How to recognise excellent pasta

An informative article from our Awards sponsors Garofalo on how good quality pasta is produced, and how to recognise it.

Garofalo Black on white

Good quality pasta is first and foremost recognised by its colour and smell; the choice should always be a golden, amber colour with the smell of fresh wheat. The highest quality pasta is bronze die formed, an ancient Italian technique that gives a rough porous surface to the pasta that enables it to absorb the sauce well.

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As Pasta is simply made with only two ingredients water and wheat you can’t make an excellent pasta if the best wheat is not used. If we want to get technical at this stage, it is the quality and quantity of the two gluten protein present that primarily determines the quality of the wheat. The much sort after al dente texture of cooked pasta with the wheat taste is a result of the two proteins working their hardest to protect the internal structure of the pasta and giving it strength as it is cooked in boiling water. If the water that the pasta is cooked in remains colourless then you can be assured that the proteins have done a good job and kept the starch under control; the result al dente pasta. Out of control the starch will absorb water, swell so much it breaks; the result cloudy water and soggy pasta.

Bronze die pasta has nothing to do with changing the colour of the dough, the die is the plate that the dough (durum wheat and water) is pushed through to form the huge numbers of pasta shapes available. It’s amazing that two basic ingredients can produce in excess of 300 pasta shapes!

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As the dough is pushed through the die made from bonze the friction built up between the die and dough resulting in a slightly rough, porous texture perfect for sauces to cling to and be absorbed, a delicious combination of sauce and pasta in every mouthful. The alternative is a die made from Teflon (cheaper and quicker than the bronze die), which gives smooth and slippery pasta surface and you find yourself with the classic meal of pasta followed by sauce even though they are on the same plate.


This is not where the story of excellent pasta ends, the final part in this story is the drying process. Time and temperature are important but before this could be controlled pasta makers relied on Mother Nature and dried pasta in the open air. So it was not by chance that Gragnano a small town near Naples in southern Italy, became the birth place of the pasta industry in Italy, thanks to the springs, the surrounding of the town and the passing wind. Gragnano was a huge open air drying system, perfect for drying pasta dough. Pasta makers are not relying on nature now but temperature and timed drying chambers, specific for each shape. Shorter drying times are the most cost effective for production but drying too quickly can result in brittle pasta which breaks easily.

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The qualities required for an excellent pasta and the place in Italy where the pasta is made are now recognised in an IGP certification – Pasta Di Gragnano IGP.

The IGP label specifies that the quality of the food product is directly linked to the region where it is produced, processed, or prepared.

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"Pasta di Gragnano IGP" is the only dry pasta variety to be recognized by the European Commission as IGP. The label gives protection to the quality of the pasta produced by those companies that are awarded it. A product that is awarded IGP status guarantees a traditional taste as well as high quality.

Pasta di Gragnano IGP was born in 2010 to testify to the history of Gragnano and its pasta production methods, with rules that governed the production process of pasta given the IGP status. Recently the rules were made tougher giving greater protection to the quality of Pasta di Gragnano IGP. The new rules state;

• The pasta must be produced within the municipality of Gragnano
• The pasta dough must only be produced with high quality durum wheat semolina and water from local aquifers.
• The extrusion of the dough to form the pasta shape must take place through bronze dies.
• After cooling, and within 24 hours, the pasta must be packaged in the place of production to prevent the loss of moisture that would compromise the organoleptic qualities of the product.
• The protein level of the final product must be 13% or above

Gragnano IGP pasta is produced by fourteen companies belonging to the Consorzio di Gragnano IGP.


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Garofalo, who have been producing pasta in Gragnano since 1789 when it obtained a license from the Municipal Council for the production and sale of high quality pasta, is the largest producer of dried pasta with Pasta Di Gragnano IGP status.

This year in the UK the familiar packs of Garofalo pasta will hit the shelves with subtle design changes and proudly displaying the Pasta Di Gragnano logo.


Garofalo offers a wide variety of pasta shapes and it is up to us and our imagination to match the right taste to the right pasta shape and not limit our creativity and always create something extraordinary to enjoy!

Garofalo pasta is available from your local wholesaler.

Contact us for more details 01438 813444 /