Pastas Felicetti on the roof of the world

PREDAZZO, Italy — A half-mile above sea level in the Dolomites, the fourth-generation pasta maker Riccardo Felicetti is leading a quiet revolution in the Italian pasta industry.

Making pasta in the heart of the Dolomites. A challenge started by Pastificio Felicetti in 1908 thanks to the intuition of grandfather Valentino to use spring water for the dough and the pure mountain air for drying.

A true specialty of Trentino Alto Adige, as FELICETTI likes to say “LET’S MIX THE FLOUR WITH THE SKY”

Pastificio Felicetti is a 21st-century marvel, bristling with arrays of computer controls and a small army of seemingly autonomous robots that manipulate pallets of penne, rigatini and spaghetti with uncanny speed and precision.

But the real change Mr. Felicetti and other small pasta makers are creating is something more fundamental: using durum wheat grown exclusively in Italy.

The move is paying off in flavor and sales, capitalizing on growing interest in expressions of terroir and feeding Italian pride at a time in which the country could use it.

One might assume, on opening a box of pasta marked “100 percent durum wheat, made in Italy,” that all the grain used had been grown in Italy.

This is nothing new. In the early 1900s, Mr. Felicetti said, the nation imported about four-fifths of its durum wheat from Russia. After the Russian Revolution, Italy began importing grain from North America, and later, from Australia and other countries.

The reasons have to do with both appetite and geography. Every year, an Italian eats on average about 60 pounds of pasta (compared with about 20 pounds for an American). Although Italian farmers grow an enormous amount of durum wheat — four million tons annually — they cannot meet the domestic pasta industry’s demand, which requires five million tons or more. 

While the bigger pasta companies cannot subsist on Italian wheat alone, for smaller manufacturers, it is an increasingly appealing option.

Mr. Felicetti began his foray into domestic wheat 16 years ago, inspired by another Italian specialty: grappa. In the early 1970s, Italian distillers, which had long made virtually indistinguishable grappas from mounds of undifferentiated grape pomace — the freshly crushed skins, seeds and pulp — began using the carefully selected pomace of single grape varieties.

“Once, there was grappa, period,” Mr. Felicetti said. “Now there are monovarietal grappas — chardonnay, pinot nero, etc.” He added: “Around 2000, I began thinking you could do something similar with pasta. Instead of using a mix of Italian and imported grains, we could use monovarietal grains, grown in a specific place. Certainly, it would be a lot more complicated, but it would have a distinctive value and a competitive advantage.”

In 2004, after extensive experimentation to determine which wheat varieties performed best in particular regions, Pastificio Felicetti  began manufacturing a line of pasta called Monograno, or “one grain.” Tasting notes on the packaging resemble the jottings of a sommelier: “stone cooked bread, butter and bamboo shoots” or “peanut butter and red date.”

Pastificio Felicetti makes about 400 tons of Monograno pastas annually, about 15 percent of its total production.

“In 2014, its Monograno Spaghettoni, made from a variety of wheat called Matt, grown in Apulia in southern Italy, won the Specialty Food Association’s Sofi Award in the pasta, rice or grain category. Another Monograno pasta won the same prize in 2016″

              The New York Times

“Felicetti on the roof of the world with the biathlon world champion Lisa Vittozzi
The Italian champion Lisa Vittozzi won the Biathlon World Cup in Canmore (Canada), becoming the second Italian ever to win the title.  Alongside her was Felicetti’s high-altitude pasta, which had supported the athlete as a sponsor for four seasons”.