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Can a different pasta making process preserve the starch’s ultrastructure, increasing its digestibility?



BACKGROUND: Pasta plays an important role in human nutrition, nevertheless its organoleptic, structural and bromatologic properties have not been completely studied. OBJECTIVE: The study aims to compare the ultrastructure pasta cross-sections produced with reduced mechanic stress and low heat exposure technique (Pietro Massi Technology ™) to common samples obtained with traditional technology in order to assess if a different process can alter the ultrastructure of starch and then, its digestibility. METHODS: A comparative study was performed on the ultrastructure of pasta using scanning electron microscopy (S.E.M). 55 were pasta cross-sections made with Pietro Massi technology, 33 were samples from different pasta factory produced using traditional process, for a total of 88 samples analysed. RESULTS: According to an Index based on what it was observed at one slide at S.E.M we classified samples and compared the number of grains, caves and canals visible, their dimensions in μm and average size of grains. The number of grains in group 1 (9.06±5.01) in group 2 (5.71±5.77), in group 3 (5.93±7.65) resulted significative more elevated compared to group 4 (0.73±2.58); in group 1 and group 2 the number of caves observed was higher than group 4. The size in μm of canals resulted significantly more elevated in group 1 than group 3 (p = 0.008), group 2(p = 0.013), and group 4 (p = 0.02). CONCLUSION: The analysis of average size of caves and canals in μm, the number of caves and grains demonstrated in samples obtained with Massi technology elevated values compared to samples obtained with traditional technique. The number of caves, grains and canals visible in the starch surface demonstrate the high quality of this pasta because they likely ensure penetration of water during cooking, facilitating at the same time the penetration of pancreatic amylases during digestion, suggesting a better digestibility in pasta produced according to this methodology.
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Pasta’s composition is
complex. In contrast with
other foods like greens,
meat, or fish, pasta have no
whole cells in it. In cellular,
complex foods, the quality and the
organoleptic features strongly
depend on conservation process.
Fresh fish, meat or vegetables, for
instance, have a better taste and
nutritional contents than canned
or frozen food.
When it comes to pasta, instead, the
production and the conservation
process go through a number of
stages that differs from those of
cellular foods, and each phase can
strongly affect the final result.
Healthy & tasty pasta:
is it a possible mission?
by Antonio V. Gaddi
What to pay attention to
if you want a perfect product
The way wheat
is processed
can change
the quality of pasta
January / March 2020 19
As a consequence, for a very high-
quality pasta, three main
characteristics make the difference:
a - the quality of the raw material;
in this case the durum wheat
semolina1, that depend on the
genetic stream of the wheat
used, the cultivation or
harvesting methods and so on.
b - how the semolina is processed.
c - how the product is conserved;
the conservation process starts
immediately after the harvesting
of the wheat and ends when the
packages of pasta are opened
before cooking.
Whereas point (a)2 and (c) affect
the final quality of all foods, point
(b) strongly characterizes pasta;
the way wheat is processed and
the way flour is kneaded in a
dough are the phases that have
the major impact on what we
eventually eat. Starting from the
same ingredients, in fact, we can
have very different results: many
events can happen during each
step of pasta production; every
one of these contribute to create
different varieties of pasta each
one with its peculiarities.
Scientific studies in the past
properly identify the two main
variables of the working process
- namely humidity and
temperature - that primarily
influence the drying phase (1), and
consequently the quality of the
final product; those findings have
been widely presented in this
journal (2). On the other hand,
there are many other processes
that may influence the quality of
the final product. These passages
do not only contribute to the
development of the organoleptic
properties of the different varieties
of pasta, but are crucial in
determining the nutritional value
of this food. In other words, the
way pasta is produced may have an
impact on health and wellbeing.
Additives: pros and cons
In order to have a healthy & tasty
pasta several approaches have
been tried. Commercial R&D labs
and food technologists focuses
mainly on those additives that may
be added to the dough in the
different steps of production3. We
can cite among the others the olive
pomace oil, lyophilized tomato,
tomato juice, amaranth flour and
other (3-6).
We cannot censure this approach,
but we cannot stand neutral: the
pasta produced with the use of
these technologies may be
different from what consumers
want. In addition, those products
hardly resemble the traditional
Italian food, with its taste,
versatility and nutritional value.
