Mon May 17, 2010
Spaghetti Western: Tracing Pasta to its Source
As part of our weeklong series on food, “Eating In”, the news team cooked dinner at reporter Josh Rogers’ house.
We then tracked how some of the main ingredients made their way to our dinner table.
Producer Avishay Artsy started with the pasta, served in a sauce of caramelized onions, garlic, anchovies, crushed red pepper and parsley.
SOUND OF PASTA BEING PLACED INTO WATER
It’s a familiar sound in kitchens around the world. Tear open a box of pasta, dump the contents into a pot of boiling water, wait about 10 minutes, heat up some sauce, and voila – dinner is served.
Carol Freysinger is executive director of the National Pasta Association in Washington, DC.
Freysinger :“The United States consumes six billion pounds of pasta every year. That calculates to almost 20 pounds a person.”
Where does all that pasta comes from?
Let’s start about two-thousand miles northwest of here, in the heart of durum wheat country.
Neubauer :“My name is Larry Neubauer. I farm in north-central North Dakota. I’m the president of the U-S Durum Growers Association.”
Neubauer farms about 55-hundred acres near the Canadian border.
He dedicates about two thousand of those acres to durum and spring wheat.
Once harvest season begins in late summer, his wheat is cleaned, tested, and then trucked to a local cooperatively-owned grain elevator or directly to a mill.
Neubauer can’t say for sure where his wheat goes, but he figures some of it has gone to the largest dry pasta manufacturer in North America.
That’s the American Italian Pasta Company, or A-I-P-C. …
Vice President of Global Sourcing John Griffith purchases the wheat from the areas where it grows best…
Griffith :“Northwestern North Dakota, northeastern Montana, southern Seskatchewan…”
… and ships it to one of its plants in Missouri, Arizona or South Carolina. Griffith says durum is the ideal wheat for making pasta.
Griffith : “It’s very strong, meaning that it will not rise like a loaf of bread will rise. It remains very dense, which is how you want your pasta of course.”
The mill grinds the wheat into semolina.
The semolina is blended with water in high-speed mixers to make dough, and then forced through specially-made dies.
Griffith :“So you can think of it like when you’re a child, playing with your Play-Doh maker. It’s just a large commercial version of such a thing where you can make all these different types of shapes.”
Fettucine, rigatoni, rotelle, penne, elbow macaroni, lasagna – there are hundreds of varieties.
The U-S is the world’s second largest producer of pasta, but only the seventh-largest consumer.
Griffith says A-I-P-C ships pasta all over the world.
Griffith :“To places like Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Italy, Spain, Germany…”
And for our dinner party, this whole wheat linguine provided the perfect opening course.
“That’s good pasta, Josh.” “Yeah it’s really good.”
For NHPR News, I’m Avishay Artsy.