Making better pasta

teflon pasta.jpg

Metal dies used to make pasta. MPR photo/Dan Gunderson

Often while reporting a story, I meet people doing the kind of work one just doesn’t think about every day.

That’s the case with Frank Manthey. He runs the durum/pasta quality program at North Dakota State University in Fargo. His job is to research ways to improve the quality of semolina flour and pasta. So he makes a lot of pasta in his lab which is set up just like a small scale pasta factory. He obviously loves his job.

One of the issues he wrestles with is Teflon or no Teflon?

To make pasta, dough is pushed through metal dies which make the noodle shapes we all recognize. Manthey says by coating the dies in teflon, you can create an incredibly smooth pasta which looks wonderful. And Teflon extends of the life of the metal dies.

The problem is, the noodles are so smooth that when you pick up a forkful, all the sauce slides off. So, beautiful glistening smooth noodles? or a hefty load of sauce with each forkful.

Manthey leans towards the noodles with a rougher surface and better “loading” of sauce.

He’s also working on several types of pasta made from bean flour. Manthey says there’s growing consumer acceptance of multigrain pasta made from things like navy beans or kidney beans.

The different flours make spaghetti that’s dark brown, red, and yellow, and each has a slightly different flavor.

Manthey says the new pasta’s provide “a whole different culinary experience.” And he should know. His job includes sampling all those varieties of pasta!

Listen to my story on how wet conditions could affect pasta prices Tuesday on MPR’s Morning Edition.

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