Thus, the use of the proper
producing techniques should be
fostered, in order to improve the
quality of pasta from a scientific,
nutritional and economic point of
view. The key point is that the
production processes should not do
violence on the dough. We use the
word violence not light-heartedly.
Every step of the process in fact can
disrupt the quality of the pasta,
hardly stressing the dough and its
fine molecular balance. Machines
used in pasta production exert
forces (like pressure or heat) that
may alter the fragile binding
present in the molecules that form
the dough, like amides or gliadin.
The equilibrium among those
forces is fragile as well, and it is
very difficult to find and calibrate.
The tertiary and quaternary
structure of the glutenin depend
on pre-production factors (as the
genetic characteristics of the
wheat used, or the molecular
weight and number of subunits).
But it also depends on the
conformational changes induced
by treatments, like the level of
hydration, the temperature, the
The way pasta
is produced
may have an impact
on health
and wellbeing
1 A coarse-ground wheat that produce a high-quality flour especially used for pasta.
2 The quality of the wheat remains crucial when pasta is considered as the quality of the dough and
therefore of the final product deeply depend of the type of grain used; every producer can choose
a different variety of wheat to obtain different quality of pasta.
3 We reported just some of these studies as an example of the different approaches tried to obtain a
better product. These examples show how many kind of additives - some of them particularly
peculiar - have been tried.
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kind and amount of the forces
(mechanical energy, and
mechanical forces, like pressure,
stretching and so on) used.
A number of reliable studies
underline how these processes
impact on how gluten is shaped
(7, 8). The interaction between
gluteins and gliadins form gluten
with the proper hydration (namely
a 1:2 ratio) and thanks to the
application of mechanical energy.
Those permit the macromolecular
mixing and have an effect also on
finer level: during the kneading,
these micro-forces, among other
effects, create and destroy
disulfide bridges, and alter the
hydrophobic bindings that
condition the three-dimensional
arrangement of the
macromolecules in the presence of
water. The amount and quality of
proteins is crucial (9).
Of course the actual process is
much more complicated than that,
and this is only one of the many
processes that contribute to create
a good pasta. The best product is
the one with a perfect structure
where intact granules of starch4
float inside the almost foamy
structure of gliadin.
Thanks to Pasta Pietro Massi
- a pioneer in pasta production5
holding a number of patents6
related to different production -
we discovered that all the
processes have an impact on the
final result. Each process has an
effect on the final result so to
severely affect what we eventually
eat. The use of the wrong forces
in the different phases of
production can alter the outcomes
in term of taste and amount and
quality of the nutritional
Into the lab
The scanning electron microscopy
can give an experimental
demonstration of this idea.
The scan of pasta made with
traditional methods and that of
pasta made with futuristic
technologies has been conducted
in three different Italian
universities. The studies show how
the different types of pasta have a
different microscopic structure.
FIGURE 1 shows a pasta made with
durum wheat semolina, produced
with standard techniques. It clearly
4 The Greek word for starch is αµψλοσ that literally means “without mill”; starch in fact is formed after the maceration of unground wheat.
Figure 1
Scanning electron microscopy (100 µ marker) of durum wheat semolina
treated with conventional processes (
University of Parma
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shows the damages on the
granules of starch, with granules
partially destroyed or fuses
together, secondary to
compression forces.
In FIGURE 2 the damage is even
more evident, because of an
improper rolling phase: in this
example the structure of pasta is
almost completely subverted;
there is no integrity of the
granules of starch; they merge
into indistinct masses, losing
the characteristic quaternary
FIGURE 3 shows another kind of
structural alteration: it highlights
micro-fractures that appear on the
flat surface, without the presence
of micro-cavities and canaliculi that
permit the correct hydration of the
pasta. In this example, the gliadinic
component and the regularity of
the starch granules cannot be
The characteristics of the final
mixture (starch and protein
component) and in particular its
rheological characteristics of
viscosity, elasticity, toughness, etc.
depend on the protein structure of
gluten and on how it covers and
contains the individual starch
granules, which, as mentioned
above, must be perfectly intact.
As a matter of fact, correcting all
the processing phases you can
obtain an almost perfect pasta.
FIGURE 4 refers to a Pasta Pietro
Massi obtained with patented
technologies (durum wheat
semolina pasta and egg).
The structure of the granules of
starch is almost perfect: they are
intact and coated and immersed in
the glutinous protein component.
