Pasta, Pasta Everywhere!
A foodie trip to Parma, Italy just isn’t complete without a stop at the Barilla Pasta Factory. Barilla started in 1877 with Pietro Barilla selling bread and pasta. Now, Barilla is one of the leading brands of pasta in Italy and the United States. Barilla has 43 production sites in 10 countries. The factory we were visiting in Parma is Barilla’s largest pasta factory. Back in the States, we get our Barilla pasta from the two factories in the US that opened in 1999 and 2007. We do get one product from this Barilla epicenter… lasagna!
In Italy, the pasta is made with only semolina flour and water. In the US, they also add in vitamins and minerals as part of our enrichment requirements for refined flours. Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed in the factory, but trust me when I say it was SO CLEAN! I walked around the factory in amazement. The giant machines pumping out different short and long pasta was mesmerizing, and the smell of dough in the air was intoxicating. If you ever have the opportunity to tour such an incredible facility, I highly recommend it. Some fun statistics: Italians purchase 25 kg of pasta per person per year while the US is between 14-15 kg/person/year and Spain is between 3-4 kg/person/year.
In 2004, Barilla started Academia Barilla, an Italian Food Academy with a focus on protecting high-quality artisanal Italian products, educating about the traditional regional cuisines in Italy, and teaching the restaurant industry to embrace Italian culinary traditions and practices. At Academia Barilla, they teach classes related to Italian food culture, sell local artisanal products, and identify the regions in which the products originate for education. I like to follow them on twitter for great tips and recipes- @academiabarilla. They have recently started an Italian Cuisine Certification Program where they enlist the help of Chefs and Culinary Institutes to preserve and support Italian cuisine. A few fun facts from Academia Barilla:
- In tomato sauce, Americans like three times the garlic and tomato chunks. Italians prefer smooth tomato sauces and less intense (but still delicious) flavors.
- There is a much smaller market for jarred tomato sauce in Italy (probably because Italians are more likely to make their own).
- There are over 130 shapes of pasta (some we’ve probably never seen in the United States).
Later in our travels, we had the opportunity to visit a smaller pasta producer in Gragnano called, Faella (and had the pleasure of meeting Mr.Faella). Even as a smaller factory, they pump out about 1.5 tons of pasta each day. This factory used to take advantage of their spacious piazza and dry the pasta around the piazza. There are 13 pasta companies in the area because the grain mills were located in this area, so they started making pasta. Faella pasta can be found in the United States in places like Arthur Avenue in Bronx, NY. Here we had the opportunity to see the extruders they use to make the shaped pastas. We learned that you can tell if the pasta was put through a bronze or Teflon extruder based on the color of the pasta. When a bronze extruder is used, the pasta is whiter and absorbs more sauce, but there are different benefits to both bronze and Teflon extruders. Here, they keep the drying process more natural by keeping temperatures below 48 degrees Celsius (industrial pasta production dries at temperatures closer to 90 degrees Celsius). By keeping the temperatures more moderate, the pasta can retain more flavor and nutrients. The opportunity to see both larger and smaller scale pasta production was really exciting. Pasta is such a fundamental component in all of the cuisines in Italy, it’s easy to see how deeply rooted it is in Italy’s history.
Disclosure: I have not received any form of compensation for this post and am in no way connected to Barilla, Academia Barilla or Faella. I did receive a sample of Faella pasta as thanks for visiting the factory.