Durum wheat semolina, the true heart of pasta. And then the pasta maker.
His hand and his heart.
But unfortunately they are often not enough for him to understand where his main ingredients come from.
And then there is the final consumer. What kind of pasta comes to his table?
In the heart of southern Italy, at the end of the 1990s, Giuseppe Di Martino, a pasta maker for three generations in Gragnano, began to forge his own project: Pastificio dei Campi.
A project that takes shape thanks to a different perspective of analysis compared to other producers, that is to say to impersonate the need of the final consumer to know the origin of the chain of what he eats.
Puglia, more precisely the Tavoliere and Dauno sub-Apennine areas, areas historically suited to the cultivation of durum wheat, as the basis of the project.
A durum wheat with high nutritional values, grown without the use of chemical fertilizers. The wheat of the past. The one used since the Kingdom of Naples.
The young Di Martino wanted to tell an exciting story to his consumers, who did not necessarily have to be of noble descent from the court of the King of Naples; to transfer to the tables of all Italians today the authentic flavors of a pasta made according to traditions with over 500 years of history.
A truly titanic undertaking, if conceived in the nineties, already fully dominated by the industrial mentality and high production.
The keystone was all there, in the production of durum wheat semolina.
By turning the clock back centuries and returning to the three-year crop rotation, a proven technique that avoids the impoverishment of the soil due to monoculture, an extraordinary raw material would be obtained.
One year we cultivate vegetable crops (fallow) and one year protein legumes.
The latter, as known, have the ability to fix the nitrogen contained in the atmosphere in the roots of the plant, so that it can be used the following year by the wheat.
The third year wheat is cultivated.
Cultivation is done with light ploughing and more nitrogenous fertilizations, the first one during sowing, the second one during the lifting phase and the last one during the botticella (it is the moment in which the plant starts to produce the ear).
In addition, the seeding is very thinned so that the seedlings absorb more nutrients and nitrogen.
Nitrogen is the chemical element behind the formation of proteins. In this way the wheat obtained is lesser in quantity, but of very high quality, with a very strong color, with a protein content much higher than the durum wheat cultivated with the usual methods. The grain in fact reaches a protein content of 15-15.5%, to give a semolina with 14% of proteins.
But in order to do this, it was necessary to convince farmers to work with low yields – and low earnings – renouncing to intensive cultivations very much in vogue at the time – and unfortunately also today.
The agreement was found, thanks to a remuneration regardless of the actual harvest of wheat and also guaranteed the payment of the crops destined to alternative crops.
Il Pastificio dei Campi ha puntato sull’utilizzo solo di alcune tipologie di grano duro come Saragolla, Gracale, Kore, Pietrafitta.
Pastificio dei Campi has focused on the use of only certain types of durum wheat such as Saragolla, Gracale, Kore, Pietrafitta.
The durum wheat, 100% Italian organic, gives us all the security that the limited Km origin can give. During cultivation it is enriched with proteins, reaching a much higher protein value than wheat cultivated with usual methods. The proteins form the gluten, an elastic weave that gives consistency to the pasta and wraps around the starch retaining it during cooking, to give us a product with excellent cooking properties, which always remains “al dente”.
Contributing to the quality of wheat growth is the climate, that is warm, ventilated and not very humid, which absolutely disfavors the formation of molds and therefore of mycotoxins.
Moreover, the tenacity and the quality of gluten of Italian grains are much higher than foreign grains.
Another important element is the water of Gragnano.
It is ideal for pasta making because it is perfect for mixing. Its flavor does not create interferences: you can taste all the flavor of ripe wheat and nothing else.
Then there is the bronze drawing that makes the pasta rough, capable of retaining the sauce.
The slow drying at low temperatures preserves the anthocyanins (natural dyes, which do not change at these temperatures and the pasta remains white, without yellowing), nutrients and gluten and maintains the best scent and flavor.
The experience handed down from father to son is another key element.
In Gragnano, pasta has been made since the 16th century and all this knowledge, accumulated over the centuries, is constantly studied and preserved by Giuseppe Di Martino himself.
Searching in the historical archives of the mills of the past, documents on the production of the past; reading, getting information, talking to farmers to understand the potential of a production quality that has often been distorted by the demand for massive and low quality productions.
Giuseppe Di Martino’s activity was painstaking, meticulous and often difficult.
The driving force behind this incredible entrepreneurial drive is the desire to give consumers the emotion of the flavors of the past.
Pastificio dei Campi with its products, brings to the table first of all the security of a totally traced supply chain and, then, the emotion of a pasta as much as possible equal in flavor to that tasted for centuries by the Neapolitan people.
At the beginning, the project of Pastificio Dei Campi was welcomed with a certain skepticism by Di Martino’s family, in particular by his father, Don Valerio, who considered superfluous the work done by his son Giuseppe to try to improve an already excellent product such as Gragnano pasta produced by the family company.
But one Sunday, during the usual family lunch, Giuseppe Di Martino brought a neutral bag of his first pasta format produced at Pastificio dei Campi, fusilli lunghi col buco.
With the complicity of his mother, they served them at the table and his father, with full satisfaction commented: “Have you seen my son, where can you find a pasta as good as this? It’s impossible to do better!”
At that point Giuseppe revealed to his father the truth, that is, that that plate of pasta he had just tasted was the result of his research and work. Thus began the dream of Pastificio dei Campi.
International manager and journalist, he has held the role of president and vice-president of companies in the USA, China and Brazil on behalf of an Italian company. Journalist for Emilian and national newspapers, he is author of the books “Orientarsi in Cina” and “Brazil, storie dell’altro mondo”.