For nearly three decades the North Dakota Wheat Commission has celebrated National Pasta Month in October as a way to recognize the state’s dedicated durum producers and the associated durum milling and pasta manufacturing industries. To help celebrate Pasta Month and educate consumers on the importance of durum and pasta production, the Commission will be partnering with statewide media to provide durum and pasta facts and trivia. Participating newspapers and radio stations will provide opportunities for readers and listeners to win a pasta prize package. This year’s theme – From Field to Fork – focuses on the process of bringing the durum from the field to the pasta on consumer’s plates.
Durum is a unique crop. Production is relatively small compared to other classes of wheat, accounting for only three percent of total U.S. production on average. The area where it is grown is also somewhat concentrated – the bulk of acres in western North Dakota and eastern Montana. A smaller acreage of Desert Durum is grown in Arizona and California. Durum prefers drier conditions and a less humid environment due to disease susceptibility and the need to preserve color and hard count during harvest, a main reason why the geographical production area is smaller. North Dakota durum acres have declined in recent years due to both local and world dynamics, however, the producers growing durum remain as dedicated as ever to producing a quality product to make premium pasta products. On average producers in North Dakota grow enough durum to make about two billion pounds of pasta!
Durum is the hardest of all wheats and its rich amber color, high protein, and high gluten content make it the gold standard for producing premium pasta products. Producing durum with those strong quality traits can be difficult in years when weather isn’t ideal in producing a good crop, something both producers and the industry must work through. Durum is milled into semolina and mixed with water to form various pasta shapes. Pasta can be combined with delicious sauces, vegetables and various proteins to make a wide variety of nutritious pasta dishes. In the Mediterranean Region and North Africa, semolina from durum is prized for cous cous and some breads.
A good share of our production is processed in-state at one of these facilities: Minot Milling, a division of Philadelphia Macaroni located in Minot, N.D.; Dakota Growers Pasta Company located in Carrington, N.D.; and the North Dakota Mill in Grand Forks. North Dakota durum is also sent out of state to mills throughout the United States, and to customers around the world. Italy, Algeria, and Nigeria are the largest international buyers, but North Dakota durum also finds its way to smaller markets in Central America and Europe.
Celebrate pasta month by learning more about our state’s durum and pasta production and make one of your favorite pasta dishes. For great pasta cooking tips and recipes, visit www.pastafits.org and for more information on pasta month, visit www.ndwheat.com. The Wheat Commission would like to thank our dedicated Pasta Month sponsors: Dakota Growers Pasta, Philadelphia Macaroni and the U.S. Durum Growers.