Semolina flour is a yellow, carotenoid-rich wheat flour that is commonly used to make pasta. It is made from a species of wheat called durum wheat. While you may be familiar with wheat and the term flour, there are different types of wheat used to make flour. Durum is the hardest of these wheat species.
Wheat was being used to make pasta back in 10th-century Cairo. From Cairo, pasta would make its way throughout North Africa and would be dubbed itriya. From North Africa, pasta would enter Italy when parts of that country fell under Arab control. Pasta comes from the Middle East, not from China (via Marco Polo) as one popular myth would have it.
The term durum means hard and indicates the difficulty of grinding durum wheat to make flour. The word semolina comes from the Latin word for flour and the Italian word for bran. Nicknames for durum wheat include pasta wheat and macaroni wheat.
Semolina is preferred for making pasta because of its high gluten content; gluten is what enables pasta to keep its shape while being boiled. Flours without as much gluten tend to absorb a lot of water and become shapeless and waterlogged.
The durum wheat used to make semolina flour is cultivated mainly in the Middle East and makes up about five to eight percent of the world’s wheat production.
Semolina flour flavor profile
The flavor of semolina flour is mildly earthy and nutty, which makes it perfect for pasta.
The health benefits of semolina flour
While a flour used for pasta might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you consider healthy ingredients, semolina flour does have some important nutrients. Semolina flour loses some of its nutrients while being processed so nutrients are added to replace the lost ones. The result is enriched semolina. Because of the enriching process, semolina flour is a good source of the following compounds:
- B vitamins: Semolina flour is an excellent source of thiamine, folate and riboflavin.
- Protein: Semolina flour is very rich in protein with 21 grams of it in each cup.
- Minerals: You can get a significant amount of calcium, iron and magnesium from semolina.
With semolina in your diet, you may be able to prevent several health conditions or treat them. Those conditions include:
- High blood pressure: The potassium and magnesium in semolina flour are important for regulating blood pressure, which can impact other areas of health including heart health.
- Osteoporosis: Phosphorus is one of the minerals that you can get from semolina flour. It is important for strong bones and will help to combat the loss of bone density that comes with osteoporosis.
The main way that semolina flour is used is in pasta. Semolina is an essential ingredient for Italian pasta and couscous from Africa and the Middle East. What you may not know about semolina flour is that you can bake with it. Use semolina flour to make pizza dough and baguettes. The high gluten content gives a finer crumb to bread as well as an appetizing yellow color.
Semolina flour is not usually used for bread-making since the hardness of the endosperm makes it difficult to access the gluten it contains. Because of this, bread doughs made with semolina flour do not rise as much as those made from softer wheat.