cut to the desired length.
Some Artisan Pasta makers choose to use a hand-cranking machine, others use an electrical one, however, the big secret (and difference) versus the industrial pasta extrusion resides in the dies they are using.
Bronze dies vs. Teflon dies
- Artisans choose to extrude the pasta through the bronze-dies because this way, the pasta shapes will have a slightly rougher edge, which eventually ends up retaining the sauce in the pasta recipe much better.
- Industrial producers have chosen the Teflon-dies for reasons related much rather to financial concerns than quality and end-user satisfaction, or final pasta course's taste.
Next comes the final process:
- During the drying of the previously cut pasta, artisans hang the pasta usually on wooden racks allowing it to dry naturally, just as it was passed through generations of former pasta craftsmen. This process may take sometimes up to two-three days or even four or more...
- By comparison, commercial pasta producers dry the pasta much faster; for instance, the long shapes dry in about seven hours, while the short shapes in three to four hours...
The fast-drying, unfortunately, affects the flavors of the finished dried pasta dramatically.
Basically, pasta, although made from so common things like flour, water, and (sometimes) eggs, is not the simple sum of its ingredients. Pasta is actually a fermented product.
Slow drying allows for slower fermentation, which, just as it does with cheese, bread, vinegar, or just about every other traditional food, results in a much fuller flavor for which these artisan homemade pasta are known.