October 29, 2023

French and Italian Flour

Less Gluten, Better Quality

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If you've ever been to France or Italy, you might have noticed it was easier to digest bread, pasta, and pastries there than in the United States. Even individuals with gluten sensitivity report they can enjoy these foods without any adverse reactions. In this article, I will share some insights that shed light on what some consider a mystery.

Over thirty years of experiencing and researching the differences between Flour from France, Italy, and the U.S., I learned the answers are in the type of wheat used, how the wheat is grown and processed—and the proof is in the pizza.

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Homemade Pizza with
Easy Tomato Sauce.

The Wheat

Italian and French flours are usually made from soft wheat, which has lower protein content compared to the hard red wheat commonly grown in the United States. Flour with less protein contains less gluten. Therefore, foods made with low-gluten flour are lighter and easier to digest.

Additionally, the wheat grown in the United States has been modified, resulting in an unnaturally high gluten content.

Modified Wheat

Wheat in the U.S. has been modified for mass production, which has increased the gluten content. I learned this from Chef Marc Vetri in his book, Mastering Pasta. He states,

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The first step in making French Crêpes

"Modern wheat, tritosum estavium (TSVM), is the same wheat species that has been used to make bread for at least 1000 years. What changed in the 1960s  is that new varieties of TSVM were developed (using traditional plant breeding techniques) that could withstand higher levels of chemical fertilizers and modern harvesting."

He goes on to say, "Those semi dwarf wheats helped increase production. But what may be more important is how these wheats led to a drastic reduction in the time it takes to turn dry flour into packaged baked goods. Wheat for making commodity flours has been specifically bred to withstand the high-speed mixing required for making bread products quickly on an industrial scale. This is good for production and profits but may not be so good for our health. First, we're adding excessive amounts of vital wheat gluten to bread products. Wheat gluten is basically refined white flour hydrated into dough and then washed of its starch, so you're left with a mass of almost 80% wheat protein. It's like pure gluten, which adds structure and elasticity to bread doughs and helps them rise faster–especially whole wheat bread doughs. Ironically, the added gluten may be making these healthy whole grain breads less tolerable to our digestive systems."

The type of wheat used to make flour sheds some light. However, beyond the gluten content, we must also look at how the wheat is grown and processed. Here's why. 

Growing the Wheat

Glyphosate, commonly known as "Roundup," is a widely used herbicide in wheat agriculture in the U.S. It is used to control weeds, promote crop growth, and speed up the drying and maturing process, making it easier to harvest the crop. Regardless of these "advantages," I think it goes without say, we don't want to eat Roundup.

The usage and regulations surrounding glyphosate in wheat farming differ between the United States, France, and Italy. France and Italy have taken a more cautious approach to the use of glyphosate in wheat farming than the United States. This aligns with the European Union's (E.U.) goal of minimizing the use of glyphosate and other harmful pesticides.

Many believe the wheat modification and the use of glyphosate explain the significant increase in gluten sensitivity among the American population.

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Italian Semolina Flour for Homemade Pasta

To this point, it's interesting that pasta in Italy is often made with durum semolina wheat, which is high in protein and, therefore, high in gluten. Despite this, as I mentioned, people often report eating pasta in Italy without experiencing symptoms of gluten sensitivity, suggesting that gluten may not be the culprit. It might be the wheat.

The Milling Process

How the wheat is milled also influences the quality of the flour. The milling process in France and Italy involves a slower grind, which produces finely ground flour, helping to preserve more of the wheat's natural flavor and nutrients. The result is a more nutritious, lighter, and easier-to-digest final product, and many agree it is more flavorful, as many chefs will attest.


