FLORENCE, Italy– Gluten free food is everywhere now, at least in the US. But have you ever thought about what it would mean having gluten intolerance in another country; a country like Italy, so rooted in tradition?
After a visit to Pastificio Fabbri, a four-generation pasta-making business run by Giovanni Fabbri, I learned sometimes it’s the quality of wheat–and the release of its starches–that can make a difference in how our bodies react to gluten.
Pastificio Fabbri starts with semolina flour, made from durum wheat and not all-purpose white flour found commonly on US grocery shelves. The stalk of wheat he showed us tasseled above his head. The common variety of wheat next to it, stood about thigh-high. As Giovanni poured water over a lump of dough in his hand and massaged it, he stressed that the cloudy water dripping from the dough contained starch from the grain. He continued to massage the dough, resulting in a perfectly elastic dough ball about one-tenth of the original size of the dough lump. The rest was the white starch now in the water.
Our bodies react better to less starches and more nutrients. When industrial pasta makers do things fast, Giovanni said, it results in more starches trapped in the quick-dried pasta, which then takes on a tell-tale yellowish color. Traditionally-made Italian pasta has a lighter, white-ish color because the pasta has dried slowly. This process does not trap the starches within the noodle and, during cooking, the water becomes opaque with released starch. The pasta is more easily digested and healthier for our bodies.