Semola is Italy’s Most Important Ingredient
Have you ever heard of semola and did you know that it’s probably one of the most important ingredients in Italian cuisine? It may surprise you but, yes, it’s that important because it’s used to make …
What It’s Used For
PASTA! Whether you are eating spaghetti, penne, farfalle, rigatoni, or orecchiette they all have one thing in common: they are made with semolina flour, in Italian semola. This hard-wheat flour has grown in Italy’s warm and sunny south for centuries. As a result, the pasta traditions of the southern and central Italian regions are mainly based semolina flour.
The production of dried pasta started off in Sicily where the warm winds and sea breeze were perfect to dry out pasta. Then, throughout the centuries, it extended to other parts of Italy such as Sardinia, Naples, Puglia. Semola is also used to make fresh homemade pasta like orecchiette, trofie, pici, tonnarelli. Did you know that Italy boasts over 300 different pasta shapes?!?
Although semolina is best known as an ingredient for pasta, in Italy it is also sometimes used to make bread, most famously the Pane di Altamura from Puglia. It can also be combined with eggs yolks, milk, and parmesan and baked in the oven to produce Roman-style gnocchi, a hearty, satisfying comfort dish that celebrates semolina’s particular consistency.
What Is Semola
Produced from hard wheat, semolina’s distinctive golden color and coarse texture give it an appearance similar to cornmeal. Semola is key to the production of dried pasta because of its unique qualities. This flour has a high protein content of around 12-15% which, when kneaded, produces gluten. It is this gluten that creates the structure to hold the shape of the pasta (the word gluten actually derives from the Latin word for glue). No other flour could keep the swirly shape of fusilli, the hole throughout bucatini, or the lines on rigatoni. In addition, as dried pasta contains no eggs, it is the gold hue of the semolina which gives the pasta its yellow appearance.
The Recipe and the Pasta Course
Making pasta with semola at home couldn’t be easier. Simply combine 100gr of semolina with 50ml of warm water. Cover and leave to rest for one hour before kneading well until you have a smooth dough. You can then cut and mold the pasta any way you choose though it may take a little practice to achieve more complicated shapes such as orecchiette or fusilli.
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