In the recent months, I have become more curious about the food that I consume and will make the effort to understand it’s source and handling process better. The result: being more cautious of my food choices and ensuring that it provides adequate nutrition and vitamins which my body needs. Thus, as I started to delve into the world of pasta, I was questioning the quality of the ingredients used because they have been packaged and made available immediately in supermarkets. Lo and behold, the ingredient which I felt could improve the taste of my pasta was actually the pasta noodle! So lots of research has been done and the whole starting point would have to be wheat.
Now, why wheat?
Well, simply for the fact that wheat is grounded into flour so that it can be used to produce food such as bread and noodles.
In Italian food culture, pasta noodles have been traditionally made from durum wheat. Durum is a hard wheat with high protein properties. Hence, when milled to either durum flour / semolina flour and mixed with water, the protein will form a strong network called gluten. The gluten network formed will be both elastic and plastic. Elastic because when the dough is stretched, it will pull back to it’s original shape. Plastic because the dough is able to maintain the pasta structure after it had been molded.
So then, how does this affect the taste of pasta noodles?
It all boils down to the way which wheat is being milled. Wheat contains 3 main parts: Endosperm, Bran and Grain. However, as commercial millers now use steel roller mills to process the wheat, the bran and grain are removed effectively and the endosperm is further grounded into flour. The grain is removed because it’s high oil content will cause the flour to spoil more quickly, thereby decreasing it’s shelf life.
However, the Bran and Grain contains the most flavour and nutrition in the wheat! Now, that may be the reason why all commercial dried pasta taste the same but their texture differs due to the difference in flour composition for each brand. That’s just my deduction (:
Now when I realized this point, I was flabbergasted because we have effectively swapped taste for convenience and functionality. & I was really upset because coming from Singapore, it would be almost impossible for me to get some fresh stone-grind flour from a local miller at the farmers’ market, let alone purchasing whole wheat berries and grinding it at home on my own.
So I guess the best solution for me right now would be to make my own pasta with Semolina flour but to continue keeping my eyes open for freshly stone-ground durum flour!
Are there any other possible alternatives? Let me know what you think!