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“When you wander into Italian food shops, the brands and packaging of major pasta producers are familiar, and the biggest names (Barilla, Agnesi, Del Verde, Divella, De Cecco, La Molisana and Voiello) look and taste comfortingly the same everywhere in the world. They should : these companies account for 90% of pasta advertising in Italy and carefully cultivate their images. But there are 175 pasta-making firms in Italy and alongside the giants are many micro-companies who, to survive, must offer consumers something special.
The best of the small artisanal pasta producers work slowly, at rhythms that are tenth of the speed of the big firms. Extrusion and drying can last up to five days for some formats. Production is small, the durum wheat flour used is top quality, packaging is often by hand, and distribution limited. Advertising is non-existent. “The consumer we are aiming at isn’t worried about a euro more or less”. Giovanni Fabbri makes the same point. “We have to distribute our pasta ourselves”, and since he doesn’t buy ads, go to food fairs or have salesmen doing the rounds, his business depends on word of mouth.
Here’s an overview of some of the best. Otherwise, how would you know about them ?
Fabbri – Artigiani Pastai dal 1893
The Tuscan firm specializes in spaghettoni, a format that takes 16-18 minutes to cook. The result is a miracle of texture and consistency. The secret to all the shapes in Fabbri’s top line is slow-moving machinery that is 50 years old and long, natural drying. Mostly sold locally in Chianti and Florence. Look for it during a visit.”