Semolina flour is a high-gluten flour that's traditionally used to make pasta. Noodles made from semolina hold their shape well and have a firm texture. If you plan on making homemade pasta and don't have any on hand, there are other types of flours you can use in its place. You will still have good results and will get dinner on the table.
Before swapping in another flour for semolina, it is worth understanding what semolina is and why it is the best flour for making pasta.
What Is Semolina Flour?
Semolina, also known as pasta wheat or macaroni wheat, is a type of flour that is typically made from hard durum wheat. It has a rather coarse texture and is high in gluten protein. This makes it especially well suited to pasta, since it makes a less sticky dough than other flours, and is much more elastic. This helps it to hold its shape when it's cooking, whether that shape is a long spaghetti noodle or an elbow. Semolina has a sweet, nutty flavor and also imparts that traditional yellow color to the pasta.
Semolina works well in pasta but is also a good flour for bread and pizza. It can be purchased in coarse and fine textures, depending on your preference or the recipe you're working on. Because of the high protein content in semolina, it has a relatively short storage life.
You can replace the semolina flour called for in your recipe with an equal amount of all-purpose flour, bread flour, or whole wheat flour. Bread flour or whole wheat flour will work best; they have a higher gluten content than all-purpose flour. Bread flour contains 12 to 14 percent gluten protein per cup, wheat flour contains 14 percent, and all-purpose contains 8 to 11 percent. Semolina comes in at 13 percent or more. If using all-purpose flour, your pasta won't come out quite as firm, but will still taste delicious.
Hesitant to buy semolina flour because you don't make pasta that often? It can actually be used in other ways than just making homemade noodles. Dust pizza pans before baking pizza crust or sprinkle over roasted vegetables for added crunch. It can even be used to make bread, sweet puddings, cakes, and other desserts. Add a bag to your pantry, and it may just become your new go-to ingredient or even an excuse to try new recipes.
If you do decide to pick up some semolina, make sure the bag says, "semolina flour," and is made with durum wheat. Do not buy corn semolina or rice semolina, as they aren't actually semolina at all.
Always scoop your flour into your measuring cups, rather than dipping them into the flour bag. Dipping puts extra flour in your recipe, and that will make your pasta dough drier and harder to work with—no matter which flour you decide to use.