The pasta comeback & Filotea
Could the dark era of low-carb dieting in America finally be behind us? U.S. pasta consumption is back on the rise after shrinking for years. Online interest in pasta started picking up in 2015, and continues to rise, according to Google’s numbers. The specifics of the high-carb search trends suggest Google users are “experimenting with new recipes and sauces that can be prepared at home or picked up at the grocery store,” the report reads. “There’s interest in understanding the differences between certain types of pasta and their accompanying sauces.”
But ... there is pasta ... and pasta. And among the pasta makers, artisan Filotea from the Marche region in Italy has elaborated a special recipe that makes its pasta truly exceptional.
What exactly makes Filotea Pasta any different from a regular pasta I can find at the store?
“I was especially surprised at how fresh the pasta was. I thought the 4 mins cooking was spot on given how fresh the pasta is.”
“I used the eggplant sauce and the pasta held the sauce perfectly, this is where I think the stories and the recipes come in handy on the site because they articulate how to use the products. Generally, people think more is better but the combination of one pack of the pasta and the quantity of sauce in the eggplant red sauce is exactly the right pairing amount in my opinion.” (Connie M.)
There are fundamentally three kinds of Italian wheat pasta
The most common is dried durum wheat pasta (“pasta di semola di grano duro”); it accounts for almost 80% of 2 million tons of pasta exported every year worldwide. Originally from southern Italy, where this kind of wheat has been cultivated for centuries, this pasta is made exclusively with durum wheat and water. Nothing else. Also referred to as “non-egg pasta”, it comes in all shapes, from spaghetti to penne; it’s not particularly tasty, so you better have a good sauce to pair (and we provide a few, very tasty options in our online store!).
Fresh pasta with egg (“pasta all’uovo”) typical of Emilia-Romagna, the region of northern Italy where so many delicacies originated: from Parmigiano Reggiano to Bolognaise sauce. Egg-pasta is made with “regular” soft wheat flour (“00” or “doppio zero flour”), eggs and a bit of water ; it is a completely different product, with a characteristic taste and a different ability to hold sauces. It is the type of pasta that is still made at home. You'll find it in the refrigerated section of the grocery store as it has a much shorter shelf life than dried pasta.
Dried pasta with egg is a combination of the two: made with durum wheat and eggs (instead of water). This is a small part of the pasta business, about 7% of total exports. Compared to 00 flour, durum wheat gives more consistency to the pasta, thus avoiding the risk of it breaking in the bag and becoming sticky once in the water.
Now, Filotea pasta with egg is a slightly different animal: basically, our friends at Filotea have combined all the upsides of the other three sorts of pasta in a unique product. It is a dried egg-pasta, with a long shelf life, but it also contains “00 flour” which makes it taste like fresh pasta. And its ingredients are top notch, as we explain further on.
Fettucine Filotea: creativity meets tradition. Taste and feel of fresh fettucine in a dried egg pasta.
What’s the difference between durum wheat and flour ?
00 flour (“doppio zero”) is made of soft wheat (“grano tenero” or triticum aestivum) and is the most finely milled version of flour, of white color. In the US, the most common all-purpose flour is “bleached” or “enriched” with chemical food additives by default, unless the package states “unbleached flour”. No such mention can be found on European flours as the European Union has outlawed the use of chemical additives to bleach flour in 1999. Double zero white flour is completely natural, made with the inner part of the wheat grain.
Molino Bianchi is Filotea's supplier of "00 flour". An artisan producer of natural flour since 1840.
Durum wheat semolina is made from hard wheat (“grano duro” or triticum durum) which is a completely different species even if the plants look very much the same and are from the same genus. They even have a different number of chromosomes! Yellow in color and more granular than 00 flour, semolina has a consistency somewhat comparable to sand.
Durum wheat is generally cultivated in southern Italy, soft wheat in the north, particularly in the huge plain called “Pianura Padana” that stretches from Piedmont to Emilia Romagna.
A closer look at Filotea’s pasta
Filotea is a small company whose owners put an extraordinary zeal in selecting the best ingredients and preserving a traditional production process :
The 00 flour comes from a highly regarded mill (Molino Bianchi) in Padiglione di Osimo, a few miles way from Filotea’s facility. The mill has been in function since 1840 when the machines were mechanically powered by a watermill. The flour is made solely with Italian soft wheat of the highest quality through a completely natural process.
The durum wheat semolina is 100% Italian, from Puglia to be exact (the heel of the Boot), where the finest durum wheat has been produced for countless generations. It is milled by an artisan company called Molini Artigianali di Altamura, in the province of Bari.
The eggs are fresh, so called “categoria A” fresh eggs, the ones that you use eveyday for your own consumption, as opposed to “categoria B” eggs used in the agro-industry.
Left, a picture of Molino Bianchi in the 1960s; right, Matteo, Filotea's Pasta Master. He oversee the quantities and mixing of ingredients to ensure consistent quality.
There is a secret base recipe of course, but Matteo the “Mastro Pastaio”(Pasta Master), in charge of production is changing the proportions daily, as weather and humidity need to be taken into account when you work with flour.
The pasta is then extruded through a bronze (rather than Teflon) die, and then shaped. The details about the production process are on our Youtube channel.
Then, it is dried very slowly for at least one day at a low temperature in a specially designed room (for your reference, industrial pasta is usually dried for 4 to 7 hours at more than 75°C/167°F). The slow cool drying allows to keep the protein structure of the pasta as unaltered as possible, to make it stand cooking better.
The end result is a pasta full of flavor with a typical rough texture, that cooks without disintegrating or sticking and has an increased capacity of absorbing the sauces. Common dried pasta has a smooth surface, so that sauces don’t adhere to it and tends to land at the bottom of the plate.
Not convinced ? Just have a look at Filotea vs industrial pasta, egg noodles and fettucine. Now you get why the sauce with your regular pasta stays at the bottom of the plate ... ?
left, Linguine Filotea; right, Egg Noodles by a well known US retail store brand
|left, egg-free Fettucine of an Italian brand commonly found in the US; right, egg Fettucine Filotea|
Filotea pasta has also a very short cooking time (about 4 minutes), whereas egg free pasta usually cooks in 11-12 minutes.
The presence of eggs makes it rich in protein, so that a dish of pasta is usually enough to fill a hungry stomach.
The recommendation per serving for Filotea pasta is about 60 g (2.1oz), so that one box is usually enough for 4 servings.
Savors of Europe offers 3 kinds of Filotea pasta
The “traditional” line of Fettucine, Spaghetti etc…. pasta with egg we talked about in length.
The “Matassine” line characterized by its big black box, which is also an egg pasta with the same characteristics but it is thicker and rougher because instead of being extruded it is shaped manually. There are 4 “matassine” (skeins or “bird nests”) in each box, one per serving, and the cooking time is slightly longer.
A range of egg-free products, made with durum wheat and water, with the same attention to details but obviously different characteristics, more similar to common pasta.
That’s expensive, is it worth the price ?
“I loved the pasta, but it’s really expensive” (John P.)
So, yes, Filotea pasta is more expensive than your regular pasta at the store.
The extra buck pays for an authentic pasta experience, like the pasta Italian grandmothers used to cook in their home kitchen, with controlled, natural ingredients, without any chemical bleaching additives, with first class eggs and making all the time needed for a first-class quality.
Taste and see!
Just like Grandma: the final product is checked and carefully packaged by actual human beings!