The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Semolina flour???

rainwater's picture

Semolina flour???

What is Semolina flour exactly?  I just bought some.  I know it's used for pasta.  I know the Bread Baker's Apprentice has some recipes using Semolina. 

Fresh pasta question?  All the recipes for fresh pasta use eggs for fresh pasta.....but, the ingredients all the different brands of italian pasta just use semolina and water......anyone know anything about fresh pasta, using eggs, not using eggs????

I was thinking Semolina might make better gnocci than regular flour???

Richelle's picture

Wikipedia explains it very well, I think. I make bread with 50/50 breadflour/coarse semolina flour and it makes a lovely airy bread. It adds a bit of a crunch to rolls if you roll them in it instead of normal flour. Here in Spain it is used to make Migas, a peasant's dish with fried semolina (in LOTS of olive oil) and some small bits of chorizo added.

Saludos, Richelle

ahhoefel's picture

Semolina is supposedly very hard to work. I think most pasta made with pure durum semolina and water must be worked by machines (i.e. don't try this at home -- work by hand). When I make fresh pasta I use 1/2 cup durum semolina and 1/2 cup all purpose flour. One egg and two tablespoons of water is enough to make the pasta dough. I often add an extra yoke in place of some of the water to make it richer. It will be very firm and fairly dry --- it feels more moist with work and rest.

photojess's picture

other than durum?  I think I read on here to only use durum in a recipe I had looked at, but our good old co-op's label, doesn't specifically mention whether it's durum or not.

does it matter?

GinkgoGal's picture

I wonder about semolina gnocchi now too.  I'm always disappointed in my gnocchi so it's something to try.

I've seen recipes for eggless fresh pasta but I think in general it has egg for ease of handling and flavor.  Interesting thought;  my Mario Batali cookbook has a separate chapter for fresh pasta versus dry.  I think he's pointing out that they're such different textures and tastes they really do deserve different treatment.  It's not as though fresh pasta is always better and you only settle for dry when you don't have time, you know?

This same book (and I do trust Batali when it comes to Italian food) only uses AP flour in the fresh pasta.  I've used part semolina in the past but really do prefer the silkiness of plain flour.

Not that I'm an expert or anything...

dghdctr's picture

"Semolina" is supposed to refer to the coarse granules that can be created during the milling of durum wheat berries.  They're sandy, sort of like fine-to-medium cornmeal.  Durum "flour" is powdery, like conventional bread flour, but it comes from the same durum wheat berry.  With flours available to home cooks and bakers, I see some inconsistency with the term "semolina flour," as marketing people like the pizzaz in semolina's name and might just apply it to durum flour.  Other millers might use "semolina flour" to refer to the coarse granules.  In my bakery we ordered something from Con Agra called "No.1 Semolina", and that was a coarse granule of specific size. "Durum Flour" was applied to actual powdery flour.

I trust sources like Giuliano Bugialli, Marcella Hazan, Lynne Rosetto Kasper, and Mario for the lowdown on the fresh pasta eaten in Italy.  I'm pretty sure that they all recommend the average American Unbleached AP flour for fresh pasta (Gold Medal, Pillsbury, etc).  Even King Arthur's AP might be too strong for fresh pasta Italian style -- it would have significantly more chewiness, and "al dente" cooking really doesn't apply to most Italian fresh pasta.

In Italy, fresh pastas have regional identities sometimes and you'll see variations on the "best" way to do it.  Hazan is from Bologna, where fresh pasta has eggs, soft white flour, and salt.  That's it.  Bugialli uses one Tuscan style that includes a teaspoon of olive oil with each egg in the pasta.

Dried pasta sold in stores is really a completely different item.  Not better, not worse -- just different.  It is made with the hard durum wheat flour, water, and nothing else.  Most fresh pasta is made with something called "doppio zero", or a fairly soft wheat flour not from durum wheat.  The commercial dried pasta has to be made with machines that are VERY powerful, and the machines extrude super-firm durum pasta dough through expensive metal dies.  You can't really make stuff like traditional rigatoni, penne, or shells at home.

I've seen home "pasta machines" that extrude pasta dough in various tubes, etc,  but you have to change the dough and make it so soft that it really doesn't reflect what Italians eat.  If you like eating it, that's fine -- go for it.  But it ain't Italian, and Italians don't expect penne to be "fresh".

Now, some Italians came here to the US and Canada in the late 1800's through through the early 1900's, and most of them were poor.  Eggs and meat were an extravagance back home, but here they became affordable after families became prosperous.  So "abundanza" or abundant use of previously expensive items became more common.  I know some grandmas started putting eggs in their pasta dough.  They'd mix semolina with white flour, and some of this idea that eggs go with semolina pasta came from that.  You won't find much evidence of it in Italy.  I'm not saying there are NO examples of it, but it is not common there to mix eggs with a semolina pasta dough. Orecchiete (ears) are typically made with semolina, and are one type of fresh pasta, but my research indicates that they are usually made in Apulia (the heel of the boot) with no eggs.

By the time that Italian families had been here a couple of generations, a number of food practices were appearing that wouldn't be common back in the old country, or which didn't represent the tastes of Italy as a whole.  That doesn't mean they are "wrong" to do (I love Italian-American foods made by knowledgable cooks).  But, when you make them, it's useful to be aware that they really reflect a tradition of "Italian-American" cooking.  Most Italians living in Italy wouldn't recognize at least half of what passes as Italian food in restaurants in the US or Canada.  But they still might love to eat it.

BTW -- semolina gnocchi are not the same thing as potato gnocchi.  They are shaped like flat, round or oval discs before cooking, generally served in a baked casserole.  Potato gnocchi are more like other European dumplings made with conventional white flour, and are boiled separately.  I think you'd be more likely to see semolina gnocchi in the south of the peninsula.

Dang -- now I'm hungry.

--Dan DiMuzio

xaipete's picture

Thanks, Dan, for this very thorough and informative post on the differences between semolina and durum wheat flour, not the mention the interesting information on the historical background and different uses of the two. There have been quite a few posts on TFL of late relating to this subject. I now feel I have a much better grasp of subject!


rcornwall's picture

The Bread Bible has a great semolina formula for a "Golden Semolina Torpedo", Its a great bread. Try it if you can.

Chef Ryan

Kilo's picture

Wow, great read, thanx, Dan