There isn’t anything quite as good as a bowl of beautifully prepared pasta topped with a sauce that’s made from fresh ingredients and spices.
It’s tempting to take that joyful meal to the next level by making your own pasta, but many cooks are disappointed by their first few attempts at fresh pasta.
Why are those first attempts disappointing? Usually, because you don’t understand the science behind choosing your pasta ingredients and preparing an amazing pasta.
Choosing the right bread flour is absolutely critical for creating an amazing pasta. Short of choosing the perfect bread flour, you can adjust with technique.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your perspective, pasta is generally a 2-3 ingredient dish of flour, eggs, and maybe water. That means that you don’t have a lot of wiggle room to make a sub-par ingredient work.
So what is the best pasta flour? The best pasta flour should be consistently ground and have a high gluten content or high hardness rating. It can be finely or more coarsely ground, depending on preference. You should avoid flours used for baking cakes or light pastries.
In this article, we’ll present some of the best flour options when it comes to flour, and we’ll also talk about the secrets behind creating fantastic pasta at home.
What Makes Pasta Work?
Like most simple recipes, one of the most common questions behind pasta is how something so simple works.
Pasta is incredibly popular, but it’s also a great way to stretch resources thanks to its simplicity. What makes this 2+ ingredient dish so good?
The simple answer is this: protein. For the most part that protein is gluten.
Now, there are some great gluten-free pastas out there, and you can make gluten-free pasta at home. However, that topic is broad enough that it serves its own article, and we’re going to focus on wheat flours and pasta with gluten in this article.
Gluten is what gives the pasta its firmness or tooth. It holds the pasta together, allows the pasta to become somewhat stretchy, and generally creates the texture.
You develop gluten by kneading pasta dough. The gluten itself is already there in the flour, but kneading allows it to chain together and changes texture and density.
Resting after kneading your dough also allows the gluten to develop, so both steps are important.
If you’re making a water pasta, that is a pasta that only has water for moisture, gluten is the main binder that holds your dough together.
If you’re making a pasta that includes egg, the egg is another binder as well as a source of added protein. That’s why the texture of these pastas tends to feel firmer and fuller when you eat them.
But you aren’t going to get your pasta to hang together if you start with a flour that is very low protein or low gluten.
Cake flour, for instance, isn’t a good option for pasta. Cake flour is meant for a light and fluffy baked product, so it has a very low hardness rating, hardness referring to how much gluten is in the flour.
What Makes Great Pasta Flour
When it comes to pasta flour there are a few things you should look for:
- It should be consistently ground, meaning that you only have one texture of flour in the bag. You can mix flours to create a mixed texture, but if you notice that you have very different textures in the same bag of flour, you should switch products.
- Many people prefer a flour that has a little more texture, meaning it’s medium to coarse ground. Some pasta makers enjoy a fine ground flour, so you may want to play around with different textures and different flour ratios to get the right mix for you.
- It needs to have a good amount of gluten or a high hardness rating. This is a trickier one to evaluate sometimes but thinking about what kinds of goods some flour is designed to make can help. We’ve already given the example of cake flour, but it is one of the best examples of a flour that is designed to work for something completely opposite to pasta (so you’ll want to avoid that one).
- Flour that is designed for something firmer than cake, like a crusty bread, pizza crust, or similar is probably going to work pretty well for pasta. That’s why bread flour is a popular choice A flour that’s designed for making pastries probably isn’t going to be as good an option.
The Best Pasta Flours
Know that we’ve talked a little more about the science behind pasta it’s time to really dive into the best pasta flour options.
Here are the best pasta flours on the market:
|1.||Paolo Mariani Flour for Pasta||Very fine (00), 2.2 lbs|
|2.||MOLINO GRASSI Organic Italian Semolina Flour||Fine, 2.2 lbs|
|3.||Antimo Caputo Semolina Flour||Coarse, 2.2 lbs|
|4.||Bob's Red Mill Semolina Pasta Flour||Semi-fine, 24 oz|
|5.||Pivetti All-Purpose Italian Flour||Very fine (00), 2.2 lbs|
Let’s look at each a little more closely, shall we?
1. Paolo Mariani Flour For Fresh Pasta
This is a wonderful finely ground pasta flour that’s made from Italian wheat. It’s not semolina, which is one of the more common options for great pasta flour. Instead, this flour is made from regular wheat that doesn’t have quite the protein content of semolina but still creates a wonderful pasta dough.
If you’re looking for pasta that has a smooth texture from the fine flour, this is a good option.
