When we visited the Adriatic beach town of Roseto degli Abruzzi to eat at Vecchia Marina, Lucia, the charming hostess of the B&B we stayed at, pointed out to me that Roseto degli Abruzzi was also the home town of Antico Pastificio Rosetano Verrigni. What got my attention is that she mentioned they draw their spaghetti with golden drawplates. I know that good brands use bronze drawplates, but gold? Is that just a marketing stunt, or does it really make a difference? Lucia mentioned they had a factory outlet, and so I went there to find out for myself.
Before I tell you more about Verrigni, let’s first discuss the quality of dry pasta. There are four factors that determine your enjoyment of pasta: the taste, the micro texture, the macro texture, and the sauce-absorbing qualities of the pasta (which is actually a function of the the macro texture and the surface texture).
- You are probably more concerned with the taste of the pasta sauce than the taste of the pasta, but it does make a difference. I’ve tasted spaghetti that had such a nice taste that I enjoyed eating it without any sauce.
- With micro texture I mean the texture of the pasta itself, which is to a large extent determined by how you cook it. Everyone knows that al dente is how pasta is supposed to be cooked, which means with some bite to it. Some Italians overdo that a bit and serve pasta that is almost uncooked. The quality of the wheat used to make the pasta also determines the micro texture.
- With macro texture I mean the pasta shape. A mouthful of spaghetti feels differently in your mouth compared to a mouthful of penne. This is why selecting the pasta shape is an important factor in a pasta dish. As a rule of thumb I will match the macro texture of the pasta shape with that of the sauce, but there are many exceptions to that concept.
- If the pasta is not good at absorbing the sauce, a lot of sauce will be left on your plate after you finish eating the pasta. Some pasta shapes like fusilli have a macro texture that absorbs sauce, some have ridges like penne rigate (ridged penne, unlike penne lisce, smooth penne). With spaghetti, the surface texture, i.e. the roughness and porosity of the surface of the pasta, determines how well it will hold the sauce.
The quality of dry pasta is determined by four factors: the quality of the durum wheat, the quality of the water, the drawing process and the drying process. These four factors will determine the taste, micro texture and surface texture of the pasta.
Back to Verrigni. The lady who managed the shop explained to me that the gold drawing will make the pasta even more rough than with bronze drawing. Verrigni makes regular, bronze drawn, spaghetti with the same durum wheat, same water, and same drying technique as the gold drawn spaghetti. So the only difference between them is the material of the drawplates. And thus I bought a packet of each to do an experiment to find out whether it’s worth paying the additional 25 cents per 500 grams (1.1 lbs). (At the factory outlet, bronze drawn spaghetti is sold for 1.75 euros and gold drawn spaghetti for 2 euros.)
Looking up close, you can see that the texture of the gold drawn spaghetti is more porous than the bronze drawn. This is what causes the different color, as the different texture reflects the light in a different way.
To understand how this works, think of a lawn. All of the grass has the same green color, but it will appear to be a different color if part of the lawn has been mown from left to right, while the other part has been mown from right to left. The same is going on with the spaghetti: the wheat itself has the same color, but the texture will make it appear as different colors anyway.
For the experiment I decided to make a very simple tomato sauce and compare the two types of spaghetti.
In a close up (click on the photos to enlarge more), you can see that the tomato sauce clings slightly better to the gold drawn spaghetti than to the bronze drawn spaghetti. It was also possible to taste this difference, although it was so slight that I am not sure if I could have tasted it blindfolded.
Given that the price difference is quite small, I’d recommend getting the gold variety if you can find it, but the bronze variety sure is fine too.
Many types of fish are so easy to eat right off the bones on your plate, that it is better to cook them whole than as fillets, which are prone to drying out. This sea bream with vegetables cooked in the oven is a good example.