You haven’t really eaten pasta unless you’ve tried the original. Take a journey through Italy with these family-owned and artisanal pasta producers who have perfected the method through generations and are focused on quality, taste and tradition.
We hope you enjoy reading and buon appetito!
The Italian town of Gragnano is synonymous with pasta, and even though spaghetti no longer hangs on drying rods on the main streets, the tradition hasn’t waned in the least. When the Zampino family took over the Gentile artisan pasta factory in the ‘80s, they acquired a piece of history dating back to 1876, successfully preserving the artisanal production methods. Nowadays, the natural drying process of sun and wind is recreated perfectly through the Cirillo Method drying process, which takes around three to four days and imbues the Gentile pasta with that distinct consistency. The more than forty bronze-drawn pasta shapes are made exclusively with semolina from milled-on-site wheat acquired from Puglia.
Inspired by his grandfather who was a passionate farmer, Massimo Mancini founded the Mancini Pastificio Agricolo and spent seven years developing a new durum wheat, befittingly called Nonno Mariano. Other durum wheat varieties are carefully selected, grown, harvested, cleaned and stored, abiding meticulously to eco-friendly and sustainable practices. The pasta-production itself is always done with fresh semolina, to obtain a distinct taste and aroma, as well as extrusion with a bronze die, which increases the pasta surface’s porousness and roughness in order to retain any sauce. If all that didn’t suffice, packaging recyclability and a factory composed of wood, glass and concrete in the middle of their own durum wheat fields rounds off this exceptional family brand.
Another passionate pasta factory in La Città dei Maccheroni (Gragnano), Gerardo Di Nola was founded in 1870 and has found the perfect balance between respecting tradition and making use of modern techniques. From its slow drying process, to the use of limestone-free water flowing from the Monte Faito streams and Italian hard wheat semolina from carefully selected partners, it’s really the fundamental details that determine the outstanding taste of their product. Like its pasta counterparts, Gerardo di Nola also uses bronze pasta dies in order to create shapes that are just rough enough to embrace any sauce or condiment. If you come upon this brand’s packaging (currently sold in 36 countries), you’ll also be happy to know that each and every one is hand-folded with tradition and love.
The last surviving artisan pasta maker in Torre Annunziata, Setaro is located in a more than hundred-year-old building composed of tuff from the famed Mount Vesuvius, which just happens to be perfect for drying pasta. Production is traditional and manual, including the original bronze dies, selected durum wheat semolina, pure water, and a slow drying process from 24 to 120 hours depending on shape. Of course, knowledge of the ‘white art,’ which has been passed down from generations, is also a fundamental quality that has helped the family business grow since opening in 1939. The varieties seem to be endless, including the classic shapes as well as special shapes, soup pasta, oven-baked pasta, whole wheat pasta and pasta with aromas.
The Cavalieri family has been in the pasta business since 1872, so it’s safe to say they have the process down to an art. With a family background in wheat cultivation and milling which goes back even farther into 1800, the first step of the Cavalieri process is always the fine and selected durum wheat from the sunny hills of Puglia and Basilicata. What follows is a processing method called ‘Delicato,’ including long kneading, slow processing, drawing and drying at low temperatures so that taste is maximized without losing any natural consistency. The result is 45 kinds of pasta, from Capellini d’Angelo to Farfalle, as well as a line of organic whole wheat pasta as a healthier alternative.
Words: Feride Yalav-Heckeroth