Pasta's production process has changed during the years, but the product is essentially the same: a mixture of durum wheat semolina and water.
While soft wheat flours are allowed for fresh pasta, only durum wheat semolina is used for dried pasta in Italy.
Durum and soft wheat are two varieties of the most widepsread cereal, and both of them are farmed in Italy - the first one is more common in Southern Italy, particularly in Puglia; the second one is usually produced in the Northern areas of the country - like Lombardia, Veneto and Emilia Romagna. According to the Italian law only durum wheat semolina is allowed in the prodcution of dried pasta: indeed, only durum wheat semolina contains that tenacious gluten allowing dried pasta to stay firm when cooked and remain al dente.
Here are the dried pasta's production process stages:
Wheat is brought to the mill in order to be sieved, cleaned from all its impurities and milled, to obtain high-qaulity semolinas.
Dough and kneading
Durum wheat semolina is mixed with pure water, in order to let starch and proteins combine with water, thus favouring the forming of gluten, a proteinic net linking the hydrated starch granules. Through the following kneading phase, the dough is made homogeneous and elastic.
The dough is extruded through dies, which give it the chosen shape. After this phase, the dough still contains 30 per cent of water - too much to be stored correctly.
It's the most delicate moment of the whole production process, its duration depending on the kind of pasta to produce. During the dessication, pasta is ventilated through warm hair, in order to almost completely eliminate water content, according to law standards: the final moisture shouldn't exceed 12,5 per cent.
The final element of the drying tank is the cooler, which brigns the previously ventilated pasta at room temperature.
In the end, pasta is packaged in cardboard or transparent plastic boxes, whose funtions are either that of protecting the product from external contaminating agents or that of presenting it to the consumer along with proper information features.