You may not have heard the name, but ask any foodie, anywhere in the world, and they’ll tell you that Gragnano is the true home of Italian pasta. If you ever get the chance to visit, you’ll see it’s etched into the very fabric of this town. The main street – Via Roma – runs perpendicular to both the Mediterranean Sea in the west and the Ferriere mountains in the east. It’s said that the tall buildings of white stone stand proudly to guide the soft breezes of the Amalfi coast up the street, allowing the sea and mountain air to mingle. Which traditionally made the pasta makers hang their fresh spaghetti out to dry in this very same street.
This history saw Gragnano pasta granted a Protected Geographical Indication Award in 2013, most 150 years since Andrea Buondonno and his family began shaping their business in 1870. They were right at home amongst some of the greatest pasta and pasta-makers in the world.
A lot has stayed the same since Andrea opened his shop all those years ago. The Buondonno family still take immense care with every piece of pasta they produce. They still select the finest durum semolina wheat from around Italy and transform it into something that tastes delicious and looks stunning as well. They approach their craft with a sense of fun and creativity – for the Buondonnos, pasta is an artform that’s supposed to grab the attention as well as appeal to the taste buds.
That means there’s a lot that’s changed over the years as well. They no longer hang their pasta to dry on racks in the street, preferring instead to use dryers that slowly bring the pasta up to temperature in a more controlled environment. But don’t worry, there will always be a perfect blend of sea air and mountain breeze in Gragnano, so the pasta retains its distinctive taste and texture.
Of course, that just leaves you with one question – which shape should you choose? Well, to start with, avoid the cardinal sin of Spaghetti Bolognese at all costs. No self-respecting Italian would be seen serving a heavy meat sauce on a long, thin pasta! If you’re making a Bolognese, try it with their Paccarielli Rigati. The thick, circular shape means they’re perfect for sucking up every last bit of sauce. Or, if you fancy something lighter, try the Manfredine – it’s like a tagliatelle but with wavy, ribbon like edges. The shape is unique to Buondonno, and goes perfectly with a simple creamy, garlic sauce.