Ah, pasta. Is there anyone out there who doesn't love a bowl of creamy linguine carbonara or delicate pockets of ravioli, smothered in a sage and butter sauce? Pasta truly is the epitome of comfort food -- and the best part is that almost anyone can make it in their own home.
Despite its lofty reputation, pasta is actually a very humble type of food. Traditional pasta recipes do not contain more than two or three ingredients, at most, and it's extremely versatile.
But how is it made, and more importantly, what is the best flour for pasta? This guide outlines it all for you.
Popular Flour Variations for Pasta Making
If there is one ingredient that needs to be prioritized when making pasta, it's the flour. You could have the best quality eggs and hone your pasta rolling technique to a-tee, but without the right flour, your pasta might miss the mark.
So, what are the most common types of flour in pasta making?
- 00 flour, also known as durum wheat flour
- Semolina flour
- All-purpose flour
While making pasta is relatively simple, it does require a certain amount of finesse, technique, and the best quality ingredients -- starting with your flour. In order to create a pasta dough that is easy to knead, and both light and elastic, your flour must contain good amounts of gluten and protein. But we'll get into that later.
What Is 00 flour?
This type of flour is probably the most popular and highly recommended for making all types of pasta. It's also the most versatile and yields some of the best results. It's made from durum wheat and ground to a fine powder, classified as ''00'' fine. Other types of flour tend to have a coarser texture as they are not ground as fine.
00 flour is also a brilliant option for baking, especially when making soft, crumbly shortcrust pastry and light and airy cakes.
Another option for 00 flour is soft wheat flour as 00 can sometimes be difficult to find in your regular supermarket. You'll have to visit a specialty store, such as a traditional Italian deli, or order it online. 00 or soft wheat flour is perfect for creating pasta such as tagliatelle, linguine, ravioli, and lasagne.
What Is Semolina Flour?
This type of flour is also sometimes referred to as pasta wheat. It's far coarser than 00 flour and is ideal for making specific types of pasta, as well as pizza, Italian breads, and many sweet dishes.
It's made from hard durum wheat that grows throughout Northern Italy. The best type of pasta for semolina flour is the larger, more rugged-shaped variations, such as rigatoni, penne, or macaroni. This is because semolina is a little less elastic than 00 flour, and holds its shape better when it's cooked.
Semolina flour is also yellow in color, which traditionally gave pasta its trademark yellow tinge. Today, you can achieve the same light yellow shade by adding eggs to your mixture if you choose to use 00 flour.
What Is All-purpose Flour?
If you don't have any other type of flour in your pantry except all-purpose flour, you can still make pasta! This is because all-purpose flour still has a decent gluten and protein content, in fact, it's quite similar to both 00 and semolina flour.
The only difference when using all-purpose flour will be the amount of prep time and kneading you'll need to do. In short, it will take you a little longer to create a soft, elastic type of pasta dough as you'll need to knead for longer to activate the gluten.
Your pasta might not have the same texture and flavor as when you use 00 or semolina flour, but it will still be better than any type of store-bought, packet pasta you buy!
The Elasticity and Plasticity of Pasta Flour
So when it comes to choosing the best flour for pasta making, you need to understand the two basic principles of making a pliable, smooth dough. They are elasticity and plasticity.
Gluten is a key component in any type of flour you use, but especially in the flour you choose for making pasta. Gluten's two key properties -- elasticity and plasticity determine how much stretch, bounce-back, pliability, and softness it has.
All of these characteristics make a huge difference in the end result of your pasta. So, in short, you want the best combination of both elasticity and plasticity in your pasta dough. And for this, your flour must have good amounts of both gluten and protein.
The Role of Protein in Flour
Protein is the component in your flour that determines how hard or soft your dough will be. So, the smaller amount of protein in flour, the softer the dough will be. The higher the protein content, the more flour is considered to be ''stronger'' or ''harder''.
When it comes to making pasta, it depends on the type of pasta you're making and the shape. For softer types of pasta such as linguine, tagliatelle, or lasagne, you want to choose flour with a lower protein content. Such as 00 flour.
If you want to make different pasta shapes such as rigatoni, penne, or macaroni, then semolina is a better choice because of its higher protein and lower gluten content.
What Flours Should You Avoid When Making Pasta?
If you're really craving pasta and want to make your own, are there any other types of flour that you could use that might be sitting in your pantry? If it's not all-purpose, 00, or semolina flour it's not recommended. Here are some types of flours that you just shouldn't use when making pasta:
- Cake flour -- also called pastry flour, it has a low protein and gluten content so it wouldn't bind as it should or offer the right amount of elasticity and plasticity
- Strong bread flour -- this type of flour has the opposite problem in that gluten and protein levels are too high, so your pasta dough would come out too tough and dense
While pasta is both a humble and versatile type of food, you want to do it justice by using the right ingredients. When it's made right, you could eat pasta on its own and it would still taste good!
So, What Is the Best Flour for Pasta?
When it's all said and done, there is no definitive way to answer this question. Perhaps the aptest answer would be that it depends on the type of pasta you want to make.
As mentioned, there are different types of flours best suited to different types of pasta. But one general rule-of-thumb you want to keep in mind is that not all 00 flours are created equal. In some cases, they are not always suited to pasta making. Some may be best suited to baking.
So, if you want to use 00 flour, make sure to choose a brand that is intended for pasta making.
How Do You Make Pasta, Anyway?
Now that you know a little more about choosing the best flour for your pasta-making endeavors, what goes into actually making pasta? You don't need more than two ingredients to make pasta: flour and water. In fact, this constitutes the ingredients of most forms of dried pasta sold in-store.
But if you want to make pasta that's a little more rich and flavorsome, there are a couple of variations.
The only rule-of-thumb you have to remember is that you need two main components to make pasta: flour and liquid. The liquid varies, but we highly recommend water, eggs, or olive oil. However, your pasta doesn't have to contain just two ingredients. You can jazz it up a little and add eggs, oil, plus a dash of salt.
In the most traditional sense, you'll find that most Italians will make pasta with either 00 flour or semolina flour and eggs. This is what makes traditional Italian pasta so delicate, rich, and delicious.
Here is a basic pasta recipe you can try at home (serves 4-6 people):
- 6 large eggs
- 600 grams of 00 flour
If you've never made pasta before, you want to use a bowl to start with, and not the countertop like many seasoned pasta makers! Place your flour in the bowl, make a well or hole in the center of the flour, and crack in your eggs. Beat the eggs lightly with a fork until the yolks are combined.
Using your fork, slowly bring in the flour from the outside of the edges of the bowl and mix with the eggs. Do this a little bit at a time until your mixture starts coming together as a loose, sticky dough. Once you've combined most of the flour and egg mixture, tip it out onto your countertop and start to bring everything together into a rough dough.
Knead the dough for a few minutes until everything combines smoothly and there are no lumps or raw bits of flour leftover. This kneading part is important, so put your back into it to activate the gluten in your flour for a soft, elastic dough.
You want to stop kneading when your dough has a springy texture. If you poke your finger into it, the dough should bounce back quite quickly. Let the dough rest for 30-minutes before you roll it out!
Find High-Quality, Authentic Italian Ingredients With Us
If you're looking for the best flour for pasta making, we are your all-in-one go-to!
You can find traditional, Italian ingredients with our comprehensive online store. Whether you're looking for flour, specific types of pasta, pantry items, meats, or specialty cheeses, you name it, we stock it.
Stock up on your flour collection for pasta making -- shop here for more.