That forms bridges and integral
interconnections that support the
whole structure. The micro-cavities
that allow the passage of water
are present. No part of the surface
is smooth, compressed or
flattened. Similarly, FIGURE 5 shows
the structure of a durum wheat
Figure 2
Scanning electron microscopy (100 µ marker) of durum wheat semolina
treated with conventional procedures
Figure 3
Scanning electron microscopy (2000 linear markers at 50 µ) of durum
wheat semolina pasta treated with conventional technologies, with
low-temperature drying and slow-processing certification (
University of
Modena and Reggio Emilia; courtesy of Italiana Pastifici
When the microstructure
of the pasta is intact,
the molecules are
better presented
to digestive enzymes
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semolina pasta processed during
the whole production with Pasta
Pietro Massi’s machines and
technologies: the starches are
perfectly intact; there are cavities
for the passage of water, but there
are no fractures coming from the
working process; the surface is
widely wrinkled and not flat; the
protein component that binds the
granules of starch is very well
outlined. In both photos of pasta
produced with these innovative
technology (4 and 5), the granules
of starch are perfectly evident;
those are perfectly shaped and
most of them are protected
by the protein matrix assuming
three-dimensional plasticity.
Based on our experience we
believe that the ultrastructural
characteristics found in the
different type of pasta can
influence the chemical-physical
characteristics of the dough (as
elasticity, viscosity, mellowness,
etc.); that consequently produce
valuable effects on the physiology
of digestion and therefore
on health.
Wellness at the table
In fact, in extreme synthesis, the
pasta’s ultrastructure influences the
loss in the cooking water of
important components, and play
a role in “how” the food is
presented to and processed by the
human body. When the
microstructure of the pasta is intact,
the molecules are better presented
to those digestive enzymes (like
ptyalin and pepsin) that treat the
food so to properly extract
nutrients. The structure permits the
exposure of proteo-glucid
macromolecules on the taste buds
improving also the taste. The sense
of satiety is also positively affected.
Moreover, the progressive and
slower demolition of starches has a
positive effect on blood glucose
level and on insulin resistance. A
quality pasta has a better glycaemic
index (GI) than other carbohydrate-
based foods like bread or potatoes
(10); we believe that a pasta with
these structural characteristics may
The production
should not do violence
on the dough
Figure 4
Scanning electron microscopy of durum wheat semolina pasta (CWAD) and
egg treated with Pietro Massi technologies (2000 linear markers at 50 µ
University of Modena and Reggio Emilia; courtesy of Italiana Pastifici
Figure 5
Scanning electron microscopy of durum wheat semolina pasta treated
with Pietro Massi technology (long pasta rolled at 0.8 with LAR 350,
1500 linear marker at 20 µ (
University of Rome “La Sapienza” - courtesy
of Italiana Pastifici
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results in even better IG values. This
has important effect on human
health as it reduces the hyper-
insulin stress that happen when the
assimilation of sugars is too fast or
whenever there is a glycaemic peak.
In conclusion, pasta is one of the
most eaten food in the world; its
market is expanding. The
consumption of this unbroken
starch floating into a gliadin
matrix (namely the pasta) strongly
affects our health. Governments
across Europe are asking
industries to provide healthy
products for everyone. However,
to achieve appreciable results on
human health, food must be tasty
and appealing.
Otherwise, people simply will not
eat it. The time of restrictive-but-
healthy diets versus spontaneous
nutritional patterns has come to
an end. Pasta, in fact, can be tasty
and healthy at the same time: this
is up to us.
The right mix between technology,
wellness and health, taste and
production of comfort food, took
years and the developing of
properly designed technologies.
Yet, we achieved it. Therefore, yes,
the mission is possible.
