Pasta – the basics for improving quality.

03/21/2013 How to optimize pasta made from common wheat flour.

Pasta is one of the world’s most popular foods. Not only in Europe, but also in South America, the USA and Asia, people appreciate pasta thanks to its excellent flavor, simple preparation and the wide variety of sauces and side dishes available. Even in countries where the traditional cuisine is based on rice, the consumption of pasta products is rising steadily. What is interesting is that in many of these markets, common wheat flour is used instead of durum wheat semolina. To ensure that the pasta products have good quality characteristics, common wheat flour needs to be optimized for the production process

Unlike in Italy, where pasta is made from durum wheat semolina, in many other countries (especially emerging markets) pasta is made from common wheat flour. Pasta made from durum semolina has different properties when compared with pasta made from common wheat flour.

The raw material used has a significant impact on the pasta quality.

Properties of common wheat flour

Impact on pasta quality

Protein quantity and quality (wet gluten and gluten index)

Cooking quality in general, cooking loss, whether the pasta is firm to the bite (“al dente”)

Damaged starch content

Stickiness of cooked pasta and surface integrity

Endosperm hardness and vitreousness

White spots, surface roughness

Ash content, extraction rate

Red-brown color of pasta

Yellow pigment content

Yellow color of pasta

Starch and proteins are the main components of durum wheat semolina and common wheat flour. Wheat starch is composed of small spherical B-type granules and larger lenticular A-type granules. Proteins can be fractionated into albumin, globulin, gliadin and glutenin. Albumins and globulins are minor fractions (around 20 %) compared to monomeric gliadins and polymeric glutenins (around 80 %). Glutenins are composed of high-molecular-weight and low-molecular-weight subunits linked together by disulphide bonds. During the preparation of pasta dough, gliadin and glutenin form a type of mesh in which the starch is embedded. This gives the final pasta product a specific texture during drying (dehydration) and after cooking.

The quality of common wheat flour varies, so pasta producers in certain regions seek to optimize the quality of their pasta by adding ingredients to the pasta formulas.

Ingredients added to optimize flour-based pasta
Various ingredients are used to optimize pasta made from common wheat flour. A common ingredient is vital wheat gluten, that is, hydrated gluten, and/or specific enzymes that have oxidizing functions on the gluten units or enzymes that affect flour lipids or pentosan solubilization. In certain special pasta applications, such as gluten-free pasta, emulsifier compounds are added. The impact on the quality of the final pasta also depends to a certain extent on the technology or process used. For example, an increase in the drying temperature affects the firmness and stickiness of the pasta.

The parameters for assessing the quality of the pasta are primarily the color, cooking time and cooking tolerance, surface integrity (cooking loss and sliminess) and whether the pasta is “firm to the bite”, or “al dente”, the famous Italian expression to describe the texture after optimal cooking time. Adding special ingredient mixes to the flour can improve the pasta’s firmness to the bite, cooking tolerance, surface integrity and color.

1 - Common wheat pasta 2 - Optimized common wheat past

The color of the pasta can be measured using a Minolta color meter device with L, a and b values and saturation. The L value provides information regarding the lightness of the product, with a higher L-value indicating a more lighter color.






Sample 1





Sample 2





The texture of the cooked pasta can be assessed using a texture analyzer, as shown in the following charts. The optimized pasta on the right requires a higher force for elongation than the reference sample on the left.

Cooking the dry pasta in water gives the pasta its ultimate structure. The structure of cooked pasta is generally described as a compact matrix with starch granules evenly entrapped in a protein or gluten network.

Bühler – an expert in pasta production technology
Bühler provides two types of pasta dough preparation systems: the Priomatik™ and the Polymatik™ pasta press. Both pasta processes involve four fundamental steps a) hydration of semolina or flour, b) mixing, c) forming by extrusion and d) drying. During mixing, the water is distributed as evenly as possible throughout the semolina or flour, thus promoting homogeneous particle hydration. The obtained dough is fed to an extrusion screw and formed into the desired shape; pasta is then dried to reduce its moisture content to around 12 %.
For gluten-free pasta, Bühler has developed a special process based on rice or corn that provides excellent quality. For further information, please see or send an e-mail to 

Did you know?
Pasta has a low glycemic index.
The glycemic index, or GI, provides a method for evaluating the effects of carbohydrate-containing foods on blood glucose levels. A unique feature of pasta is that it contains slowly digestible starch.

Pasta products


Spaghetti, wholemeal, boiled, average


Spaghetti, white, boiled, average


Spaghetti, white, boiled 20 min, average


Fettucini, boiled, average


Macaroni, boiled, average


Macaroni and Cheese boiled, average


               Source: Harvard Medical School 2008

The GI ranks foods on a scale of one to 100 depending on how rapidly and significantly your blood sugar rises after you eat them. The GI value of most types of bread ranges between 70 and 75. The GI value of pasta ranges between 43 and 61. Pasta has a low GI because of the physical entrapment of un-gelatinized starch granules in a network of protein molecules in the pasta dough. Pasta should be cooked until al dente (“firm to the bite”); be careful not to overcook pasta as this increases the GI.

Walter von Reding
Corporate Development Nutrition Solutions
Bühler Group Uzwil, Switzerland


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