When researching flour and gluten, we can find ourselves in a spiderweb of information.   Instead of trying to weed through it, I found the answer in my own experiences. It may be as simple as trying and seeing for yourself, as many others have. Even if you don't have gluten sensitivity, it's wise to steer clear of glyphosate and high levels of gluten in modified wheat. Here is what others have to say about French and Italian flour :

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Emma's review for Francine French Flour on Amazon:

"Over the past year, I have developed severe food allergies to wheat, gluten, dairy, sugar, and more. Suddenly, anytime I tried to eat bread, my stomach would blow up, and I would burp constantly. Almost every 5 seconds for hours or even sometimes a couple days. I've been seeing all kinds of [doctors], both regular and Naturopaths. They all felt I had some kind of acid reflux/Gerd. But many were pointing out that it could be the glyphosate in the wheat. Roundup and Pesticides sprayed all over our foods. I did hear friends explain that when visiting Europe, they could eat all the bread and pasta they wanted and actually lost weight and never had any gut issues. I am learning that Monsanto is banned in Europe, so their food is much healthier than the U.S. I decided to give it a try and ordered this flour. My husband and I invited friends over for a pizza party. Our friends have family back in France and instantly recognized the cute little bags of flour. They said that is the correct size bag they sell in Europe. This flour made delicious pizza crust. Everyone got their own personal pizza to customize. I was able to eat my entire personal pizza with absolutely no tummy issues! Talk about a dream come true! Don't hesitate to try! I couldn't be happier!"

5.0 out of 5 stars A Dream Come True!

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You can read more testimonials here. Now, let's look at where you can find French and Italian Flour.

Where to Find French and Italian Flour

While Italian flour is often available in American grocery stores, not all brands maintain the same high standards of quality. I recently removed a brand from this post after learning that although they process their Flour in Italy, they now import the wheat from Canada, where glyphosate is widely used. Unable to confirm whether this wheat contains glyphosate, I opted to remove it from my recommendations.

Reviewing company websites will help you discern quality. Transparent information about ingredients and manufacturing processes can help you make informed choices. Fortunately, high-quality French and Italian flours are easy to find in the U.S. online and in specialty shops.

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Online Stores

Italian Flour

One example of a company that is clear about where the wheat is grown and processed is Molino Camema from Italy. “Molino Camema guarantees that their wheat and grain are grown and milled in the Altamura area, Puglia. Certified organic." Monlina Camema flour is also IGP certified, which means it has been awarded a quality designation and adheres to high standards of ingredients and production.   

You can find this flour on the Italian Harvest online shopping site. Italian flour is used for baking and cooking. If you enjoy making homemade pizza dough, type 00 flour from Italy will produce a light and crispy crust.

French Flour

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My preferred brand of French Flour is Francine. There are several options to choose from.  Francine Fluide type, or Supreme T45 flour, is ideal for making light French Crêpes with a slight crispiness, or the Blé type T45. Both all-purpose flours can be used for baking and cooking.

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Ham and Cheese Clafoutis- "Crustless Quiche"

The Fluide and Supreme are slightly finer and designed to be lump-free. They cost a bit more than the Blé type T45, so if you want to save a few dollars, try this easy tip: when using the Blé type T45 to make a batter like for French Crêpes or a quiche, let the batter sit for a while, and it will be lump-free.

Compare Prices

Francine brand French flour can be found online at Amazon, however, you can find better prices at online specialty shops like  Yummy Bazaar.  

These French and Italian flours are priced at around $5 or $6 on Yummy Bazaar. While the price may be slightly higher than the flour you find at your grocer's, an extra few dollars is worth the investment for the quality.

Specialty Shops

You can also find fine French and Italian flour at local specialty shops, where knowledgeable staff can help you select the right flour for your needs.

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Italian flour at Primi Piatti in Birmingham, MI
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French flour at The French Lady Bistro in Birmingham, MI

Pasta and More

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Homemade Pasta

If you become a fan of French and Italian flour like I did, you can try making pasta at home, but it's not necessary. Just look for pasta that carries the IGP certification and is made with high-quality Italian flour. You can learn more about buying pasta here.

While you can find dried pasta and flour at your local grocery store, they may not be of the same caliber as what you can find online. Also,  if they're imported, they can be more expensive at the grocery, so it's worth looking online for quality and pricing. In addition, many of the best products never make it to the grocery store, so we have to go and find them.

If you enjoyed this information, you will enjoy the chapter in my book about online shopping. You can sign up here to be notified when it is released in summer 2024.

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