Yet, 30 years later, pasta exploded into our lives with such force that almost became a standard British staple — we now consume more than 2kg per head per year.
What is real pasta?
Originally, pasta in Italy was a conception of sheer genius. It began with growing the highest-quality hard wheat, and the name given to this specific type of wheat was durum, from the Latin, meaning hard.
After the pasta maker had purchased exactly the right grain, the next important stage was finding the right miller to mill the grain to a certain precise specification —and not to a fine, powdery flour but to something called semolina, which is derived from the Italian for 'semi milled' and is quite unlike flour, as semolina is made up of tiny, coarse, corn-coloured granules with sharp edges.
The skill of the pasta maker was to then carefully mix the semolina with cold water. Then, after the mixing came the shaping, and the pasta was forced through special bronze dies, which gave it a specific texture.
After that the pasta was dried in open-windowed lofts where either the mountain air or sea breezes — or both, depending on the region — could circulate. This carefully monitored drying process could take up to two days. It was this natural drying process, along with the specifications above, that produced a quality of pasta that had captured within it all the nuttiness and flavour of the wheat grain but also a special texture.
Read more in-depth information on pasta in our Delia Online Cookery School Study Notes for Pasta
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