Flour power - Tumminia!

A few years ago, at Terra Madre, I attended a discussion on Biodiversity and grains that piqued my interest in the lost seeds of Tumminia (or Timilia) durum wheat.  You can follow the link to find out what makes it so special and why it is in need of protection afforded under Slowfood's Ark of Taste.

It makes clear and total sense to me that someone, somewhere in Italy, where regional/national dishes seem to revolve around pasta, would have milling knowledge to produce flour that, in turn, produces great pasta.  Makes even more sense that there would have been regions that grew unique or indigenous varieties of wheat that may have been widely planted at one time but were not, for various reasons, commercialized in modern times and that those varieties would make pasta or bread that is reminiscent of a different era.  Varieties that are as agriculturally and historically as significant as the Valle Dei Templi.

Since Terra Madre, I've read more about Tumminia, about the people who mill the flour and people who use the flour.  I've sought out recipes: one with rapini and another with pesto alla trapanese are a few that make me salivate two of the most interesting and combine some of my favourite pasta flavours.   

All that I was missing was the flour.

I'd been looking for Canadian distributors of Sicilian flour without much joy.  Then, one day last week, I decided to go straight to the source and wrote an email to Molino del Ponte in Sicilia.  Not only did they respond, they supplied the name of a possible distributor - in Toronto!

It just so happens that I commute into TO a few times a week and the distributor was only a short detour from my travels to Union Station, so I sent an email and hoped for the best.  My hopes were not high - nothing is ever this simple, is it?  To my complete delight, I received an email back that same morning and had flour in hand that afternoon ~ thanks to the lovely folks at Ardo on King Street.

Ardo Chef & owner Roberto Marotto originally hails from Sicilia and to say he is passionate about the ingredients of his homeland is an understatement.  Through Mercatto, part of the menu at Ardo restaurant, they offer: Molini del Ponte flours, olive oils and Ardo housemade sourdough bread.  Ardo is a lovely intimate space with a bustling back corner kitchen and well stocked bar at the front.  I'll be headed back to see what they do with this flour and have a glass of one of my favourite volcanic wines (from the Etna DOC).

Tumminia is an ancient hard wheat (grano duro), grown and specially milled in Sicilia.  I've been fortunate to find this offering from Molini del Ponte - fierce advocates of biodiversity, tradition and the very essence of the grain.  The resulting flour has a warm colour indicative of its whole grain composition, a fragrant, nutty aroma and flavor that indicates the care taken in the milling process and translates into wonderful busiate, a hearty pasta made in the traditional style, that is, without eggs and formed into a spiral.
My 'busiate' con rapini.
This traditional shape is not unlike one of my favourite types to make - busiate originates only a mere 350 km away from Calabria and looks like a thicker version of my beloved filej (aka maccheroni).  This flour, with only water and salt, makes a pliable, almost silky dough that easily maintains its form.  
Once cooked, busiate is much more than a vehicle for sauce.  It's definitely got a distinct flavor/aroma that could stand up to a fairly robust treatment.  Yet, at the same time, this pasta has such unique characteristics.  Not wanting to distract from that, it was perfect with the tender spring rapini dropped at my doorstep every day this week courtesy of my suocero.  After a quick blanch, into the saute pan with only a minimal treatment of olive oil, a clove of crushed garlic and the tiniest bit of chili to dress.  I've found a new favourite dish. 
All this talk of Tumminia without mentioning the famed pane nero of Castelvetrano?  More on that later.
One note on imported flour: While I tend toward 'buying local' and preparing meals from our garden harvest as much of the year as I can, this is one of those products that, for me, isn't really a deviation from this philosophy.  If you buy imported, buy better and buy with conscience.  Slowfood is a global movement promoting good, clean and fair food for all and purchasing products on the Ark of Taste directly supports biodiversity preservation and a little taste of the past that could otherwise be lost.
To Molini del Ponte and Chef Marotta at Ardo - Grazie mille! 


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