Here’s why Italian-made pasta tastes so good—and is better for you, too!
When Giada and her family left Rome to move to the U.S., they had to carry Italian ingredients in their suitcases in order to get a true taste of home. American supermarkets at the time didn’t carry the pasta, San Marzano tomatoes, and other foods that made their simplest weeknight dinners taste right. Fast-forward a few decades, and even the humblest grocery store stocks multiple brands of fettuccine, all made right here in the U.S. Even so, when Giada buys her pasta today, she only reaches for the Italian-made stuff.
The reason is simple: it’s all in the flour. Dry pasta is made with only two ingredients, flour and water. In Italy, that flour comes from a kind of wheat called grano duro (“hard wheat”), a completely different species from the wheat used here to make all-purpose flour and bread products. Generally known as semolina or durum wheat, this wheat has been grown in the Mediterranean and Western Asian regions for millennia and fueled the Ancient Roman empire. Today’s Italian farmers haven’t changed much when it comes to growing this time-honored wheat!
High-quality Italian pasta manufacturers take care to process the whole wheat kernels just enough to get a flour that can be turned into a dense, rustic pasta dough—harder to work with than a more finely processed version, but that extra work creates a better final product. For our Giadzy Pasta, made at the base of the Majella mountains in Abruzzo, the factory works directly with local wheat farmers to ensure their flour is organically grown with reverence and care for the land. It’s ground right before it’s needed, so it never has time to turn stale or rancid. And the pasta is slowly air-dried rather than heat-dried, which can degrade its nutritional components. When it’s not over-processed or overcooked, semolina flour is naturally high in protein and fiber, and is a good source of B vitamins, iron, and essential minerals like magnesium, potassium, and phosphorous.
Each of these nutrients brings a different feel-good benefit to the table. Protein and fiber help you feel full longer, while the specific proteins in semolina flour give it a low glycemic index, meaning it’s a rare carbohydrate source that doesn’t spike your blood sugar. Potassium and magnesium support the heart and nervous system, while phosphorous helps your kidneys do their job and keeps teeth and bones strong. Most Americans struggle to get enough of these important minerals in their diets.
Of course, there’s no reason American pasta makers couldn’t follow the exact same methods and make the same great pasta—and some small, dedicated artisans do! But in Italy, the food systems have been built and established over more than a century to support making pasta the traditional way, making it much easier for them to do it right. Here in the U.S., our system supports massive-scale, industrial food processing, which unfortunately makes it much harder for the little guys who want to get it right. Until that changes, we’ll keep relying on Italy to make the perfectly good-for-you pasta of our dreams.