Antonio V. Gaddi
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
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In year 2000 the Nobel Laureate Joshua Lederberg wrote in a famous statement: “It’s our wits versus their genes” [1]. The imbalance of powers in the fight against microbes is coming to light, as the Covid-19 infection is striking the world. Not by chance, Lederberg’s lament concluded a recent paper with the evocative title of “Escaping Pandora’s box: another novel Coronavirus” [2]. Yet, are we entitled to use the whole of our minds, and therefore the technological knowhow and the economic resources to tamper with an epidemiological climax? These approaches appear reasonable, but they have prompted in recent years cyclical phases of panic and of unjustified fear, that strongly impacted on the economic and on the social systems. This led to a reactive rather than a proactive strategy piloting the resources towards the research of tailored measures aimed to produce acute responses to the crises. Nevertheless, this approach resulted, in the best case, in the production of vaccines and antiviral drugs whose use – although extremely welcome – may be effective only when an epidemic is already in place. Besides, these and standard public health measures commonly put into place in the case of an outbreak have not so far produced permanent solutions, aside from a few cases (e.g. SARS-CoV-2). The main point, however, is that what we still do not know is disproportionately vast compared to what we know. Viruses can evolve faster than our knowledge grows through research. Whereas the complexity of the human being is an opportunity for a reasonably simple lifeform, this same complexity represents a major hazard in understanding how the countless variables of our organisms interact with the virus.
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The growing consumers’ request for foods with well-balanced nutritional profile and functional properties promotes research on innovation in pasta making. As a staple food and a common component of diet, pasta can be considered as a vector of dietary fiber, vegetable proteins, vitamins, minerals, and functional compounds. The conventional process for pasta production does not include a fermentation step. However, novel recipes including sourdough-fermented ingredients have been recently proposed, aiming at enhancing the nutritional and functional properties of this product and at enriching commercial offerings with products with new sensorial profiles. The use of sourdough for pasta fortification has been investigated under several aspects, including fortification in vitamin B, the reduction of starch digestibility, and gluten content. Sourdough fermentation has also been successfully applied to non-conventional flours, (e.g., from pseudocereals and legumes), in which an overall increase of the nutritional value and health-promoting compounds, such as a significant decrease of antinutritional factors, were observed. Fermented non-conventional flours, obtained through spontaneous fermentation or using selected starters, have been proposed as pasta ingredients. As the result of wheat replacement, modification in textural properties of pasta may occur. Nonetheless, fermentation represents an efficient tool in improving, besides nutritional and functional profile, the sensory and technological features of fortified pasta.
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A combination of genotype, cultivation environment, and protein separation procedure was used to modify the nanoscale morphology, polymerization, and chemical structure of glutenin proteins from wheat. A low-polymerized glutenin starting material was the key to protein–protein interactions mainly via SS cross-links during film formation, resulting in extended β-sheet structures and propensity toward the formation of nanoscale morphologies at molecular level. The properties of glutenin bioplastic films were enhanced by the selection of a genotype with a high number of cysteine residues in its chemical structure and cultivation environment with a short grain maturation period, both contributing positively to gluten strength. Thus, a combination of factors affected the structure of glutenins in bioplastic films by forming crystalline β-sheets and propensity toward the ordered nanostructures, thereby resulting in functional properties with high strength, stiffness, and extensibility.
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Objective Carbohydrate staples such as pasta have been implicated in the obesity epidemic. It is unclear whether pasta contributes to weight gain or like other low-glycaemic index (GI) foods contributes to weight loss. We synthesised the evidence of the effect of pasta on measures of adiposity. Design Systematic review and meta-analysis using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) approach. Data sources MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL and the Cochrane Library were searched through 7 February 2017. Eligibility criteria for selecting studies We included randomised controlled trials ≥3 weeks assessing the effect of pasta alone or in the context of low-GI dietary patterns on measures of global (body weight, body mass index (BMI), body fat) and regional (waist circumference (WC), waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), sagittal abdominal diameter (SAD)) adiposity in adults. Data extraction and synthesis Two independent reviewers extracted data and assessed risk of bias. Data were pooled using the generic inverse-variance method and expressed as mean differences (MDs) with 95% CIs. Heterogeneity was assessed (Cochran Q statistic) and quantified (I² statistic). GRADE assessed the certainty of the evidence. Results We identified no trial comparisons of the effect of pasta alone and 32 trial comparisons (n=2448 participants) of the effect of pasta in the context of low-GI dietary patterns. Pasta in the context of low-GI dietary patterns significantly reduced body weight (MD=−0.63 kg; 95% CI −0.84 to –0.42 kg) and BMI (MD=−0.26 kg/m²; 95% CI −0.36 to –0.16 kg/m²) compared with higher-GI dietary patterns. There was no effect on other measures of adiposity. The certainty of the evidence was graded as moderate for body weight, BMI, WHR and SAD and low for WC and body fat. Conclusions Pasta in the context of low-GI dietary patterns does not adversely affect adiposity and even reduces body weight and BMI compared with higher-GI dietary patterns. Future trials should assess the effect of pasta in the context of other ‘healthy’ dietary patterns. Trial registration number NCT02961088; Results.
