Gragnano Pasta: the World-Famous Italian Pasta

Gragnano Pasta is a pasta that has acquired the PGI (“Protected Geographical Indication”) title. This label is applied to high-quality food products closely linked to the area in which they are created. This pasta can only be created in Gragnano, a hilltop town in Naples that features the perfect conditions for creating its world-famous pasta.

Mediterranean climate

Gragnano has been producing pasta for about 1,000 years. This is because of the presence of watermills and the breeze from the Gulf of Naples nearby. What sets Gragnano pasta apart is its ingredients and the method of drying the pasta. Gragnano is credited with creating the first dried pasta in the world. This pasta is so cemented in the history and heritage of the town that many people refer to it as the “Gold of Gragnano.”

Below, we explore what makes Gragnano special, what Italian pasta types are available, and offer a few recipes to create at home. 

What Is Gragnano Pasta?

To be considered Gragnano pasta, it must be made in the town of Gragnano. This pasta is made with high-protein durum wheat, which allows the noodles to remain al dente even after boiling. Another characteristic of pasta that bears the Gragnano name is mixing the wheat with water from the town, which features a low mineral content that doesn’t affect the gluten in semolina.

Gragnano pasta also has a specific rough texture, which enables it to hold onto pasta sauce more easily. This texture and shape are created by processing the pasta through a bronze cutter. Finally, this type of pasta must be air-dried or dried slowly, allowing the wheat flavor to shine through. The above characteristics must be met for the pasta to bear a PGI label and the Gragnano name.  

History of Gragnano Pasta

Pasta di Gragnano has a unique history in Italy. It became a large source of profit for the Gragnano people beginning many years ago. However, this pasta was only sold in the town due to natural disasters. Finally, in the 1700s, pasta di Gragnano became an official pasta type. It spread from areas nearby the town of Gragnano, to all over Italy.

The 1700s were an important time for Gragnano pasta, as pasta factories began popping up along the main route through town. Then, in the late 1800s, Gragnano gained a rail connection leading directly to Napoli. It was the first city in the Campania region with direct access to Napoli, signifying the importance of Gragnano-style pasta.

Over the last 100 years, Gragnano pasta has been a global commodity. It is now available in locations worldwide, ensuring people of all backgrounds can enjoy delicious Italian pasta bowls. While many types of pasta bear the Gragnano name, this city is particularly known for maccheroni, a popular tubular pasta known worldwide.

What Makes Gragnano Pasta Different?

One primary characteristic that stands out with pasta di Gragnano, it’s flavor. It is particularly created with taste in mind, unlike many other types of pasta. It’s similar to an artisanal pasta type in that manner. Many types of pasta use wheat, which is sourced from Canada and the U.S. In contrast, Gragnano pasta only uses wheat grown in the town.

Gragnano’s location is a major reason for its rise to fame in the world of pasta. It’s nestled at the base of the Latarri Mountain Range alongside the Amalfi Coast. This location offers the perfect combination of humidity, wind, and sun for growing semolina and curating Gragnano pasta.

This ideal pasta microclimate led the king of Napoli to determine that wheat only be grown in Naples and Gragnano for the entire country in the 1700s. Thus, the quality of the ingredients used in pasta di Gragnano also differentiates it from pasta originating in other locations. 

Gragnano Italian Pasta Types

Many Italian pasta types fall under the title of the Gragnano style. It is not limited to particular pasta shapes, such as cannelloni or casarecce. It can be any number of pasta types, including ditaloni rigati, lasagna, penne lisce, and tubettone. According to Forbes, about 200 types of Gragnano pasta are currently available for purchase.

Italian Pasta Salad Recipe

Italian pasta salad is much different than its counterpart in the U.S., which typically contains bow tie pasta and Italian dressing. In Italy, pasta salads are made using fresh, simple ingredients and extra virgin olive oil as the dressing. In Italy, it’s common to use dry pasta that’s shorter, such as penne or tubetonne rigato, as it holds up better than fresh pasta. A typical pasta fredda, aka pasta salad, includes ingredients like fresh cherry tomatoes, arugula, tuna, cured meats, and cheeses like fresh mozzarella. This dish is typically offered as an appetizer and is served cold. You’ll likely see Italian pasta salad eaten in warmer or hotter weather.

Traditional Italian Pasta Fagioli Recipe

Also known as pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans soup) is a classic dish in Italian cuisine. It’s known as a peasant dish, as it was initially created to help satiate farmers’ families with cheaper cuts of pork that could not be sold to wealthier families. The traditional version of this recipe dates back to the Roman empire when the only type of beans available were black-eyed peas. The recipe has evolved to include American beans, though the pasta fagioli ingredients vary by region.

A traditional Italian pasta fagioli recipe requires pancetta, onion, carrots, celery, fresh herbs, crushed tomatoes, garlic, stock, beans, small pasta (like shells), seasoning, and grated parmesan. The first step is browning the fresh vegetables, herbs, and pancetta in olive oil. Then, you will need to saute the garlic with the browned ingredients. Next, add a portion of beans, the canned tomatoes, and stock to the pot with a portion of blended-up beans. Add the final ingredients and simmer until the pasta is cooked al dente. You can serve the soup with a topping of freshly grated parmesan cheese. 

Is there Gluten-Free Gragnano Pasta?

With the rising number of people avoiding gluten, many gluten-free pasta options are available, including within the title of Gragnano pasta. Various gluten-free pasta from Gragnano can be purchased, including curly lasagna, cannelloni, and tubettone.

Instead of durum wheat, these pasta are made from Italian rice and quinoa flour. While you can purchase many types of authentic gluten-free pasta, only one brand is authorized to sell PGI gluten-free pasta from Gragnano. The pasta producer mentioned is La Fabbrica della Pasta di Gragnano, a company that maintains a traditional method of producing pasta that has been passed down for multiple generations.

About Gragnano Pasta Factory

Opening La Fabbrica della Pasta di Gragnano was inspired by a pasta-producing factory called Pasta Factory. Mario Moccio ran it in the early 1940s. In the mid-1970s, Mario Moccia, the father of the current owners, decided to dedicate himself to renovating the same historic building in the center of Gragnano for pasta production. Thus, he took over the Pasta Factory. Previously, he had been a cheese maker but was charmed by Gragnano and shifted his energy there. This helped inspire the initial collection of pasta factories in the town.

The factory opened by Mario Moccia played a role in the popularity of Gragnano pasta worldwide. Unfortunately, the Pasta Factory had to close in 1994 after multiple generations of family members had created Gragnano Pasta. However, a few years later, a new company was born – La Fabbrica della Pasta di Gragnano, run by Antonino, in memory of Mario, his father.

This company uses secrets and techniques passed through the generations of their family to create high-quality authentic Gragnano pasta. Bronze dies, top-tier durum wheat (or corn/rice flour), and water from Gragnano are used to produce traditional pasta.

As mentioned, La Fabbrica della Pasta di Gragnano has a new line of gluten-free bronze-drawn pasta. It’s ideal for those who have celiac disease, a gluten allergy, or gluten sensitivity. It’s made with the same traditional methods as standard Gragnano pasta, with flour instead of wheat. Those who cannot consume gluten can once again eat Italian pasta bowls.

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