LE MARCHE

Marche Food & Wine

Traditional Specialities, Pasta, Salumi, Cured Meats, cheeses

In Focus  
ott 3

03/10/2011  RssIcon

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Many products lines are manufactured according to the following presumption: given that mass-produced pasta is smooth and yellow, then home-made pasta should be white and coarse. When you see these knobbly, snow-white examples of pasta, they have actually been produced by a system which is completely wrong, because the methods used to manufacture these products are so extreme: the dough contains just a tiny amount of water and the production tube is kept very cold. Thus, you get pasta which appears very coarse, but on the inside, its structure has lost all its porosity and is as hard as a rock. Whenever I cook this kind of pasta, it tends to stick together, remains hard on the inside and takes forever to cook.

The rough texture and colour are characteristics which should not be exaggerated. You need to make a balanced dough: rough lines can be created with tools and by applying presure; then you can create internal porosity by drying the pasta very slowly; and the wheat gluten will give you the desired consistency and texture.

These paragraphs are taken from an the interview with “L’uomo dei sogni di grano”, Massimo Mancini, owner of Pasta Mancini. What do they remind you of? As is my wont, I immediately drew an abstract (and, of course, ironic) association. I recalled one of Seneca's dictums, taken from De brevitate vitae:

[…] There is no reason to believe that someone has lived for a long time because of their white hair and wrinkles: this person has not lived for a long time, rather, they have been alive for a long time.

Ok, perhaps at first sight you can see the aesthetic, terminological link, drawing parallels between "white pasta" and "white hair", and "coarse pasta" with "wrinkles". But there is something else: this comparison has a much deeper meaning, as I will explain.

Allow me a flexible interpretation of the question: pasta which needs to match up the publicised and widely-accepted idea of homemade (white and coarse) pasta is essentially a type of pasta which does not do justice to its interior. Imagine a piece of pasta busying itself in front of the mirror, adding powder to make itself appear whiter, drawing on lines higgledy-piggedly to make itself appear more wrinkled, in the same way as Seneca’s busy men who “spend many hours at the barber’s having last night's beard growth shaved, asking for advice over every single hair, having their tufts nicely ruffled or, for those with less hair, combing it from one side or the other towards the front..." And while this pasta seeks to appear as close as possible to the market-imposed stereotype, it is forgetting that it has a job to do, that above all it was created to be good, to complement its sauce and carry it inside like a hidden bounty. The lack of attention to porosity and thus generosity and suitability makes it in some way dishonest, so far has it been removed from its innate intention (as Seneca says of the officials, “Is there any one of you who would not prefer styling your hair over being more honest?), that is, not to appear a certain way but to be a certain way.

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The pasta of Pasta Mancini, on the other hand, is more akin to the wise man in Seneca’s Letters to Lucilio who does indeed take care of his body, which he describes as "necessary, more than important", but above all prizes his soul. And the soul of pasta, if we continue with this tentative comparison, comes from its nature, its ability to be both a treat for the eyes and the palate, a pleasure in appearance and substance, a combination of innovation and tradition. The Mancini agricultural company makes an effort to preserve all of the characteristics of its strictly Marche-produced durum wheat, because “to be excellent, it [the wheat] must be given the best treatment” (Massimo Mancini). The environmental impact of the manufacturing process has been kept to a minimum, so much so that the building has been designed to develop along with the production laboratory and with an appearance that integrates perfectly into the landscape of the Monte San Pietrangeli hills.

In other words, coming back to my point and concluding this Pindaric pasta-philosophy metaphor, it seems clear to me that the quality (both external and “internal”) of Mancini pasta is a direct extension of the honesty of those who produce the pasta: Massimo and his family.

 

The Paradise Trotter

© Paradise Possible Communication
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