Flour is the main ingredient of pasta, but not all flour is the same. Therefore, choosing the right type is crucial for success in pasta making.
In Italy, two types of flour are common: Semolina is flour made from durum wheat and used for pasta without egg. Farina di Grano Tenero Tipo 00 stands for soft wheat flour and is only suitable for making egg pasta. It is equivalent to all-purpose flour.
In this article, you will learn which regional flours you can use for your pasta dough and how they affect the structure of the dough.
Italian Pasta Flour Explained
In Italy, two main types of flour are used to make pasta:
- Semola di grano Duro, Rimacinata (also Semolina).
- Farina Di grano Tenero, Tipo 00
Since these are specific to Italy and unavailable everywhere, it is essential to understand the differences between flour types. After reading this article, you will know exactly where to buy Italian flour or how to substitute it with an equivalent regional flour.
Both are based on the essential type of grain for pasta: wheat. A distinction is made between durum wheat and soft wheat, each with different characteristics.
The degree of milling is also of particular interest, as it directly affects the structure of the pasta dough (more on this later under “Pasta explained: the role of flour in pasta dough”).
Semola di grano Duro, Rimacinata (also Semolina)
You can easily recognize semolina by its yellow hue. It is based on durum wheat and is used in Italy to make pasta secca (dried pasta without egg). It is finely ground and ideally suited for pasta making due to its high protein content.
In Italy, semola is found in three appearances, each denoting the degree of milling:
- Semola grossa (coarsely ground, equivalent to German durum wheat semolina).
- Semola (finely ground)
- Semola rimacinata or Semolina (double ground).
The finest grind is the most interesting for homemade pasta: semola rimacinata!
Several brands sell it worldwide. I usually use the one from De Cecco (view on Amazon)*.
Farina di grano Tenero, Tipo 00
Farina di grano Tenero is a soft wheat-based flour used in Italy to make pasta fresca (fresh egg pasta). It is the equivalent of all-purpose flour.
There are several types of flour for farina in Italy. They indicate the mineral content and how finely the flour is milled.
- Farina Integrale (comparable to whole wheat flour).
- Farina Tipo 2 (similar to type 1050)
- Farina Tipo 1 (similar to type 812)
- Farina Tipo 0 (similar to type 550)
- Farina Tipo 00 (similar to type 405)
Generally, the lower the type number, the finer the flour is milled.
The finest milling is the most interesting for homemade pasta: Tipo 00!
Several brands sell it worldwide. I usually use the one from Caputo (view on Amazon)*.
Where can I buy Italian flour?
The most authentic way is to use Italian flour for homemade pasta. But where can you buy pasta flour?
You can order both types of flour on the internet. Here are the brands I usually use:
- Semola di grano Duro, Rimacinata by De Cecco.
- Farina di grano Tenero from Caputo.
9 Flour Types you Can Use for Homemade Pasta
Wheat is considered the essential type of grain for Pasta because it has the highest gluten content. This gives pasta dough an excellent elastic consistency, suitable for shaping Pasta.
But with a bit of practice, it is possible to make Pasta with other flour types as well. Here are 9 flours you can use for your Pasta.
All Purpose Flour
Instead of Italian Farina, you can use its equivalent: All purpose flour.
Spelt does not contain as much gluten as wheat but is healthier. It’s a great alternative to wheat flour and gives a slightly different taste.
Here is a recipe for pasta dough with spelt flour.
Whole wheat flour
Whole wheat flour is healthy because it includes the nutrient-rich corn shell. I use a 50/50 mix with all-purpose flour. Otherwise, the dough will be laborious to knead.
Here is a recipe for pasta dough with whole-wheat flour
Whole spelt flour
You can also use whole spelt flour in the same way. But, again, mixing it with finer flour makes kneading easier.
The link above contains a recipe for spelt wholemeal dough.
Chestnut flour is slightly sweet and can be combined with spelt flour. It is a great variation, suitable, for example, for filled ravioli as a dessert.
(recipe is unfortunately not yet online)
Buckwheat flour (gluten-free)
Buckwheat flour is used for soba noodles. Traditionally, they are made from 100% buckwheat, but since it does not contain gluten, it presents a challenge. I found it much easier to make when I added about 100 grams of wheat to every 320 grams of buckwheat.
Here is a tutorial for pasta dough with buckwheat flour.
Chickpea flour (gluten-free)
Chickpea flour can be used to make gluten-free Pasta. You can make pure chickpea dough, but in my experience, it works best if you mix it with buckwheat.
Here is a tutorial for pasta dough with chickpea flour.
Flour from Schär (gluten-free).
The easiest recipe for gluten-free Pasta works with gluten-free flour from Schär*.
Here is a tutorial for gluten-free pasta dough using Schär flour.
Lentil flour (gluten-free).
Lentil flour is another pseudo grain without gluten. As with all gluten-free flours, it’s not easy, but possible to make homemade Pasta with it.
Here is a tutorial for pasta dough with lentil flour.
Pasta explained: the role of flour in pasta dough.
When shaping pasta, you generate high compressive and tensile forces. Therefore, pasta dough must be elastic and stretchy to be rolled out and shaped nicely without tearing.
It is the proteins contained in the grain that are mainly responsible for these two properties. When flour is mixed with water and then kneaded, protein networks are formed, giving pasta dough its structure.
The protein gluten, in particular, ensures optimal cross-linking, which is precisely why it is also known as the “glue protein.”
Since no other cereal contains as much gluten as wheat, it is no surprise that it is considered the most important cereal for pasta.
Here’s why durum wheat is best for pasta
Durum wheat has about a 3 percent higher gluten content than soft wheat, and this seemingly small difference significantly impacts dough properties.
Specifically, the two main components of gluten, gliadin, and glutenin, play an essential role.
Glutenin is a high-molecular protein mixture consisting of many amino acids, some of which are positively or negatively charged.
You can think of it as a very long, magnetic chain: When kneaded, the chain moves within the dough, and the magnetic chain links stick to other components.
Without this interaction, no stable structure would develop, and the flour would remain crumbly instead of forming into a dough.
The protein gliadin plays a slightly different role:
It is smaller than the high-molecular-weight glutenin and squeezes between the linked glutenin chains. As a result, a more wide-meshed protein network is formed, the effects of which can be observed in reality.
Gliadin ensures that the dough does not contract again after rolling out. This property is also known as plasticity. This property is essential for pasta types that must retain form after shaping.
A clear example is orecchiette:
Orecchiette are small ear-shaped pasta that are often dried and, thanks to your cavity, provide excellent support for sauce and small-cut vegetables. Without gliadin, the dough would collapse again before the pasta was dry.
Soft wheat flour is a good alternative only in combination with eggs.
Soft wheat flour also has a high gluten content, but using the same recipe as semolina dough will not give you a perfect pasta dough.
It takes more than just water to make the soft wheat flour shine. Fortunately, eggs manage to help out!
Pasta from gluten-free flour is difficult to make
Earlier in the article, I presented some recipes for gluten-free pasta dough, but the truth is that none of these recipes come close to the properties of wheat dough.
For the reasons explained, gluten is a crucial component of pasta dough that is difficult to mimic, even with specialized substitutes like xanthan gum or carrageenan.
Stuffed pasta, in particular, is difficult to make without gluten, but for simple ribbon noodles, it will do!
Now it’s your turn
Thank you for reading this post, “Which flour is suitable for homemade pasta.” Feel free to comment if anything still needs to be clarified.