Everyone loves pasta! Especially organic Italian pasta that, above all, is made in a hyper-artisanal way. But what does that mean exactly?
For Federico & Christina, pasta is an agricultural product that reflects a way of living. According to them, the mode of its production tells a much bigger story. During our webinar they explained how they started UnEttaro and what they mean when they talk about food created in a hyper-artisanal way. Unettaro is their small family farm in Italy that produces a micro harvest of durum wheat, Saragolla Turchesco, and the highest quality of pasta every year. This ancient unhybridized wheat is grown without the use of chemicals or pesticides on their one hectare of land.
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At Little Plant Pantry, we had the pleasure of interviewing Christina & Federico to learn more about the origins of their farm and products. Read the full Q & A to know more about how organic hyper-artisanal pasta is planted, grown, produced, and sold to stores like ours.
Q: How did you come up with the idea of producing pasta?
F & C: Four years ago, we decided to start cultivating one hectare of abandoned land next to our house in the hills of Offagna in Italy. We wanted to prove the value behind a small piece of land and produce our own food from it.
So we decided to grow wheat and transform it into pasta. We were not expert farmers or pasta makers. But we were, and still are, curious about the food that we eat. We thought that the best way to discover pasta was to make our own. This was the beginning of UnEttaro.
Q: Why is organic pasta important?
F & C: Pasta is a very simple product. It is only made with two ingredients: wheat and water. So if there are any chemicals used to grow wheat, they will automatically end up in the finished product, the pasta we eat. For us, it was crucial to make a pure product that will not be harmful to the body and to the soil. Not only do we refuse to use chemicals but we also allow our field to rest after each harvest. Thus, the soil has the time to regenerate.
Eating organic pasta is not only good for our body, but also for the environment. Organic agriculture starts from the idea that we are all part of the same ecosystem. Therefore, every action we take towards the environment will have a direct consequence for us and for all the other parts of the system. Polluting the soil is like polluting the mother that feeds you. It’s crazy, but that seems to be a widely adopted practice presently.
Our goal is to fight that, one hectare at a time.
Q: How does artisanal pasta make a difference to a healthy diet?
First of all, what does artisanal pasta mean?
We asked Federico and Christina to describe their production process and have summarized the artisanal pasta making practice in these three points:
- Slow drying process: 72-96 hours (depending on the type of pasta). What artisanal pasta makers dry in 3 days, the industrial process speeds up to 3 hours.
- Low drying temperature: under 50 degrees in rooms with natural air flow. The industrial production process implies drying pasta over 100 degrees under industrial fans. The high drying temperature leads to the destruction of nutrients in the final product.
- Extrusion of the dough through bronze dies.
And why is organic pasta good for a healthy diet?
- Better raw materials. Adopting the artisanal procedure means that you must use good quality, high-protein wheat, otherwise the pasta will not keep its shape and will fall apart. In other words, because this pasta isn’t highly processed, you can’t hide the defects of raw materials. The industrial process allows companies to use low quality wheat that can be made into any shape under high temperatures. But this comes at a cost.
- Pasta is easier to digest. Starch doesn’t crystallize during the drying process as it happens during the industrial production. Hence, artisanal pasta is much easier to digest.
- Richer in nutrients. The delicate transformation process preserves the nutrients contained in the wheat, such as Lysine, an amino acid that is good for our diet.
- Tasty and always “al dente”. The slow transformation process and low temperature preserve the natural taste and aroma of wheat. The pasta can be cooked “al dente” and eaten with nothing more than good olive oil.
Q: What's the connection between delicious organic pasta and sustainable agriculture?
F & C: In its essence, pasta is an agricultural product. And it has memory. At each stage of its transformation from the seed to a cooked dish, every person in the chain gives a new interpretation to what has been done before.
Naturally, the quality creation starts in the field. Like good wine and cheese, pasta also carries the signature of its makers. As consumers, we should be aware of how, where and when it was made and by whom.
But good quality durum wheat isn’t enough alone to make a good pasta. It is the responsibility of all the transformers (the miller, the pasta maker, the chef) to protect the work done by the farmer and express its maximum potential in their respective craft.
Therefore, we believe that only by recognizing the crucial role of the farmer, we’ll be able to achieve a virtuous model. A model that is sustainable for the environment and for all those who play a part in the quality production chain.
In conclusion, only if consumers are truly aware of the whole production chain, they will be able to fully experience the joy of a delicious pasta dish.
We hope you got a glance into sustainable agriculture practices and will be able to appreciate the full value of Christina & Federico's amazing pasta. Now that you know more about how and why they produce their organic hyper-artisanal pasta on their micro farm in Italy, you can try their products and see if you can tell the difference for yourself!