All about Pasta Dies and Inserts
What are Pasta Dies and Inserts?
Pasta is a staple meal that is appreciated in many countries around the world. It comes in a wide variety of shapes, including vermicelli, macaroni, fusilli, and shells, that you might find on store shelves. All these shapes are extruded through inserts with various openings. Pasta inserts are small, interchangeable pieces that fit into the pasta die and can be used to create different shapes of pasta. For example, a pasta insert with a circular shape can be used to create round pasta, like rigatoni or macaroni, while a pasta insert with a flat, rectangular shape can be used to create lasagna noodles.
The die head of the pasta extruder is constructed to hold die inserts that give pasta its desired shape. Several inserts are fitted on a die, which is installed at the outlet of an extruder, also called a die head.
During the extrusion process, the pasta dough is kneaded even more, and then the extruding screw forces the dough through the die. In order to increase the amount of dough that may pass through the dies per minute during the production of pasta, multiple small inserts are installed in a bigger bronze wheel known as the die. This significantly increases the extruder's capacity. The dies make the pasta into a range of appealing shapes like vermicelli, gnocchi, wheels, or many more. On the other side of the die is a continuously operated rotary cutter that cuts the pasta into the desired size.
The pasta dies and inserts are custom made by a few companies, usually in bronze or teflon material. Bronze inserts are more common in European countries where pasta is a staple product, while smoother products are more acceptable in regions like India due to smoother appearance. When compared to teflon, which has a smooth finish, bronze has a somewhat matt or rough surface, which is preferred for most types of pasta so that sauces hold onto the pasta.
Why pasta dies and inserts have to be custom ordered
Pick one shape of pasta, such as Fusilli also called as Spiral, and you will see that there is a variation in thickness, pitch and diameter between manufacturers. Some of these parameters such as thickness and diameter are primarily controlled by the insert opening, while pitch is also controlled by the extruder pressure. Different capacities of extruders have different sizes of die requirement, as well as different pressure profiles. This makes it essential to order the dies and inserts based on the specific customer requirement. We at Zippy have sourced various pasta dies and inserts that are widely accepted.
All of our commercial grade dies and inserts are made of brass, but other materials are also available. Bronze inserts or teflon coating also has to be specified during the time of order.
Special requirements for instant and multi-ingredient pasta
For instant cup pasta, the thickness requirements are lower than typical pasta due to quick rehydration required. Also precooking with steam will tend to smoothen a lot of surface roughness, so if any ridges are required they need to be made more distinct.
For speciality pasta like multi-ingredient and gluten-free, due to changing raw materials used, sometimes the characteristics become atypical. Cooking times might be shorter or longer than expected, requiring a change in thickness. Usually extruded wet pasta contracts upon drying, but we have found that some compositions, specifically gluten free, might even stay the same or expand.
Gluten-free doughs often have a different texture and consistency than wheat-based doughs, and may require different shaping techniques or specialized tools to achieve the desired results. For example, gluten-free doughs may be more delicate and prone to breaking, so a pasta shape with a large, hollow center, like a rigatoni, might be more difficult to produce than a solid, sturdy pasta shape, like a penne. Additionally, gluten-free doughs may not have the elasticity or strength of wheat-based doughs, so the design of the pasta die may need to be adapted to accommodate these differences. It is important to note, however, that this may vary depending on the specific recipe and ingredients used to make the gluten-free pasta. Read more about gluten free pasta at zippyedibles.com/blogs/posts/gluten-free-pasta.
Consumer perception – an important parameter to consider
From a consumer perspective, the sensory characteristics of pasta are very important and somehow depend on its shape. Pasta inserts, which control the shape and thickness of pasta, also control the cooking time, bite firmness, and mouthfeel. The required pasta product varies based on the application where pasta is to be used, for example in pan-cooked or cup-type instant products.
There are two main criteria that determine the consumer perception of pasta: Shape & Thickness.
The shape of pasta can affect its appearance and appeal to the consumer. For example, a beautifully crafted, intricate pasta shape might be more visually appealing and desirable than a simple, plain pasta shape. Additionally, the shape of pasta can affect its texture and mouthfeel, which can also impact consumer perception and acceptability. For example, a pasta shape with ridges or a rough surface might have a more satisfying texture than a smooth pasta shape.
The shape of pasta can also affect its function and performance in a dish. For example, a pasta shape with a large, hollow center, like a rigatoni, might be better at holding onto a thick, chunky sauce than a pasta shape with a smaller, solid cross-section, like a spaghetti.
Pasta thickness is an important parameter because it can affect the texture, cooking time, and overall quality of the pasta. Here are a few reasons why pasta thickness is important:
- Texture: The thickness of pasta can affect its texture when cooked. Thicker pasta tends to have a chewy texture, while thinner pasta may be softer and more tender.
- Cooking time: The thickness of pasta can also affect its cooking time. Thicker pasta will typically take longer to cook than thinner pasta. This can be important to consider when preparing a dish, as the timing of other ingredients (such as sauces or vegetables) may need to be adjusted based on the cooking time of the pasta.
- Quality: The thickness of pasta can also affect its overall quality. For example, pasta that is too thick may be difficult to bite through or may feel heavy in the mouth, while pasta that is too thin may be mushy or fall apart easily.
In general, the thickness of pasta should be chosen based on the desired texture and the intended use of the pasta.
How Zippy can help?
In a busy and hectic lifestyle, people crave healthier food options that are easy to prepare and consume within no time. Pasta is one such product that comes in various shapes but requires continuous experimentation with dies and inserts. We have learned from our experiences that what performs well in the market and have adapted our inserts accordingly. We have observed that different shapes of pasta receive different consumer acceptance. Vermicelli, spiral, penne, and macaroni are more acceptable in India, while other shapes are popular in other countries. Preferring smaller and exciting shapes, kids can be catered to by adapting pasta shapes accordingly. The elderly demand pasta with a softer bite and mouthfeel. Pitch is also one of the important factors that we consider while making our pasta products. Like, fusilli can be made in medium pitches of around 4 mm or longer pitches of around 7 mm, with varying consumer acceptance.We, at Zippy Edibles, already have numerous dies and inserts and are always open to work on newer ones according to customer preferences. We have a pilot plant where we verify the thickness and cooking time for new formulations. You can through more about our plant at zippyedibles.com/about-us.