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Eat your wheat


Local pasta maker Chris Becker wants you to want more from your noodles.

Devon Green May 14th, 2014

You might think you know about pasta. But if your knowledge doesn’t extend far past the difference between the dry, boxed stuff and the pre-packaged “fresh” pasta in your grocer’s refrigerated section, Chris Becker will blow your mind.

Chris Becker
Photo by Shannon Cornman

The pasta aficionado and owner of Della Terra Pasta’s feelings about pasta go beyond love. For him, perfect pasta is an obsession. Lucky for us, he makes it right here in Oklahoma City, so we can experience fresh pasta the way it is meant to be.

The first thing that goes into crafting pasta is the grain. Durum wheat is high in protein and gluten content, making it ideal for pasta-making. Most pasta, regardless the end product, contains this wheat. The similarities, however, end there.

Becker sources his durum wheat from certified organic suppliers and seeks only the highest-quality ingredients.

One of the most ideal places for growing durum wheat is right here in the United States — North Dakota and Minnesota, to be exact. Italy actually imports a large amount of its durum from this region.

Spending time around a walking encyclopedia of pasta knowledge, you pick up some interesting tidbits. For instance, you don’t just make your dough and then decide what kind of pasta you are going to make. The process works in reverse. You determine what pasta you are making and then make the dough accordingly. And just in case you were wondering, yes, there are just about as many variations of pasta shapes as there are snowflakes.

For a food that has been around since the 12th century, this is no surprise.

Della Terra is available in nine varieties — three lunga, or long, and six corta (cut) with delightfully descriptive names. Campanelle is shaped like little bells, and galleti resembles the crest of a rooster. Becker also is handy with suggestions about how best to enjoy his creations by pairing the right sauce with the right pasta.

To make his creations, Becker uses a combination of old-world technique and modern technology. He emphasizes that an important part of his process is the bronze die-cut extruder, the part of the machine that shapes the pasta as the dough is pressed through the machine.

“The bronze die extruded shape lends itself well to making craft pasta. It makes the pasta more course and porous, causing the pasta to grip the sauce,” Becker said.

With one taste of his pasta, you will understand completely what he is talking about. It’s pretty much the opposite of a slimy strand of spaghetti with a few molecules of sauce hanging on for dear life.

The high-tech portion of his operation comes in at the drying stage.

When it comes to drying, it turns out pasta is a finicky beast. It needs the ideal combination of heat and humidity to properly obtain the right texture.

Becker said the overall drying process takes between 16 and 24 hours. This preserves the nutrients in the wheat.

“Springtime is ideal,” he said. “Before commercial dryers, there was one season where those conditions happened, and you made all of your pasta for the year during that one season.”

Becker has a commercial dryer that takes Mother Nature out of the equation and allows us to enjoy his handcrafted pasta anytime. The texture and bite of his pasta is unique and satisfying.

Della Terra Pasta is available at Olive & Co., 7602 N. May Ave., and Whole Foods Market, 6001 N. Western Ave., or by visiting dellaterrapasta.com.

Just please don’t buy into that “throwing the spaghetti at the wall to see if it’s done” trick.

“I don’t even know how that idea got started, but it makes me laugh,” Becker said.


 
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