Food Engineering

Making in-flight pasta entrées bellissimo!

September 1, 2011
Pasta-maker uses a carefully tuned, continuous cooking/cooling process to produce perfect pasta every time.

The continuous process for cooking and cooling pasta and the flexibility of running multiple products throughout the production day at different temperatures and at different retention times are unique features of Perfect Pasta’s system. Source: Lyco Manufacturing.


Perfect Pasta is the largest supplier of in-flight pasta meals to the airline industry, representing 30 percent of the company’s total annual sales. “If you are eating a pasta entrée on an overseas flight or on a first-class flight in the US, then you are most likely eating one produced by us,” says Mario Demarco, president of Perfect Pasta.

Another 30 percent of the company’s business is supplying fresh pasta and pasta dishes to high-end restaurants throughout the Midwestern states. Forty percent of its business is supplying bulk pasta products to the foodservice industry and private labeling.

Perfect Pasta has mastered the art of combining traditional Italian pasta-making techniques with the latest highly automated, continuous cooking-cooling process technology, enabling the company to produce fine-quality, authentic Italian fresh pasta-including the long pastas-on a mass scale. Perfect Pasta’s 45,000-sq.-ft. plant can produce up to 5,000 pounds of fully cooked and prepared pasta meals per hour.

To produce pasta at this rate, the processor designed a continuous-flow pasta cooking and cooling process line, and searched for equipment that could handle the demand. The system chosen and installed by Perfect Pasta was developed by Lyco Manufacturing. The cooker-coolers use two completely enclosed duo-rotary drum cylinders: one for cooking and one for cooling directly following in sequence. The drums have internal augers-a perforated skin sheet is wrapped around the drums and fixed to the auger’s flights. These flights gently move the pasta through the cooker and cooler system. The pasta is carefully agitated, while submersed in water, as it advances through the cylinders. Damage to fragile pasta products is a fraction of one percent.

Once through the cooker machine, having reached the programmed temperature/time (in a first-in/first-out sequence), the pasta is gently deposited into a following cooling drum, and chilled to its programmed temperature/time factor. The pasta is then released onto a belt conveyor for downstream combining with sauce, vegetables and other ingredients. The entrées are sealed and move into a spiral freezer where they are individually quick frozen (IQF) at -45°F, boxed and put into cold storage at -10°F to be shipped to the airlines.

Consistent process parameters for temperature, time and recipes automatically control the pasta cooking and cooling hour after hour, and completely outperform the batch method and the Italian cooker formerly used by Perfect Pasta.

“We are processing 500,000 pounds of pasta output per month through the cooker-cooler, an average of 20,000 pounds per day,” says Demarco. “The consistency of the pasta is excellent, and there is no clumping together. It is like cooking fresh pasta in a pot at your home. That’s how good this system is. The pasta floats in the water, and we can cook it anywhere from three minutes to 24 minutes at 206°F to 207°F, depending on what item we are making. The time and temperature are precisely monitored, and everything is charted, so we can also see the continuous temperature over time.”

For more information:
Jeff Zittel; 920-623-4152; jeff.zittel@lycomfg.com