Pasta is increasingly becoming a common part of the diet of people around the world thanks to its nutritional and food qualities, shelf-life and ease of preparation. However, it is only thanks to the continuous technological development of production processes that pasta can now be produced worldwide.

Global growth of pasta consumption

Pasta has always been associated with Italy and Mediterranean countries where durum wheat is grown. However, in many countries, durum wheat is not used to produce pasta today, rather, soft wheat (used to make bread), corn or rice. This flexibility had been considered by visionaries of Mediterranean cuisine for many years, and has now become a reality, putting pasta in kitchens worldwide.

A combination of several factors is behind the rapid spread of pasta:

  • The production of the raw materials used to make pasta is potentially common worldwide
  • Pasta is one of the pillars of the Mediterranean diet, which is universally recognized as a nutritional model promoting weight control and reducing the risks of heart problems, cancer, diabetes and other chronic diseases
  • Pasta is digested slowly, providing the body with a constant source of energy throughout the day
  • Thanks to its unique structure and production method, it can take many different shapes, adapting to many recipes and culinary cultures, and making it a meal suitable for a very wide audience.
TAS Dryer installed in a Dry Pasta long-cut line in Peru
TAS Dryer installed in a Dry Pasta long-cut line in Peru

These intrinsic characteristics, together with the constant development of production and processing technologies, have made pasta a food for the entire global population, with some 14.5 million tonnes produced worldwide in 20181.   

This product is seeing even greater growth in developing countries where annual consumption equals 7-8%. Technological developments in processing phases is certainly one of the elements having the greatest impact on this growth.

The technology developed by GEA Pavan makes it possible to produce pasta of excellent quality from a variety of starch-based raw materials, thus allowing countries historically not experienced in pasta production to manufacture a product satisfying their own markets.

Durum wheat (typically grown in Southern Europe and North Africa) is no longer the only raw material used to produce pasta: instead, soft wheat, buckwheat, teff, corn and rice are commonly used and their growth as a raw material in the production of pasta is twice as strong as common wheat.

GEA Pavan technology has enabled countries around the world to industrialize the production process and distribute large quantities of pasta of excellent quality.

Now let’s look at what defines quality pasta, and above all, the technological solutions adopted by GEA Pavan to create a high-quality product.

High-quality pasta

Pasta is considered to be of high quality if it correctly interprets and satisfies the needs of consumers in a specific market. To meet this prerequisite, both the production process and the end product must respect fundamental principles designed to enhance both the production chain, the environment and the community in which it operates.

A high-quality production process must:

  • be environmentally friendly and have a low environmental impact, i.e. be designed to reduce energy consumption and increase the efficiency of the production line
  • protect human rights, i.e. be designed and built to be safe, easy to maintain and ergonomic
  • enhance local raw materials, thereby increasing local development and reducing transport times and costs.

As a high-quality end product, pasta must:

  • have a homogeneous amber colour with no lighter or darker spots
  • have a uniform and constant shape in terms of both length and thickness
  • have the proper consistency to maintain firmness during cooking, be pleasant to chew and have the right degree of elasticity
  • be able to adapt the texture and formats to the market’s usual type of consumption: dry, in soup, sauce, salad, etc.

GEA Pavan technological solutions

Gluten-free Long-cut Dry Pasta Line installed in Italy
Gluten-free Long-cut Dry Pasta Line installed in Italy

GEA Pavan’s technology gets the best out of every raw material. When processed correctly, even low-gluten flour can be used to create high-quality products. By applying technologies such as drying in different climatic zones and vacuum, excellent end products can be obtained even from flours with low protein content.

Our research and the knowledge we have acquired over the years allows us to create cutting-edge processing lines with technological innovations that have become standard in the production of dry pasta.

Total vacuum

Extensive use of vacuum offers many advantages for the end product. Semolina or flour hydration is more homogeneous, leading to a significant reduction in defects. Working in a vacuum means more water can be used during mixing to intensify the formation of gluten. The evaporation effect caused by the vacuum lowers the temperature of the semolina during the mixing and extrusion phases.

The first result of using a total vacuum is a compact and shiny product, but the best-known advantage for semolina pasta is more intense colours. A total vacuum blocks the Polyphenol Oxidase enzyme, which oxidises the colours of semolina. Therefore, a vacuum preserves the yellow-amber colour created by carotenoids and flavonoids.

Imbibition and thermisation

When pasta is produced using gluten-free raw materials like rice, corn, buckwheat, teff etc., the flour must be partially cooked using a steam injection system in the water and flour mix before the compression and shaping stages. This technology was developed by GEA Pavan in the 1980s, and is now commonly used in large-scale production of gluten-free pasta.

Very high temperature

Drying is an extremely delicate processing step that is essential for a good end product. The drying phase is divided into climatic zones thanks to the special layout of our drying machine equipped with TAS technology (Thermo Active System) which is composed of separate processing tiers/zones. The dryer includes automatic air treatment, independent heat exchangers and air extraction units in order to guarantee precise temperature and humidity control. Drying is alternated with active stabilization stages to keep the product elastic and porous, while controlling and preventing the development of the Maillard reaction. Rapidly reducing the pasta’s water content and progressively increasing temperature prevent starch swelling and activate protein coagulation. The result is a better colour and excellent firmness during cooking. An integrated software regulates the times of each phase according to the pre-set drying diagram to maintain constant the thermohygrometric conditions by transferring excess humidity from one zone to the other to guarantee uniform product processing.

A representation of how the TAS works and its climate zones.
A representation of how the TAS works and its climate zones.

Using very high temperatures to dry pasta has definitely improved its quality, no matter what raw material is used. The main mechanism is linked to the transformation occurring in the protein networks when they are subjected to temperatures reaching that of coagulation. By performing the high temperature treatment at a stage in which the protein networks still have enough water to best develop hydrogen bonds, this network is locked in with coagulation, taking best advantage of its binding capacity”
- Luciano Mondardini, Director of R&D at GEA Pavan

Practical applications of these observations will make it possible to reach peak temperature in the shortest possible time: the higher the temperature, the more effective processing will be.

Multidrive technology for long-cut pasta

The MULTIDRIVE line for long-cut pasta is the result of years of technological development and applications in the field combined with the principles of quality and efficiency that distinguish GEA Pavan products.

Paolo Guarise

We listened first and foremost to our customers and their need for a product whose quality was independent of the raw material, a short and versatile production line that could be inserted in any production area, and a line that reduces energy consumption while maintaining high production efficiency. All this led to the design and production of MULTIDRIVE”
- Paolo Guarise, currently Sales Area Manager and previously Engineer and Project Leader in dry pasta plants

The new MULTIDRIVE technology produces long-cut pasta of incomparable quality while reducing energy consumption by up to 30% and with a footprint up to 25% smaller than a traditional line.

These results are made possible thanks to a series of innovative aspects that increase precision in the working parameters of the entire line and optimise performance during both pre-drying and drying. It produces pasta with excellent stability, structure and cooking performance.

MULTIDRIVE technology is based on continuous hygrometric control mechanisms, the use of high temperature increase and decrease gradients, optimised air extraction and the Multiple Pulse Ventilation system. The result is the evolution of our TAS technology.

To continue exploring topics related to technological developments in pasta production processes, we invite you to attend our live webinar “Making the best pasta out of your raw materials” on 30 July with Paolo Guarise and Michele Darderi, who will describe the GEA Pavan technology in detail and explain how it is fundamental for producing pasta of excellent quality from any raw material.

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