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by ND Wheat

Posted on 10/15/2004

Top Durum Growing State Celebrates Pasta Lovers' Week Oct. 24-30

Saluting the important role played by the state's farmers and manufacturing plants in putting nutritious, delicious pasta on the plates of consumers in America and numerous countries worldwide, the North Dakota Wheat Commission proclaims Oct. 24 to 30 as Pasta Lovers' Week in North Dakota. The state observance overlaps with National Pasta Month in October and the sixth annual World Pasta Day on Oct. 25.

Pasta is one of nature's finest masterpieces, made with water and semolina, from ground kernels of durum wheat. North Dakota farmers lead the United States in growing high quality durum wheat, annually producing about two-thirds of the nation's crop.

Five companies currently make pasta in North Dakota at plants in six locations. They are Conte Luna Foods, Grand Forks; Dakota Growers Pasta Company, Carrington; Noodles by Leonardo, Cando and Devils Lake; Golden Plains Frozen Foods, Leeds; and La Rinascente Pasta, Hope. Together, these companies annually use almost 16 million bushels of durum - almost one-fourth of an average North Dakota crop - making it into approximately 600 million pounds of pasta. They provide jobs for about 490 people.

Two of the plants, Dakota Growers and Noodles by Leonardo, have integrated mills for grinding durum into semolina. Semolina is also produced at the state-owned North Dakota Mill in Grand Forks and Minot Milling. Owned by Luke Marano, Minot Milling supplies semolina to the family's pasta plants in Grand Forks and Philadelphia as well as to other pasta companies.

Noodles by Leonardo is the first combination durum mill and pasta plant to operate within the state of North Dakota. It was founded by Leonard Gasparre in 1980. The company mills durum at its Cando location and pasta is manufactured in both Cando and Devils Lake. Noodles by Leonardo supplies dry pasta to retail and food service customers plus for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the military. The company also makes convenient pasta dinners and a line of microwavable pasta meals.

Dakota Growers Pasta Company organized in 1991 as a cooperative of durum wheat growers. The grower cooperative was converted to a common stock corporation in 2002. Dakota Growers Pasta Company, Inc. continues as the third largest producer of dry pasta products in North America and is a leading supplier to the retail store brand, foodservice and industrial markets. In May, Dakota Growers launched the Dreamfields* brand for Healthy Carb Living to supermarkets and foodservice distributors nationally. Dreamfields* has all the taste and texture of regular pasta because it's made primarily from durum wheat semolina. However, a unique fiber blend recipe and revolutionary technology results in 5 grams of digestible carbs per serving. In addition to the Carrington plant, Dakota Growers also operates in New Hope, Minn.

Grand Forks pasta manufacturer Conte Luna Foods has proud Italian roots. Antonio Marano started parent company Philadelphia Macaroni in 1914 in the city for which it is named. Today, Philadelphia Macaroni Company is operated by Antonio's grandson Luke and great-grandsons Luke Jr. and Mark. The company opened the plant in North Dakota in 1991 named Conte Luna Foods after its east coast retail brand, which literally means "Count Moon." The Conte Luna plant makes dry pasta products for the ingredient market such as major brands of canned or dried pasta meals and soups.

Golden Plains Frozen Foods was opened by a small group of investors in 2001 in Leeds in a plant originally operated by former cooperative Farmers Choice Pasta. The company produces an array of gourmet and traditional filled-pasta shapes such as ravioli and tortellini as well as accompanying sauces. Its primary market is a national food service vendor.

La Rinascente Pasta opened in Hope in February 2004 under ownership of a group of local investors. The previously family-owned business has been in operation since 1952. The company makes "fideo" (pronounced "fe DAY oh") pasta, like angel hair folded into a squarish loaf. The product is primarily marketed on the east coast, where it is popular among the Caribbean and Hispanic populations. The product is also popular with patrons of the grocery store in Hope, the only retail outlet in North Dakota.

Free Recipe Brochure Available

Celebrate Pasta Lovers' Week in North Dakota with your family by preparing a new pasta dish. A free recipe brochure of top-ranked entries from this year's pasta recipe contest is available from the North Dakota Wheat Commission. This year's contest featured oven-baked pasta entrees. To receive the brochure, send a stamped, self-addressed, business-sized envelope to: "Oven-Baked Pasta," North Dakota Wheat Commission, 4023 State Street, Bismarck, ND 58503-0690.

The winning recipes from the 2004 contest and previous years are also available on the Commission's web site at