When you pick up a case of Pastificio dei Campi‘s pasta, it is striking to see through its plastic window that every individual pasta has retained its pristine condition despite the long traverse from southern Italy.
Unlike those from regular industrial brands, the Gragnano pasta has a paler tint coated with a white starchy residue. This is the result of the extensive process Pastificio dei Campi has set forth to replicate the artisanal way of drying pasta, which was placing it outside in the sun. The texture of a Gragano pasta is like sandpaper, rough at first touch, but its ability to glue to sauces makes it taste richer than any mass-produced pasta you’ve ever eaten.
We know it’s hard to digest all these details without a million questions filling your mind, so we got in touch with Dayana from Pastificio dei Campi to see what’s the secret to such a phenomenal pasta!
On your website, it was mentioned that Pastificio dei Campi was the result of your founders’ common intentions and ideas. Can you tell me a little bit about their background and elaborate on the values they shared?
The founders of Pastificio dei Campi are Giovanna and Giuseppe Di Martino, brother and sister entrepreneurs whose family has been making Gragnano pasta for three generations. They built this factory in 2007 in hopes of producing high quality pasta that preserved the traditions of pasta-making while embracing the modern technology that promoted this culinary art worldwide. Their five shared values are the core of our company and they are Craftsmanship, Respect for Tradition, Social Responsibility, Environmental Protection and Openness.
How do some of these values play into Pastificio dei Campi’s pasta production process?
In terms of craftsmanship, all our employees are knowledgeable in the overall process of producing Gragnano pasta. We are IGP (Protection Geographic Indication) certified, meaning our production only takes place within the City of Gragnano and our pasta are made solely from Italian durum wheat and local mineral rich water and shaped with bronze dies. To obtain an IGP certification, factories must dry their pasta for a minimum of 6 hours. However, because we want to give our pasta all the time needed to dry in the most natural way, we dry it from 24 to 72 hours. This preserves the fragrance of our products and makes them “limited edition”. Note, that other non-IGP certified factories can dry pasta in even less time than 6 hours.
Why is your pasta “limited edition”?
Compared to other pasta makers, we produce a smaller quantity each day. Drying our pasta in a low pressure and low temperature setting makes our production times slower. Another reason is that while non-IGP producers use durum wheat from different parts of the world and other IGP factories buy grains from various parts of Italy, we only source grains from our supplier in Molino De Vita, which is located in the Puglia region in Italy.
So how is pasta traditionally made and what does Pastificio dei Campi do to both respect tradition and keep in line with current times?
In ancient times, pasta was placed outside in the streets to dry under the sun. Here at Pastificio de Campi, we lay them onto wooden racks and bring them into special rooms called static drying cells. These rooms simulate the climate of Gragano, such as the breeze from the sea, which restores humidity in the drying process.
I heard that your company also adopts a tracking system that anyone can use to find out where, how, and who created each package. How do you guys accomplish this?
Since we source all our grains from one supplier, it’s easy for us to track our production from the initial phase of growing the wheat to the final phase of packaging. We are the only company to give precise geographic locations for each step of our production process, thanks to Google Maps. As one of our values is openness, we want to show full transparency to our customers and let them experience the craft of making Gragnano pasta. (Pastificio dei Campi’s Total Tracking System can be found here.)
Your packaging design is also unique. What part does it play in conveying your company’s philosophy?
Our packaging is another way we promote openness as well as social responsibility and environmental protection. Our pasta is enclosed in a recyclable paper carton with plastic windows, which makes our product immediately visible to our customers. Compared to normal packaging, our packaging is very resilient, preventing damage to the product. It is also hand packed by humans, not machines, who inspect the quality of each pasta before we ship them off to our customers.
How should one prepare this pasta?
While mass-produced pasta only need about 1/2 liter of water for every 100g, ours require 1L per 100g. As the water expand our pasta, it will maintain its gluten net and not break unlike its industrial counterparts. There are three popular ways to cook Gragnano pasta. The first way is to cook pasta for 2 minutes less than it is advised on the packaging, then finish cooking it in a pan together with sauce. When you boil the pasta in water, the water will strip away the starch. As a result, the sauce will not become dense when the pasta is combined with it later on, unless you want it to be dense, in which you can add cheese. The second way is to cook pasta for 2-3 minutes, then finish cooking it with sauce. This will preserve the starch and give the sauce more density without the use of cheese. The third way is a very traditional Neapolitan way of cooking pasta, in which the pasta is cooked with sauce entire time. This method will require less water so the dish would be not as liquid-like because the water would have evaporated.
Who are some famous chefs who rave about your pasta?
Star-chef Simon Johnson visited our factory several years ago and is still one of our biggest fans. We often see him at different events, the last one being the SIAL exhibition in Paris. Every month, we also have an event in our kitchen where we invite 1* Michelin chef Peppe Guida to cook together with a chef from the JRE (Jeunes Restaurateurs D’Europe) association. We also work very much with other talented chefs, like Ernesto Iaccarino from Don Alfonso Restaurant, 3* Michelin. Eugenio Boer from Essenza Restaurant recently created a pasta dish called “Be Giuseppe Di Martino”, which was dedicated to our founder Giuseppe Di Martino.