Saturday, December 21, 2013

Pasta is a Girl's Best Friend - Pastificio Dei Campi, Gragnano (Na)

After 20 ish years in Italy, my pasta palate has come a long ways since the days of spaghetti alla bolognese. :-)  Spag Bol - a dish that makes  Giuseppe Di Martino cringe.  Meat sauce is too heavy for spaghetti! Giuseppe once told me...
and spaghetti with clams?  Linguine is better.
Yes, over the last couple of years, I've learned a lot about pasta. Thanks to Di Martino and a few dozen chefs who have shared their dishes, suggestions, and secrets with me since my blog began a few years ago.   So I was extremely excited when Di Martino accepted my request and opened his doors to his pasta factory Pastificio Dei Campi  in Gragnano one Saturday morning.  What better way, I thought to deepen my insatiable curiosity about pasta  than to see up close and personal look where it is made?
Even better if I brought a few chefs along.  Chefs such as Giacomo De Simone, executive chef at Le Axidie along with Alfonso Apuzzo.  I also invited a young chef who knows Gragnano first hand.  Chef Giulio Copolla, whose restaurant La Galleria is not far from the factory.
Nunzia Riccio, Chef Alfonso Apuzzo, Giacomo De Simone, Giulio Coppola, Giuseppe Di Martino and Arianna Acropoli
We were met with a smile by Arianna Acropoli (Di Martino's right hand), and Nunzia Riccio (quality control)  who took us upstairs for a quick look around in their newly renovated pasta shop.  Here was where one could purchase a wide variety of pasta shapes, styles, and sizes all in that familiar  Dei Campi packaging. Pasta, not in bags, but in square or rectangular boxes to protect the pasta, and also make it easier to sit on the counter Arianna told me.  Pasta in black and red cardboard prisms with   peek-a-boo windows.  Photos on the sides with faces and places that tell their story.  Also on the package, a TTS - Total Tracking System that not only tells you the expiration date of the pasta, but every step of the production process. A process that I would more about later.

All this was quite interesting, but my eyes couldn't help but notice the large boxes on the small counter in the center of the room.  Packages put together just in time for the holidays.  Combinations that I was curious to learn about.  First of all, for spaghetti lovers like me, a  Kit Spaghetti 4 X 4.  Four different spaghetti sizes, 4 different tomato sauces to pair with the pasta, as well as an instruction manual for the perfect plate of pasta.

Another interesting idea?  Kit Deli-Pot.  Delicato (Delicate) and Potente (Powerful).  Continuing with the philosophy that each pasta shape needs a particular pasta sauce.
Or Kit O Solo Mio for the single serving size lovers.  6 different pasta in 125 g packages.
I was like a kid in a candy store, so to speak.  Examining the various maxi-cubes of particular pasta shapes.  Asking my chef friends what would be the right sauce, their opinions on cooking times, suggestions for recipes. I could of stayed in the shop forever examining packages of loooong spaghetti and candele pasta.
Riccio, however, suggested that we work our way to the pasta factory to see what was going on there.

We put on our blue hair nets and white jackets, we entered into a pasta lovers paradise.  Riccio began to explain the production process as we hung onto every word.  From where the wheat arrives in the factory all the way until it arrives in the box.  On that particular day, the factory was producing mezzi paccheri and fussili lunghi.  
The aroma of the factory was mesmerizing...the warmth, comforting.

And then it was time for Di Martino to speak.  Giuseppe Di Martino shared with all of us why he love's his family's business.  Fresh from Brussels where he, as president of the Gragnano Pasta Consortium proudly accepted the prized PGI certification.  The sitting room of his reception area instantly came to life as he spoke about his company's dedication to produce the best quality pasta - la migliore per sempre- the best pasta ever.  

How?  One way is by being attentive to the raw materials.  That is why he has chosen what he believes are the best wheat fields in all of Puglia.  Sticks to a three year rotation wheat-fallow-legume...As he spoke, we were instantly transported there through his passion and his words.  Side by side Di Martino and the farmers as the wheat was harvested.  I could practically feel the heat, smell the grain.
We talked about favorite restaurants, our favorite chefs, our favorite pasta dishes.  Pasta came alive for me that morning...I saw its spirit, it anima.  I saw that it had a face, a family..a new best friend.

Grazie, Giuseppe


  1. I love their pasta...but it would be nice if they put the cooking time on the box!

    1. Dear AndreinaB, cooking time is written on the red band, next to the name of the type of pasta :)