France is known for its pasta too !09-11-2017
Nestling in the shadow of its Italian neighbour, France has also built an enviable reputation for
its pasta and every year increases its market share around the world.
Regional strongholds of French pasta : Alsace and the South East
Pasta has been known to historians since ancient times. In France, manuscripts citing pasta have been discovered as long ago as the Middle Ages, proof indeed that France knows a thing or two on the subject. In 2014, the country was responsible for producing 245,000 tonnes of pasta, making France Europe’s 4th largest producer. There are currently 20 companies specialising in pasta in France. Alsace and the South East, encompassing the Alps, are France’s most important regions of production. Hugely popular in these regions, French pasta is also gaining an increasingly large gastro following on a global scale.
Fresh egg pasta
In Alsace, nüdle and spätzle are both PGI-protected, traditional pastas, featuring a high egg content, golden colour and a delicate, flavour-filled texture. As far back as the 17th century, farmers in the Alsace region were making egg-rich noodles. It takes precisely 7 eggs to make a kilo of PGI-protected “Alsace pasta”. Accounting for 7% of France’s total pasta sales, this soft, deep-yellow and protein-rich pasta is cooked in the same way as linguini. A cross between gnocchi and pasta, spätzles (or spaetzles) are made using a special grater. After cooking in boiling water, the pasta is sautéed in butter and takes on lovely crisp texture. It works really well with fish.
Crozets, speciality buckwheat pasta from Savoie
An important crossroads between France and Italy, Savoie has been the cradle of an important pasta tradition since 1860. The most well-known are crozets, small pasta squares made using buckwheat flour and cooked in butter and grated cheese, or even better, made into croziflette, which is a deliciously cheesy, bacon and pasta bake. And for the more adventurous, crozets can also be cooked in local Genepi liqueur, tomatoes and Espelette chili pepper, served cold in a salad and just perfect for picnics.
Around 700 tonnes are sold every year, 90% of which are made by Alpina Savoie, which since 1844 has continued to be the most successful brand on the market. And that’s not all, as the company is also renowned for its originelles pasta range; pasta made from whole organic wheat grain and also according to traditional methods such as crozets and taillerins. Look out also for taillerines, which come in a range of different flavours including blueberry, ceps, Genepi and chanterelles.
Ravioli is another well-known type of pasta from the Dauphine region. Miniature ravioli shapes, Dauphine ravioli (PGI) are made using Comté gruyere cheese, fromage blanc, parsley, eggs, butter and salt. Absolutely delicious, they are a true French speciality. Saint-Jean has made ravioli and crozets a trademark of the company. Located in Romans-sur-Isere, this small-medium sized company, boasting some 380 employees, has seen its market share go from strength to strength. The company has recently seen a complete overhaul, resulting in a new logo, new name and new branding. Saint-Jean produces many types of fresh pasta, quenelles and also ravioli, which accounts for 34% of its volume, with a clear overriding objective: “Pasta is not just about Italy. Instead of imitating Italian pasta, we need to take this French tradition and adapt it using the creativity and diversity of our local products, and this is how we will gain stand out” explains Guillaume Blanloeil, Managing Director of the company in Romans (Drome).
Essentially, French pasta, with its unique character, has an exciting future ahead. And all the evidence suggests the strategy is a success. For Saint-Jean, which is taking the route of investing in international markets, exports have continued to rise. “This is currently a strategy on which we are very clear. We are targeting our investment regionally to progress and increase our notoriety” he continues. While Benelux, Germany and the United States are the company’s main partners, China has already begun to feature. “We are investing time in China to see how we can position ourselves on the market” Retail and restaurants are the main channels for Saint-Jean products, and they are also listed in some of the world’s leading cities, including New York and London. Through word of mouth and trade fairs, with Shanghai featuring next on the list at the Food and Beverage show (HFC) in November, the company plans to enhance its profile and promote the charms of French-style pasta. “We are tapping into the excellent quality of French restaurants and the organoleptic qualities of our products”. Arguments which have already gained ground in a number of other sectors. And while we wait for China to take the bait, from this November the French market will be able to discover ravioli stuffed with Perigord truffles.