Spaghetti and meatballs, spaghetti bolognese, spaghetti alla vongole and spaghetti carbonara are amongst the most popular dishes on any Italian restaurant menu and at home.
It’s cheap, filling and easy to make and it’s enjoyed all over the world, so how is spaghetti produced in a factory? We’re spaghett-ing there, but first, here’s a short spaghetti story.
A Short History of Spaghetti
A millet-based noodle first appeared in China around 2,000 BC. Perhaps the most famous story about the origins of pasta in Italy was that it was brought back from the East by Marco Polo in the thirteenth century but this is almost certainly a myth. In fact it’s widely believed that Arab traders brought pasta to Europe between the seventh and ninth centuries.
It seems the story of the invention of spaghetti itself has been lost to history. It may have been the Sicilians who first formed a wheat-based pasta into long, thin strands sometime during the 1300s. However, there’s no clear, undisputed origin-story for this famous pasta.
The industrial production of pasta in Italy started around the fifteenth century and by the 1700s, pasta had spread through Europe and to the Americas. Pasta – spaghetti in particular – is one of the world’s most ubiquitous foods and here, we’ll tell you how spaghetti is manufactured.
How Spaghetti is Made
At its most basic, dried spaghetti is made from just two ingredients – semolina flour made from milled durum wheat and water. Fresh spaghetti requires the addition of eggs. Literally translated as ‘hard’ in Latin, durum wheat is perfect for pasta as it cooks to a very hard final product.
The Mix & The Knead
The durum wheat either comes into the processing plant in its raw state and milled on-site, or as ready-milled semolina flour. The first stage in the process of how spaghetti is made is then to mix the flour and water together.
The lumpy dough is then rolled flat between two cylindrical rollers – like giant rolling pins – to remove water and any small pockets of air. The key here is to get the moisture content of the pasta dough to around 12%.
When asking ‘how is spaghetti produced’, one of the most important elements is ensuring it’s been pasteurised. This process ensures all harmful bacteria is killed off by heating it to just over 100°C.
When it comes to how spaghetti is produced, it’s all about the cut. Most commercially-available brands of spaghetti are cut to lengths of 25 – 30cm and this is done using a machine called an extruder. Long, straight pasta such as tagliatelle, vermicelli and spaghetti are stretched to their required width and length before being cut by sharp rotating blades. The spaghetti is then sent to be dried.
Although it may not seem so on the surface, drying the cut pasta is actually one of the most complex steps of the entire pasta-producing process. How is spaghetti produced in a factory is one of the most frequently-asked questions about this fantastic food and the drying process is key to getting it just right.
Different types of pasta require very different drying times. Spaghetti can take up to 12 hours or more with the heat, moisture, oxygen levels and time very carefully monitored by technicians for the entire duration.
The spaghetti is put into large industrial drying machines where a constant flow of circulating hot, moist air dries the pasta to a perfect consistency. Drying the spaghetti too quickly can crack the fragile pasta, while drying it too slowly will allow the pasta to expire before it can be sold.
The packaging is a purely mechanical process and the spaghetti is automatically sealed into plastic bags or cardboard tubes ready to be boxed and shipped out to the supermarket shelves. This is the final step in the process of how spaghetti is manufactured in factories.