Why do some flours produce a pasta that clumps together when boiling and sinks to the bottom of the pot?

by Alex
(Boston, MA)

Hi,

I have experimented with different kinds of flour (soft wheat bakers flour, hard red winter, spring wheat flour) for producing pasta and the results are also different in terms of cooking.

I have used a flour from Baystate Milling called Basco Wheat Flour Untreated and Big Yield Untreated and it resulted in a pasta that when boiled clumps together and sinks in the bottom of the pot. The pasta is also hard to handle when turning in the pot (because of its weight I think).

But when I use another type of flour like bakers soft wheat flour from Europe, the pasta does not sink to the bottom but floats in the cooking water. This is the way it should be.

I would like to know what the cause is for these different results. Is it the protein content, type of wheat, etc...

Best regards,

A.

Answer:

Hi Alex and thanks for your question.

It's certainly not an easy one, but I've done a little research and I'll try to suggest what I think might be going on here!

Firstly, my question to you would be about how you are making your pasta. There are two common ways of making fresh pasta at home (see here):

1. Using very fine 'double zero' (00) flour or general purpose flour along with beaten egg and a little salt.

2. Using much harder 'durum wheat semolina' flour (which is even harder than types such as hard red winter) but only mixing this with water (and salt). This is typically how packet pasta is made in the factory.

It sounds to me that when you have those 'sinking' problems, you may be using a very hard flour and the beaten egg approach, which will result in too heavy a mixture.

With regards your protein question, in short the more protein, the 'harder' the flour, which in turn allows the formation of more gluten.

This gluten makes the dough malleable/stretchy, meaning durum wheat's high protein content is why it ends up being good for pasta dough. You'll find a very clear explanation about protein and flour types on this Types of Wheat Flour page I found.

I hope that's in some way helpful Alex. If you want to supply further info about whether or not you're using egg in your flour mixtures, that would certainly be useful. But in short, the rule is this:

Egg + '00' superfine (or general/all-purpose) flour - see the recipe here

OR

Durum wheat semolina flour + water - see here

Ciao,

Matt.

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