Here you can satisfy your curiosity: you will find detailed information on aspects linked to the De Cecco world as well as on pasta. The FAQ are organised by subject area.
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Artisanal pasta doesn’t have a legal definition. While the concept of “artisanal business” does exist, the legal status of a company should not be confused with its products or their quality.
In reality, the tastiness of a product depends on the quality of the raw materials used (wheat, semolina, etc.) and on processing capabilities and experience, in order to obtain widely acknowledged and appreciated superior quality.
Framework law nr. 443 of 08/08/1985 on artisanal business regulates artisanal work, defining it as being mainly manual, carried out by family members and without a real production chain that uses mass-production machinery. However, nowadays, in the world of pasta, almost everyone uses industrial equipment to produce their pasta.
The semolina used is produced in industrial mills (so an industrial raw material is used right from the start); the basic stages that make up the pasta-making process (kneading, drawing, cutting and drying) are usually performed by machines, and any manual intervention only usually regards specific stages (such as the “dosing” of the raw material into the kneading tanks, the transport of the pasta to the drying cells, some stages of the packing process), but that don’t regard production in the strict sense.
Our basic strategy is to make choices aimed solely at producing a top quality end product.
Pasta is made from just two raw materials, semolina and water: artisanal pasta makers often do not have their own mills, so they buy semolina directly from other mills, which doesn’t guarantee the selection of the wheat nor the uniformity of the raw material throughout the year two meticulous stages in the process that characterise De Cecco pasta.
De Cecco chooses only the best varieties of durum wheat which it blends and stores in its own silos to maintain the same standards of quality throughout production; the wheat is ground in our own mill located right next to the production plant and the semolina that is used is always fresh and therefore preserves its full fragrance.
The types of semolina that are most commonly found on the market (including those that the artisanal producers probably use) are superfine semolina, which dry quickly and evenly during kneading, reducing production time and costs. De Cecco, on the other hand, produces coarse grain semolina: although this option means that it takes longer to knead, it lessens the damage to the wheat’s starch granules and proteins and allows the semolina to best convey its organoleptic properties.
De Cecco’s entire pasta making process involves a series of basic principles adopted at each separate stage, and aimed at obtaining a high quality end product. These values, combined with modern technological solutions, chosen specifically to respect the raw material’s natural properties (mild-technologies), make De Cecco pasta a unique product.
First of all, extreme care is dedicated to the selection of the durum wheat, which has to comply with the highest quality standards (protein and gluten content, colour etc.) and which is blended to obtain the most suitable mix. Milling involves extracting only the husk of the grain and through this we obtain a coarse grain semolina, fully respecting the properties of the raw material which in this way suffers limited damage.
The semolina is kneaded with cold water, which guarantees the best conditions for the formation of glutens. Lastly, slow drying at low temperatures enables the organoleptic and nutritional properties of the durum wheat to remain intact and limits heat damage. Each stage of the process and the product itself are continuously controlled, thanks to the use of cutting-edge technologies and rigorous laboratory analyses conducted in our highly qualified Research Centre. We can therefore confirm that De Cecco achieves global quality through a step-by step process applied to each separate stage of the entire production chain.
A whitish colour could be the result of too hard a dough, or even elevated extrusion speeds. Colour does not necessarily reflect quality, although a particularly white colour could indicate the use of a very finely ground semolina, not always selected from the best quality ones.
Bronze drawing is a critical stage for the pasta maker, whose skill lies in controlling the consistency of the mixture and the speed of extrusion in order to obtain pasta with a perfect straw-yellow colour.
The life depends by the format typology; some drawing plates, such as those for spaghetti, can work up to 1400-1500 hours, while for other formats concerning a more wear and tear, there is a decrease up to 400-500 hours.
For the same format, Teflon drawing lasts much more than the other. Nevertheless although Teflon is an auto-lubricating material, Teflon drawing during working are inclined to get progressively deformed, and they need to be changed.
To produce the same format, the Teflon drawing process takes longer than the bronze drawing one.
De Cecco has always used bronze drawing and has only recently opted for Teflon drawing for some formats, for example fluted formats that sauces naturally cling to anyway.
In any event, these decision are taken with the end quality of the product first and foremost in our minds.
Low temperature drying originates from the traditional art of pasta making, when the pasta was dried in the sun so that it could be preserved over time.
Low temperatures (where by low we mean < 65°C) enable the product to maintain its organoleptic properties, and limit heat damage. What’s more, from a nutritional point of view, low temperatures ensure that there is not a drastic loss of the protein content.
