Standing up to the Mafia

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Libera Terra pasta is anything but ordinary. Its uniqueness stems from the way it's produced and has a lot to do with the ground in which the ingredients are grown. That's because it was confiscated from the Mafia.

Libera Terra

gebana: For us non-Italians, all pasta is the same. Are there any real differences between pastas?

Libera Terra*: Yes, there are quite a few differences! Our Libera Terra pasta is not mass-produced in a factory. The durum wheat semolina is cold ground at less than 40°C and the pasta dough is dried at an average temperature of 68°-70°C in order to preserve the organoleptic properties of the basic ingredients. Although production takes longer, the ingredients are processed more gently. In addition, our pasta is extruded through bronze moulds. The resulting surface is porous – the uncooked pasta is slightly whitish, as you can see. The porous surface of the spaghetti or other pasta allows the sauce to be fully absorbed – and in the end, the sauce is what makes the pasta taste great!

gebana: Where does the wheat for Libera Terra pasta come from?

Libera Terra: Libera Terra sources durum wheat from cooperatives farming land confiscated from the Mafia by the authorities, and from farmers in the south who share our principles. More precisely, the durum wheat semolina comes from nine different cooperatives. Six are in Sicily and three are on the mainland in Southern Italy.

There, they grow very different products, all according to organic guidelines. The reason our whole grain pasta is not yet certified organic is because newly confiscated plots of land are always being added. Organic farming has been practised from the very beginning, but a conversion period of several years is required for the products to be called "organic".

gebana: Can you explain how land confiscated from the Mafia is farmed?

Libera Terra was founded by the initiative "Libera (Freed) Associations, Names and Numbers Against Mafia Organizations." In 1995, it supported a nationwide petition calling for the Italian parliament to pass a law allowing social cooperatives to repurpose assets seized from people linked to organized crime.

More than a million people signed the petition, and a law was passed declaring that goods confiscated from the Mafia and transferred to the state would be used either by social cooperatives integrating 30% disadvantaged workers or by the public. The members of each cooperative are selected by public vote and then tasked with administering and managing this confiscated land.

The first agricultural cooperative was established here in San Giuseppe Jato, Sicily in 2001. It still produces wine, wheat and other products to this day.

gebana: Isn't it dangerous for producers to work on land confiscated from the Mafia?

Libera Terra: There were difficulties at the beginning. Many service providers and also employees were afraid to work with the first cooperative. Not only that, but the land is often in poor condition before a cooperative starts to farm it. We had many obstacles to overcome.

Today, the Libera Terra cooperatives are known all over Italy. They are viewedseen as a real-life example of a successful social enterprise that, with the support of local communities, creates jobs, employs disadvantaged people and helps promote organic and sustainable production processes. At the same time, the success of Libera Terra products on the market shows that a just and honest economic system can work by allowing property seized from the Mafia to be repurposed for social good and applying a quality-based business model.

Libera Terra Pasta is dedicated to all citizens who have demonstrated with their unconditional love and tremendous devotion that a democratic, peaceful, welcoming, cultural and artistic Italy can rise above the decay brought about by the Mafia, corruption and fraud.

One of the cooperative members' favourite dishes is spaghetti with fried courgette. You can now find the recipe here!

*Libera Terra regards itself as a community and would like to present itself as such. The names and faces of the members of the cooperative have therefore been intentionally omitted.

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