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.


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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.


No worries … we’ve got you covered! We have created the most extensive and comprehensive online resource so that you can learn to make your own pasta (over 25 different shapes!) the authentic Italian way. Subscribe to our Fresh Homemade Pasta: The Complete Guide in our online cooking school Italian Home Cooking (made simple!).



Semolina, Italy's Most Important Ingredient
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Semolina, Italy's Most Important Ingredient
Find out all about semolina, the hard-wheat flour which is a key ingredient in the production of dried pasta and the reason that Italy can produce over 300 different shapes of pasta.
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Local Aromas
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