Why the drying process and temperatures are crucial to the quality of pasta.
Drying is the most important stage in the pasta production process, because it is such a delicate one. Pasta has a high water content after extrusion and once the drying process has been completed, the humidity value must not exceed 12.5%, which is the maximum value set forth by the applicable regulations.
To produce high-quality pasta, the drying process must ensure that water is evaporated homogeneously and evenly.
In the Granoro pasta factory, the Mastromauro family has chosen to use medium temperatures rather than high or very high ones. This ensures that all of the nutritional and sensory characteristics of the durum wheat semolina, such as its flavour and colour, not only remain intact but at the end of the production process will also be enhanced and preserved within every piece of pasta.
High and very high temperatures cause the starch contained in semolina to gelatinize and thus crystallize the external surface of the pasta, damaging the colour, some nutritional elements (such as lysine) and the digestibility of the pasta.
To produce high-quality pasta, the drying process performed in the Granoro pasta factory ensures water is evaporated homogeneously and evenly.
Why many pasta factories choose to use high and very high temperatures.
High or very high drying temperatures give pasta a quality that is purely illusory.
Indeed, when dried at high temperatures, pasta will appear to be al dente, even when poor-quality semolina with a low gluten content is used (pasta’s elasticity and toughness depends on gluten, the most important protein contained in durum wheat semolina). However, this effect is created by a part of every piece of pasta remaining raw inside, which makes it hard to digest, and is not due to the elasticity typical of high-quality pasta.
When dried in this way, pasta also loses the typical smell and taste of durum wheat, with its characteristic sharp, almost fermented flavour. This is because high-temperature drying practically plasticizes it.
The other main characteristic of high-quality pasta is its digestibility, as it stimulates enzymes produced in our digestive system during mastication and digestion, an effect that is reduced or inexistent when pasta is produced using very high drying temperatures.
Granoro has chosen to use only medium temperatures for the drying process because, according to Granoro, it is a crucial factor for obtaining high-quality pasta, both in terms of its sensory characteristics and its chemical and physical profile.
Pasta factories in Italy and abroad usually dry pasta at very high temperatures because it has the following benefits:
a) reduced production time; in some pasta factories it can be reduced by almost 50%, at the expense of quality, as described above;
b) poor-quality and therefore less expensive semolina can be used because the high temperature gelatinizes the pasta, preventing it from overcooking;
c) pasta produced this way has a long cooking time, which is often mistaken for pasta al dente.
In an article published in the Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno on 25 October 1998, Professor Resmini of the Università di Milano claimed that whilst “technological pasta”, that is to say pasta dried at very high temperatures, does not overcook, it is less nutritious and he believes that the use of high temperatures should be regulated, as systems that exceed 100 degrees are currently in use. In addition, the high temperatures used during the pasta drying process reduce availability of the amino acid lysine by about 40%, an important factor as the organism cannot produce lysine by itself and has to procure it from the foods ingested. He also claims that overcooked pasta is less digestible.