The big strength of this flour is that it maintains good, even, hydration during the kneading process. That means that you have a great deal of control during the kneading process, and don’t have to constantly tweak the moisture and texture of the dough.
It’s suitable for all kinds of pasta, including gnocchi. It’s also a good flour for crusty baked items like pizza crush. It’s not a good replacement for all-purpose flour and isn’t a good pastry flour.
- Very finely ground
- High protein content
- Maintains good hydration
- Gives you a lot of control over the dough
- Not as high in protein as semolina flour.
2. MOLINO GRASSI Organic Italian Semolina Flour
If you’re looking for a flour that is organic, Halal, or Kosher, this is probably a good bet. It’s semolina flour, which means that it’s made from durum wheat, which has a naturally high protein content.
Semolina is a highly aromatic flour, which lends additional flavor to pasta and other baked goods. It’s also naturally a brighter color than many other wheat flours and will develop a bright golden or brown color when it’s cooked.
While this flour says that it’s a good option for pastries as well as pastas, breads, and pizza crusts, we’d disagree. It’s ground finely enough, although still slightly coarser than plain wheat flour. But, it’s protein content makes your resulting dough heavier than you want in most pastry.
This flour is made in Italy, and is organic, GMO-free, and meets the standards for both Halal and Kosher cooking, which means that you’ll be able to cook for a wider group of people than with your standard flour.
- High protein content
- Relatively fine ground
- Kosher and Halal friendly
- Not suitable for pastry and lighter baked goods.
3. Antimo Caputo Semolina Flour
The Antimo Caputo Semolina flour is another fine ground semolina that’s designed specifically for pasta and pizza crusts.
One of the appeals of this flour is that it comes in the same kind of bulk packaging that you’re used to seeing in the grocery store. It’s distinctive, easy to store, and designed to contain your flour if you don’t have another container to put it in.
It’s also a high protein count, which will naturally result in denser and crustier baked goods.
Made in Italy, and specifically in Naples, this flour really captures the flavor and texture of some of the best Italian pasta traditions. Since it was made with those traditional Italian dishes in mind, that is where this semolina really excels.
It creates a firm pasta that’s very smooth in texture. It’s suitable for all pasta types. It’s relatively easy to work with overall, though it can dry out a little as you knead.
- Made in Italy
- Easy to store
- High protein
- Perfect for traditional Italian foods
- This flour occasionally suffers from shipment and freshness problems in the United States.
4. Bob’s Red Mill Semolina Pasta Flour
This semolina flour is a little different from the ones we’ve already discussed. It’s a coarser flour than the others.
Semolina was once considered a coarser flour by nature. It’s since been ground finer and finer, and that has become more of the norm.
Instead, Bob’s Red Mill Semolina Pasta Flour is closer to the original texture of semolina flour, which is often described as ‘sandy’. That means that the texture of the pasta will be fairly different from a finely ground flour.
It’s also a little different in that it isn’t made in Italy. This is an employee-owned company in the States, so their traditions are a little different. It’s still made from durum wheat, or it wouldn’t be semolina, and it’s got the same strong slightly sweet flavor.
This is a good option if you’re looking for a coarser more rustic feeling pasta, are looking for a semolina flour to mix into your pasta dough, or are looking for a bright yellowish flour to bring some more color into the finished product.
- Great for creating a flour blend
- Rustic coarse ground semolina
- Brightly colored
- Sweet and strong flavor
- Comes in smaller quantities (also a bonus if you have limited space).
5. Pivetti All-Purpose Italian Flour
Not every cook is going to want to keep a separate type of flour around specifically for making pasta. To that end, we wanted to include at least one all-purpose flour that will work well for pasta and just about everything else you want to bake.
This flour is a 100% wheat, extremely fine ground flour. That means that you’ll have a smooth texture in your pasta. It’s not as brightly colored as semolina, and you may have to work your pasta dough a little longer before you get the texture and elasticity you want.
However, it’s an Italian flour that translates well for most baking tasks. It does still have plenty of flavor, if not quite the sweetness of semolina.
We recommend this as a great pasta flour that works for cooks with limited space and limited storage capacity.
- Fine texture
- Italian made flour
- Multi-purpose, makes pasta and pastry
- 100% wheat flour, no additives or preservatives
- Milder flavor than semolina.
- Only has a medium amount of protein content.
In this article, we’ve gone over what makes pasta work, what you need in a good pasta flour, and five of the best pasta flours you can get right now.
Hopefully, this article has given you a better idea of what you need for truly great pasta, and more confidence in picking a pasta flour, even if it isn’t one of our recommendations.
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