Having acquired considerable knowledge and experience in the fine art of noodle-making while working in Cigi’s Asian products area, Kasia Kaminska and Da (Anne) An have now set their sights on honing their skills in pasta production.
As highlighted in a previous Cigi story, pasta and noodles are two distinctly different products – from the ingredients and processing technology used to the end-product characteristics. In their respective roles as Technical Specialist and Technician in Asian Products and Extrusion Technology, Anne and Kasia were eager to learn more about pasta processing. Where better to do so than Italy where they both completed a dry pasta course at the Pavan School of Food Technologies last fall.
“At Cigi we work with customers from different parts of the world so it’s important that we ensure our knowledge is current with industry trends,” says Anne. Those attending the week-long Pavan course were predominantly pasta processors as well as individuals working in research and development for different companies.
The course focused on all elements essential to the production of good pasta including the quality of raw materials, the effect different ingredients can have on pasta, and all aspects of production and packaging technology. With 39 people from 19 countries in attendance, Anne and Kasia said it was a great learning environment.
“We learned a lot about how processing plants and conditions differ depending on the country or region,” says Anne.
“Everybody thinks pasta is pasta is pasta but it’s not. Not all pasta is created the same,” says Kasia. The addition of egg as an ingredient and the use of soft or common wheat versus durum wheat are just two examples of how pasta products may differ and how those differences influence how the pasta is processed, dried and packaged, as well as its shelf life.
“Canadian durum is well-known for making high-quality pasta but it’s important to understand how other ingredients influence pasta quality,” says Kasia.
The course provided insight into areas of particular interest to pasta processors, including the use of novel ingredients such as pulses and the growing focus on “clean label” as consumers increasingly look for shorter and more recognizable ingredient lists on the products they are buying.
“This is a trend that is affecting both high- and low-end markets,” says Kasia. For pasta makers that means examining things like the use of preservatives and ways to include more fibre and protein in their products using natural ingredients.
Discussions on the inclusion of pulses in pasta was of particular interest to Kasia and Anne given Cigi’s work with pulse ingredients. “There’s a lot of good information we brought back to share with our pulse group,” says Kasia.
For both Anne and Kasia one of the most significant benefits of the course are the contacts made with industry members throughout the world – echoing what international participants attending Cigi’s programs often say.
“We are still in contact as a group,” says Anne. An app that enables everyone to share information on an ongoing basis is helping to maintain those connections. Kasia is looking forward to collaborating with a participant from a pasta company in Poland. “We’ve discussed methods used for evaluating pasta texture and she’ll be sending me some samples of soft and durum wheats from Europe to work with and assess. It’s a great way to keep building our knowledge.”
Knowledge that Anne and Kasia will put to good use when working in Cigi’s pasta facility to demonstrate the production of pasta and discuss the use of Canadian ingredients with customers, growers, and industry members alike.