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Artisan Martelli Pasta from Lari, Tuscany:
I’ve come to the conclusion that a week in Tuscany is really not long enough. Even if you have a schedule that seems to involve doing at least three major events a day, you will only touch the edges of this part of Italy. And when things don’t quite work according to schedule, you have to make a decision about whether to just try anyway. Martelli Pasta was on our list to visit, but we didn’t hear back from them, so decided on a speculative visit to the artisan pasta factory in Lari, Tuscany on the way home from Pisa one evening.
We arrived in the pretty hilltop village at about 7pm. Probably a little late.
In the local bar I drank wine and noticed the distinctive Martelli pasta packs on the shelves.
“It’s just up the hill and around the corner”
And, as we’d been told, Martelli just around the corner. Founded in 1929, Martelli pasta is regarded as being one of the top Italian artisan pastas and the business is still entirely family run.
We were greeted by a happy man in Martelli yellow who told us that ‘everything was finished for the day’ but then happily switched everything back on again so that we could see exactly how the pasta was made.
It is just flour and water, no eggs, no oil…even simpler than the version I made in Sicily. BUT it depends on the RIGHT type of flour, ‘Semola de Grano Duro’, a very hard, yellow flour from wheat grown in the south of Italy or, in other hot dry climates like Canada. In the factory, the main mixing is done by machine, but then the pasta shapes are created by pressing the dough through traditional bronze cast moulds
Once the pasta shape is formed, it is air dried very slowly, at 33-36c for around 50 hours.
Our host explained that this process gives the pasta a rough texture which helps any sauce hold to the pasta better. Once dried, the pasta is hand packed.
Notably, this leaves spaghetti with hooped ends, rather than uniform straight sticks…and our enthusiastic host explained that was a good way to tell if the pasta was machine packed or hand packed.
Of course, we walked back to the shop and bought packs to take home. Then went for a little walk through the pretty medieval village before heading off home, happy that we’d caught a little of the passion and enthusiasm that is Martelli.