Why is Artisan Pasta preferable to Industrial, Commercial Pasta

The artisan versus the industrial process of making pasta

There are two main types of pasta, per the ingredients used and texture/finish. 

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 seccaeggless 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).

Generally, the making of pasta consists of three main chain-linked processes: 

  1. Dough mixing 
  2. Dough extrusion into typical pasta shapes 
  3. 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. We showcase a special collection of artisanal pasta by IngiPastaArt on this website ourselves.

The making of industrial pasta 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 Dough

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.

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 flours from the same old regions where the durum wheat was cultivated for centuries. 
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.

The Extrusion

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. 

While the process of machine-extrusion through bronze dies dates to the late 19th century, most industrial producers have long switched to the much longer-lasting Teflon dies. 

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: 

Drying Pasta

Artisan Pasta drying on traditional wooden rackDuring 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, artisanal food, results in a much fuller flavor. 

You can read more about pasta processing on Wikipedia

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