So why is it so special? What does the name really mean? The name itself implies a location and style of production, much the same way that a DOC wine appellation does.
To be called Pasta di Gragnano IGP, the pasta must be produced in a legally defined area in and around the Bay of Naples and it must be made by mixing durum wheat with the calcium poor water of the Monti Lattari Mountains.
The method of production is crucial too. The dough is forced through rough bronze forms (trafilata al bronzo) and dried at low temperatures in the mountain air for at least a day (normal industrial pasta is dried in a few hours). The slow approach ensures better flavour and means the pasta retains its nutrients.
The result is a high quality product with plenty of surface area to absorb the flavour and liquid of the sauce with which it is served.
Gragnanese pasta – some cooking tips..
- The amount of water should be estimated in proportion with the amount and type of pasta. Paccheri, for example need more water than Pennette. The ideal proportion is 5 litres for 500 grams of pasta. Water should be well salted but never add oil!
- The shape of the pan is important too, so for spaghetti and long pasta a large tall pot which allows you to place the pasta in a horizontal position is needed. Gragnanese pasta does not need to be stirred too often during cooking. Because it is made with bronze drawing you can just stir it with a wooden spoon it at the beginning and then again later when it comes back to the boil.
- The pasta draining must be very delicate: remove pasta from the water when it is on the hard side with a slotted wooden spoon or with a colander. It’s a good idea to retain a little of the cooking water to add to the sauce to flavour and thicken it a little. Finally, pasta which is on the hard side better preserves its nutritional values and just tastes better!