The traditional process does not have any positive effect on the quality of the pasta during cooking, it simply means that it can be stored for a certain period of time and preserves its quality.
This means that the quality of low temperature dried pasta during cooking is practically dependent on the quality of the raw materials: medium or low quality wheat would result in uneven cooking, sticky, not very firm pasta.
De Cecco’s traditional drying process is actually based on slow low temperature drying, to keep the organoleptic and nutritional qualities of the semolina intact, and to obtain a fragrant, tasty product that preserves the characteristic flavour of the wheat.
Furthermore, the use of low temperature technologies enables the pasta to keep and even enhance its characteristic elasticity, through a process called recovery (a stage during drying in which the pasta “rests”).
The significant improvement in the quality of the pasta during cooking is attributable to a sort of “impermeabilization” that the high temperature gives the product, so much so that lower quality raw materials can be used to obtain a product that maintains the “al dente” firmness. This type of technology could decrease the protein content of the pasta, more specifically its lysine content, which we would like to remind readers is an essential amino acid that has a considerable influence over the nutritional value of the pasta. We would also like to point out that high temperature drying can dull the taste of the pasta.
There is no perfect wheat in nature. Thanks to its extensive experience, De Cecco has selected a mix of durum wheat from Italy and abroad (Australia, French and mainly American), chosen above all on the basis of its protein content and on the quantity and quality of glutens. The experience that we have acquired over the years has taught us that there is no one variety of wheat that is better than the others, as there are a number of parameters that come into play in the choice of the raw materials. Some varieties have good gluten indices which give the end product consistency and firmness, others develop a more elastic gluten; the quality of the wheat also needs to be taken into account, especially its protein content, which largely depends on the climatic conditions and the type of soil. This is why De Cecco has chosen to blend different high quality varieties of wheat to find the right balance between the various parameters (gluten index, protein content, yellow index…). This is achieved thanks to meticulous scientific testing and quality control carried out everyday in our laboratories.
High quality raw materials are absolutely essential to guarantee the fundamental characteristic of the pasta (its firmness during cooking) through a process that uses low temperatures. The wheat is stored in the mill’s silos in extremely high quantities so that a continuous supply of high quality materials is always available, in order to guarantee a uniform product throughout production.
A grain of wheat is made up of different layers and the semolina is extracted from the innermost one (the starchy endosperm).
Once the wheat has been cleaned and sanitized, the next stage is the actual grinding. First of all the wheat goes through a series of rolling-mills which roughly break the wheat grains down, their outer layers are “stripped off” and they are reduced in size. At this point the ground product then passes through some sieves which separate groats, bran and flour.
Finally, it passes through the purifiers to obtain the so-called “noble” products from milling durum wheat: the semolina and low-grade semolina.
The modern mill has an extraction yield of around 70%. De Cecco has opted for a different route, our milling yield is 62% (only the “heart” of the grain is extracted).
Once the wheat that best meets production requirements has been selected, the milling process then starts which has a yield of around 62% (only the “heart” of the grain is extracted); all of the elements that don't meet the standards of high quality semolina are rejected, as these would increase the ash content and have repercussions on the flavour (De Cecco semolina has an ash content of around 0.82% against the established legal limit of 0.90%).
The granulometry indicates the size of the particles into which the semolina is ground.
The particle size of semolina has a direct effect on dough making: fine semolina has the advantage of speeding up the formation of the dough and enables the semolina to completely dry out easily thus reducing the number of white spots.
Although the choice of using coarse grain semolina (>450-500 ?m; like De Cecco semolina) results in higher production time and costs, it does enable the technological qualities of the wheat to be better expressed. It is no coincidence that in the past they talked about coarse grain semolina as “sublime semolina”.
The milling process also causes some damage to the structure of the wheat which in the case of coarse grain semolina is by far inferior in comparison to a fine grain one.
Water is needed to knead the semolina; De Cecco uses cold water (around 8-10 degrees centigrade) from its own mountain source, to create the best conditions for the formation of gluten, even if this means longer kneading times. Lastly, as Rovetta says, kneading with cold water gives the product a sweeter taste.
Our pasta is made exclusively from durum wheat semolina and water, no further gluten is added. To obtain a superior product that holds its firmness during cooking, we concentrate our efforts on a rigorous durum wheat selection process, choosing those with a high protein content and an excellent gluten index.
Our pasta is made from coarse grain semolina and is kneaded with cold water to limit damage to starch granules and to enable the best possible development of glutens.
This choice makes the hydration of the semolina granules more difficult and therefore white spots sometimes appear.