Where Is The Best Dried Pasta In The World Made?

Mount Vesuvius, visible from Gragnano on a clear day

Short answer
The unassuming hilltop town of Gragnano in the Italian region of Campania is famous for being the birthplace of dried pasta and, to this day, has a reputation for being where the finest pasta in the world is made.

Long answer
Known as the City of Pasta, the quaint Italian town of Gragnano is located in a valley between the Lattari Mountains and the Amalfi Coast. It is a true culinary gem where pasta isn't just food but an art form.

Locally called "the gold of Gragnano," the town is widely believed to be the birthplace of dried pasta and has a cult following with numerous Italian chefs, including the three Michelin-starred Massimo Bottura. In 2013, local businesses managed to satisfy the EU that their pasta was so good it warranted a 'protected geographical indication' (PGI) status to protect it from inferior copycats.

The Amalfi Coast near Gragnano

Similar to how Ligurian basil was awarded a 'protected designation of origin' status (PDO), Gragnano's PGI status means the pasta produced here must adhere to some very specific criteria. Not only must it be made using the finest quality wheat and local water, but it should also be made using bronze dies, slow drying times, and within strict geographical boundaries to guarantee the perfect microclimate.

The finest wheat
Great pasta starts with great ingredients, and the local durum wheat semolina, which is high in protein and gluten, is considered some of the finest in the world. Much of it comes from nearby Puglia, ensuring freshness and quality. Here, farmers are required to let their soil rest in between harvests, which lowers the yield and makes it more expensive but produces a far superior product.

Durum wheat

Provenance plays a huge part in Italian cuisine, and pasta is no exception. In Gragnano, companies like Pastificio Dei Campi have developed a tracking system that lets them know exactly where each grain of wheat has come from. Their packaging even features photos of the very farmers who grow the grains.

Bronze die extrusion
Traditional pasta-making methods involve extruding the dough through bronze dies, and this is a requirement for Gragnano pasta's PDI status. Bronze is a relatively soft, slightly porous metal that creates some friction between the dough and the die. This imparts a rough texture, which helps sauces stick to it and also gives it the ability to soak up more sauce to enhance the overall flavour of each mouthful. Enthusiastic foodies love the distinctive, artisanal touch it gives the pasta.

Bronze die cut fusilli

Slow drying process
Gragnano pasta undergoes a slow drying process where it is hung on bamboo drying frames in the open air. This can take up to 50 hours from start to finish, a level of patience that is critical for producing pasta with the perfect texture. It also gives the pasta a rich, nutty flavour and helps to retain nutrients that fast-drying destroys.

Geography and climate
Cool breezes from the sea and nearby mountains, combined with mild temperatures and high humidity, make Gragnano the perfect environment for a slow and natural drying process.

Water, one reason Gragnano's pasta is the best in the world

The water
Gragnano pasta is made using the pure water from Monti Lattari, which is low in minerals, specifically calcium. This allows the semolina to retain its elasticity and offer the Holy Grail of pasta cooking, the all-important al dente bite.

Pasta tradition
The Italians are incredibly proud of their culinary traditions, and the fact that Gragnano has been crafting pasta for centuries has resulted in generations of skilled local pasta makers along with refined techniques. The town stands as a beacon of authenticity and craftsmanship, with expertise and knowledge that have been passed down through generations. This all contributes to the consistency and quality of the world-class pasta produced in the region.