At Pasta Evangelists, our love for fresh pasta goes beyond its incredible flavour. We also appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into each unique shape. Our team of pastai have pasta-making down to a fine art - and, like with any fine art, it starts with the right ingredients.
The importance of flour in pasta-making is often underestimated. Every keen pasta maker has their magic formula, and we want to help you find yours. In this article, we’ll explore the different types of flour for pasta-making (in granular detail no less!). You can also watch the video below to hear Chef Roberta's tip on selecting the right flour for you pasta dough.
What are the different types of flour for pasta-making?
The three most commonly used types of flour for pasta-making are:
- All-purpose flour
- Semola flour
- “00” flour
We consider pasta-making both an art and a science. Flour contains the gluten needed to give pasta dough its elasticity and plasticity. For the dough to be easy to knead, it must have the right levels of elasticity. Pasta dough also needs some plasticity for it to be moulded into all of those wonderful shapes.
All-purpose flour does what it says on the tin, so it’s perfectly fine to use for making pasta. However, most pasta recipes will recommend either semola or “00” flour. Your choice depends entirely on which pasta shape you're craving!
What is 00 flour for pasta?
Semola and 00 flour are both wheat flours, but they differ greatly in their texture and flavour. Italians classify different types of flour based on how well they have been ground. "1" flour is a wheat flour with larger particles and a coarse texture, whereas "00" flour is a much finer powder.
00 flour is a soft wheat flour that’s perfect for baking, especially cakes and crumbly pastries.
You can also use soft wheat flour for pasta, due to its texture and powdery consistency. Not only is it ideal for softer pasta shapes like tagliatelle, it is also the best flour for ravioli pasta. These delicate parcels need a subtle flavour, so as not to detract from their sumptuous fillings.
00 flour isn’t the most widely available type of flour, but there are several ways to source it. You can either find it at most specialty grocery stores or order it online. 00 flour is used in kitchens across Italy, so if you want to make truly authentic pasta it’s worth the effort.
Why is semola flour used for pasta?
Semola is also known, rather aptly, as pasta wheat or macaroni wheat. Made using hard durum wheat, it’s commonly grown in Northern Italy, which has the perfect warm climate for sturdier grains.
In comparison to soft wheat flour, semola flour should be used for those thick and rugged pasta shapes that soak up rich sauces so wonderfully. Semola has less elasticity than all-purpose-flour and much more plasticity. This consistency also ensures that pasta tubes such as penne or macaroni don’t lose their extruded shape whilst being cooked. Without semola, rigatoni wouldn’t have its grooves, the perfect resting place for a succulent beef shin ragù. It doesn’t even bear thinking about!
Here’s a little tidbit of information - semola flour is traditionally yellow, which is what gives pasta its trademark colour. So thank semola that your mafalde is so appetising - especially when dressed with a glossy butter sauce.
Durum flour vs semola for pasta
While semola is derived from durum wheat, it is not to be confused with durum flour. While they come from the same crop, the wheat is milled to create two separate types of flour.
Semola is made from endosperm, the nutrients which are separated from the durum seeds during the milling process. Durum flour is then made using the finely ground powder that is left over. Much like 00 flour, durum powder is more pliable and is therefore well suited to softer pasta shapes such as spaghetti or sheets of lasagne.
Using other flour types to make pasta
There are many other types of flour. We've outlined here the best types to use for pasta making. However, do not let this limit your pasta making. If you only have one type of flour on hand, try making pasta using it. You may have to adjust the liquid content to get a dough that is smooth and malleable without being overly dry. Additionally, if you are making ravioli or other filled and sealed pasta shapes, you may have to add a little water to the dough before sealing to get the sheets of pasta to stick together. Regardless of the type of flour, this is a handy trick for any filled pasta making as pasta sheets can dry out before you've had a chance to distribute all the filling.
The only type of flour we'd advise against using to make pasta is self-raising flour. This type of flour has baking powder included in it, and as baking powder is not a normal ingredient in either fresh egg pasta dough or pasta bianca dough, it can lead to some undesired results when cooking. If possible, try to find another flour to use in your pasta making.
Have you been inspired to get handy in the kitchen? The joy of making fresh pasta can only be matched by tasting the end result. We’re sure your meal will be all the more satisfying knowing the hard work that went into it.
As well as delivering restaurant-quality fresh pasta nationwide, we offer regular pasta masterclasses at our central London Pasta Academy. Interested in learning more about the fine art of fresh pasta-making? Visit our Pasta Academy page for upcoming events. To practise your pasta craft at home, take a look at our range of complete pasta-making kits, designed to suit both intrepid pasta explorers and the greenest of pastai (pasta makers).