Ancient Grains Brought to Life: Einkorn Pasta

Ancient Grains Brought to Life: Einkorn Pasta

When unearthing the body of Ötzi, the Bronze Age man found perfectly preserved in the Italian Alps in the 90s, scientists found that for his last meal he had eaten an ancient species of wheat called einkorn. Jared Diamond, Professor of Physiology and Geography and renowned author of books like Collapse and Guns, Germs, and Steel, names einkorn wheat as one of the eight “founder” crops that launched agriculture and made settlements possible.

Jovial's Einkorn Pasta is made from the world’s most ancient wheat, first cultivated 12,000 years ago at the birth of agriculture.

Jovial's Einkorn Pasta is made from the world’s most ancient wheat, first cultivated 12,000 years ago at the birth of agriculture.

Lest you believe that all wheat is the same, einkorn has many properties that differ from the now commonly-grown variety, emmer wheat (a hybrid). Apart from structural variations, Einkorn has a higher level of antioxidants (including lutein) and protein, and it contains greater amounts of lutein (which provides nutritional support to our eyes and skin), thiamin and some essential trace minerals, such as manganese. Like emmer wheat, it’s a good source of dietary fiber and B vitamins. Einkorn also has a higher content of tocotrienols (a potent form of Vitamin E) than other species of wheat.

Whole Grain Einkorn Pasta. All of Jovial's varieties are 100% organic.

Whole Grain Einkorn Pasta. All of Jovial's varieties are 100% organic.

Due in part to lower yields and a lower level of gluten (an essential component in bread making), einkorn wheat has very much fallen out of fashion. But people far cleverer than I have come up with an excellent use for this ancient grain: they make pasta from it. Jovial Foods has introduced Einkorn Pasta. This is whole grain pasta, and it’s a simple and appealing way to incorporate more whole grains into your eating habits. The company claims that this pasta is neither gritty nor grainy-textured, as some whole grain products can be. I’ve found that true; this pasta has the smooth texture of white flour pasta. There’s a heartier, more robust flavor than white flour pasta, but I especially enjoy the taste, and tomato-based sauces are ideal companions for it.

Carla and Rodolfo Bartolucci, founders of Jovial.

Carla and Rodolfo Bartolucci, founders of Jovial.

The founders of Jovial Foods, Carla and Rodolfo Bartolucci, met their farmer, Stefano Naninni, at a children’s school dinner. Having been seated across from each other at the table, they quickly discovered a mutual passion for bringing ancient grain varieties back to life — thus, Jovial was born. Mrs. Bartolucci says: “It is our dream to change the future of agriculture by creating consumer demand for the purest, most ancient varieties of food. Our sustainable economic model focuses on farming first and then considers the entire process all the way through to the shelf. We believe the purest food we are all seeking can only come from the purest seed.”

Jovial's einkorn farmer, Stefano Naninni.

Jovial's einkorn farmer, Stefano Naninni.

Einkorn is grown on very small, organic farms in selected=

The pasta is made in Italy by skilled artisans, whose expertise in the art of pasta-making is essential to the process. Einkorn’s starch is very different from modern durum wheat, it does not crush during milling and does not absorb as much water during mixing, resulting in a superior finished pasta. Traditional bronze dies are used to press pasta shapes, resulting in a coarse surface that better absorbs sauce. The pasta is slowly dried at low temperatures to maintain Einkorn’s exceptional flavor.

Jovial's Einkorn Pasta is made by skilled artisans in Italy, using traditional methods.

Jovial's Einkorn Pasta is made by skilled artisans in Italy, using traditional methods.

The virtues of whole grain products are numerous indeed. But, Jovial recognizes that people do not live by whole grains alone. To this end, they are introducing a white flour Einkorn pasta (this should be available early in 2011). And for those among you who cannot tolerate gluten, note that this business also produces a gluten-free Brown Rice Pasta. All of the pastas are available in a handful of shapes (I don’t know about you, but I retain a childlike love for different pasta shapes). Better still, all products from Jovial are packaged in boxes made from 80% recycled cardboard with a 100% compostable clear window, and they’re all certified organic. If all of that doesn’t make you yearn for a pasta dinner tonight, I don’t know what would!

Jovial Einkorn Pasta is available in a variety of shapes.

Jovial Einkorn Pasta is available in a variety of shapes.

“We believe that the future of our food is a thing of the past,” said Bartolucci. “We were so excited to discover that a food from ancient history was preserved in time and could still be grown today.”

Jovial's Brown Rice Pasta.

Jovial's Brown Rice Pasta.

Jovial Whole Grain Einkorn Pasta is available in five varieties: Rigatoni, Penne Rigate, Fusilli, Spaghetti and Linguine. The pastas range from $3.39-3.69 per 12 oz box and are available at Whole Foods stores nationwide and online at Amazon.

Mangia!

About author
Stephanie Zonis was born with a spoon in her mouth — a tasting spoon, that is. She began cooking (especially baking) at a very early age, and for a short time even ran a highly illegal baking business from her long-suffering parents’ house when she was in high school. After acquiring a Master’s Degree in Foods, she eventually discovered the Internet in 1997. She’s been writing about food and developing recipes, especially where chocolate is involved, ever since. During those few moments when she’s not cooking or writing or thinking about food, Stephanie enjoys reading, walking, political discussions, and volunteering at a local no-kill cat sanctuary. She has been a member of a medieval re-creation group for longer than she’ll admit and loves absurdist humor.
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