There was a time when manufacturing pasta meant mothers, grandmothers, and daughters were making dough, rolling it out and creating all the different kinds of pasta their family may need and perhaps making enough to share with the neighbors. While this may still be happening on occasion in some homes, a vast majority pick up a bag at the market.
With at least 600 pasta shapes, not to mention all the different ingredients, it is easy to see there are several ways that pasta is manufactured. There are many different kinds of ingredients and pasta making machinery. Think heavy duty, industrial strength, pasta making machines and you are on the right track.
The semolina is stored in very large silos. Many of these silos can hold up to 150,000 pounds of flour. Pipes move the flour to a mixing machine that has large rotating blades. Warm water is added and the mixture is kneaded into the consistency of paste.
The next step is adding additional ingredients. These can be anything from eggs, to dyes, to vegetable and fruit juices. Herbs and spices can be added. This is the place where companies get creative and experiment.
The next step in the process of manufacturing pasta is called lamination. During this process the dough is pressed into sheets by large cylinders.Then a vacuum mixer-machine is used to remove bubbles and excess water from the dough. The goal is for the dough to be 12 percent water. This is best for shaping, cutting and drying.
It is now time to make certain that any bacterial growth that is harmful to the dough is taken care of. The dough goes through a pasteurization process where it is heated to 212 degrees. This is done with steam.
Now the dough is ready to be worked into the desired shape. If you are making noodle type pasta like spaghetti, lasagne noodles, capellini and the like, rotating blades cut them to the proper width. If you are producing tube like pasta, penne, trenne, rigatoni or elbow macaroni the dough is pushed through using an extruder which pushes it through metal dies that shape the pasta.
Filled pastas such as tortellini or ravioli are done on separate machines so the filling can be heated and processed.
The drying process is the next area for most pasta. Drying is done in a drying tank. Each different type of pasta has its own drying time and racks differ. The drying time must be exact. If the pasta takes too long to dry there is a chance of spoiling. If it dries too quickly it is brittle and breaks.
To ensure proper drying the oxygen level in the drying tank is strictly maintained. This ensures that salmonella and other bacteria do not grow.
Finally it is time to package the pasta. This must be done carefully. No one wants to purchase a box of broken spaghetti or lasagna pasta. There are some places where this is done with machinery and some manufactures do the more delicate pastas by hand.
Clearly, with over 600 kinds of pasta this is a general overview. There are many different types of machinery used by different companies.