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Aims The traditional Italian dish pasta is major food source of starch with low glycemic index (GI), and also an important low-GI component of the Mediterranean diet. This systematic review aimed at assessing comprehensively and in-depth the potential benefit of pasta on cardio-metabolic disease risk factors. Data Synthesis Following a standard protocol, we conducted a systematic literature search of PubMed, CINAHL, and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, for prospective cohort studies and randomized controlled dietary intervention trials that examined pasta, and pasta-related fiber and grain intake in relation to cardio-metabolic risk factors of interest. Studies evaluating postprandial glucose response to pasta compared to bread or potato were quantitatively summarized using meta-analysis of standardized mean difference. Evidence from studies with pasta as part of low-GI dietary intervention and studies investigating different types of pasta were qualitatively summarized. Conclusions Pasta meals have significant lower postprandial glucose response compared to bread or potato meals, but evidence was lacking in terms of how the intake of pasta can influence cardio-metabolic disease risk. More long-term randomized controlled trials are needed where investigators directly contrast the cardio-metabolic effects of pasta and bread or potato. Long-term prospective cohort studies with required data available should also be analyzed regarding the effect of pasta intake on disease endpoints.
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Wheat based foods, mainly in the form of bread and pasta, are staples of the human diet in many countries around the world. The dry weight of mature wheat grain is composed of 70–75% starch and around 10–14% protein, which has led to the widespread perception of wheat foods as sources of energy and protein. However, whole grains are also important sources of dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, and contain notable levels of bioactive compounds with potential health benefits like lignans, phenolic acids, alkylresorcinols, phytosterols, folates and tocols.
An olive pomace (pâté) obtained from virgin olive oil production, was used for the fortification of pasta, bread, and granola bar. For each food, a control (without pâté) and a fortified sample (with pâté, 7% in pasta and 5% in bread and granola bar) were manufactured. Descriptive analysis showed that pâté strongly affected the appearance of pasta and bread and increased the bitterness of bread and granola bar but not pasta. Granola bar was less affected in general, likely because of its higher ingredient complexity. In a central location test with 175 Californian consumers, both the control and the fortified samples of all three foods were well accepted overall, with only the mean liking of the appearance of the fortified pasta falling below the “neither like nor dislike” mark. Approximately 30% of consumers preferred the fortified sample over the control for each food and 50% were willing to pay more for the fortified products. The percentage of phenols from pâté recovered in the prepared samples was such that 63 g of pasta, 18 g of bread, and 12 g of granola bar would be sufficient to meet the EFSA health claim for olive oil phenols. This study demonstrates that pâté can be used for fortification of foods for human consumption, thus adding potential economic value to the virgin olive oil production chain and allowing for a higher daily intake of phenols from Olea europaea L., whose beneficial health properties are well recognized. The dried olive oil pomace (pâté) that we developed and tested in this research can be used to fortify pasta, bread, and granola bars with health‐beneficial phenols with only slight alterations of their sensory profiles and slight reduction in consumer acceptance. Virgin olive oil producers can use this byproduct and gain further economic value from olive oil production.
A study was carried out to produce functional pasta by adding bran aqueous extract (BW) and bran oleoresin (BO) obtained using ultrasound and supercritical CO2, respectively, or a powdery lyophilized tomato matrix (LT). The bioactive compounds, hydrophilic and lipophilic antioxidant activity (HAA and LAA) in vitro, were evaluated. BW supplementation did not improve antioxidant activity, whilst LT pasta showed unconventional taste and odor. BO pasta had good levels of tocochromanols (2551 μg/100 g pasta f.w.) and carotenoids (40.2 μg/100 g pasta f.w.), and the highest HAA and LAA. The oleoresin altered starch swelling and gluten network, as evidenced by scanning electron microscopy, therefore BO pasta had structural characteristics poor compared with the control (4.8% vs. 3.2% cooking loss), although this difference did not affect significantly overall sensory judgment (74 vs. 79 for BO and control, respectively). BO supplementation was most effective for increasing antioxidant activity without jeopardizing pasta quality.