The town of Gragnano, about half an hour south of Naples, is known as the birthplace of dried pasta. Today Gragnano is full of pasta makers big and small, and it makes and exports more pasta than any other city in Italy. Many Italians have strong opinions about which pasta from Gragnano is the best, including Giorgio Cravero, our source for Cravero Parmigiano Reggiano. Giorgio's favorite pasta is Gentile. But he warns: "It takes a loooooooong time to cook. Like, 15 minutes!"
Gentile pasta is made by the Zampino family. They make their pasta using wheat grown in Italy, which is unique—these days, practically all of the pasta made in Italy is made with wheat grown in the US or Canada. They use a special type of wheat called Senatore Capelli, an old heirloom varietal that fell out of favor decades ago because it's difficult to grow. However, it's also incredibly aromatic, and the flavor of the pasta is correspondingly deep and bready. The pasta is extruded through bronze dies, giving it the rough texture that makes it great for gripping sauce.
The Napoletani shape is like a shell, but with more embelleshed ridges. Ziti rigate are ridged tubes. Both are great shapes to pair with chunky sauces.
"Nothing stinging—a typical side effect of some craft pastas—just so much sweetness and absolute enjoyment."