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Alpine pasta
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Alpine pasta

Natural, organic wholefoods – the secret behind the success of Alexander Gross’s handmade grissini and pasta varieties.

The master baker picks up a piece of spelt dough and flattens it with both hands. Using a dough scraper, he cuts off several thin strips, stretches them with both hands and places them on a baking sheet. As an experienced baker, Alexander Gross repeats all those steps so fast that it is hard to follow them with your bare eyes: 2,000 to 3,000 times a day, six days out of seven. Each morning, the 38-year-old starts work at the 70-square-metre production site on the bottom floor of the PUR South Tyrol store in Bolzano/Bozen. And he doesn’t call it a day before sometime in the evening. But Gross doesn’t make his work look hard. Talking about his job puts a big smile on his face. “Well, my job isn’t all hip and cool, but if a crazy little thing like this makes you happy,” Gross tells us, smiling and picking up one of the crumbly bread sticks known as grissini, “and it tastes great too, that’s just amazing”. Each grissino stick is handmade. As Gross explains, you can tell that not only by the way it looks, but also by the way it tastes. The baker, who was born in Lana and now lives in Cermes/Tscherms, says that the crispy sticks go perfectly with a South Tyrolean Marende platter of speck (bacon) and cheese.
pastalpina-grissini-rohschi
pastalpina-ofennudeln
Whole grain only
The dough needs to rest for one day before the grissini can be baked. “Great food needs time. Most people will understand that with wine, but nobody sees that with bread”, the baker says. In addition to his grissini, he also bakes fresh rolls every day. Three years ago, in summer, he founded Pastalpina. His goal is to use heirloom grains and produce authentic products. Back then, the trained baker worked as a salesman for a mill. For him, a healthy diet has always been important and he has always acted out of conviction. So producing his own organic wholefood products was the logical next step to take.

From the very beginning, he has been producing three types of grissini – plain, with tomatoes, and with rosemary – and nine pasta varieties including spelt, rye, einkorn wheat, buckwheat and durum wheat. His pasta is all organic and made from South Tyrolean Regiokorn grains and the traditional Austrian einkorn grains. A friend of his, also a baker, does all the milling for him. And the flour is not sifted. “The term “wholemeal” is not clearly defined here in Italy, so companies can go and sell white flour with bran as wholemeal”, Gross complains. “But wholemeal actually
means using whole grains only, i.e. including the outer layers. This also makes the grains easier to digest”.
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Straight from production to sale
After putting the finishing touches on his grissini, Gross moves on to make some pasta. The dough is made from flour and water only. His fully automated pasta extruder allows him to produce different pasta shapes: ri±ed crescents, also known as galletti, or the long strips known as tagliatelle, for example. Gross’s favourite variety are the light brown, slightly reddish einkorn wheat tagliatelle. Maybe that’s because he has to work on them manually after the machine is done.

It takes the machine three hours to produce a batch of 70 kilogrammes. Gross spreads the fresh pasta out on several grids, which he then stacks in a kitchen dryer. Depending on the shape of the pasta, it takes 16 to 30 hours for it to dry. The drying temperature is one of his secrets. He will only reveal this much, with a big grin on his face: “Spending some time in the dryer would leave you comfortably warm, but you wouldn’t get roasted”.

Once dried, Gross weighs the pasta in the back of his bakery, fills it into small bags and labels it, before bringing the pouches upstairs right into the PUR South Tyrol sales room. As is often the case, some of his customers peek through the large shop window on the bottom floor and watch Gross work – they absolutely love the fact that they can watch production here. And, as is often the case, the master baker brings some fresh grissini sticks outside for his audience to try. “And sometimes I even have time for a little chat”, Gross says, smiling.
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