When it comes to the buzzy food trends we’ll all be hearing about this year, pasta is one of the hottest, according to multiple food trend forecasts. Whether as the star of Sunday supper or a base for an exotic new recipe, home cooks will be planning on more pasta dishes this year.
To further explore what this trend means for the gourmet industry, Gourmet Insider tapped Fante’s Kitchen Wares Shop. Nestled in the Historic Italian Market of Philadelphia, PA, this shop’s expertise on all things pasta is just one of the many reasons its customer regularly rely on the shop for their cooking needs.
Liana Ottaviani, general manager of Fante’s, gives us the scoop on the shop’s approach to satisfying its customers’ passion for pasta — and the accessories that go along with it.
Gourmet Insider: Fante’s has a rich history of offering specialty pasta-making tools and accessories. Why do you feel that pasta is having a comeback among gourmet enthusiasts this year?
Liana Ottaviani: Pasta is fun, delicious and simple. It is also inexpensive. It can be prepared in many different ways, with an infinite combinations of styles and sauces. You can get together a group of friends and bottle of wine or all the kids in the family and occupy and afternoon or evening. Pasta’s deliciousness and versatility allows it to survive trends and accommodate almost any type of diet.
Until recently, pasta has never been known for its nuanced flavors or delicate presentation. Chefs are now taking on the challenge. We recently hosted a local chef who made pasta with carrot juice, tossed it with olive oil and a dab of butter, and finished the dish with black garlic sea salt. It was delicious and certainly elevated my favorite hand-cut pasta tossed with Sunday gravy.
And with so many different tools at our fingertips, it is easy to make a beautiful pasta with very little effort. A cavarola board, for instance, adds a beauty detail by simply rolling the dough you just sheeted over the design, imprinting one side. Use the imprinted side up to make ravioli, or simply cut some rustic pasta shapes and have some fancy pappardelle. Of course, the payoff is that no matter how much effort, you get to enjoy delicious pasta at the end of the project.
GI: Have you noticed more customers coming in and requesting pasta making tools and accessories?
LO: For us, pasta has always been a major category. We have noticed shoppers seeking out more of the basics and the old world tools, such as a chitarra (Italian for guitar, and the old traditional way to produce pasta). The resulting texture holds sauce better than any other spaghetti and melts in your mouth.
Accessory tools are important — I couldn’t live without my bench scraper, a large stainless steel mixing bowl and a pasta board. Beyond those tools, the “basics” will extend depending upon what type of pasta you like to make. Pasta drying racks are great if you want to make a bunch of pasta, dry and store it for later use. What many folks don’t realize that it isn’t necessary to dry fresh pasta before cooking it, and that it may also be stored (not dried) in a freezer. A pasta machine makes rolling out dough a snap, and ravioli forms will make ravioli much more quickly than the stamps (though you are limited to a square shape). Gnocchi is my absolute favorite, so my kitchen is incomplete without a gnocchi board.
GI: What sort of goods do you stock and recommend to customers that aren’t quite ready to make fresh pasta but could use some help with how to cook and serve it?
LO: For those looking for the ancillary tools required to cook and serve bought pasta, a colander or a spider is key, along with proper sized spoons — we prefer flat with a slight bowl, which works great for ravioli or typical pastas like rigatoni. Customers will also need a spaghetti fork and a serving bowl. In our home, we use different serving bowls based on the type of pasta. Typical pastas are served in a deep serving bowl, while we prefer wide, shallow bowls for gnocchi, cavatelli and ravioli. Then, you can’t forget serving containers or graters for your parmesan cheese and a good pepper mill. It really is a rabbit hole once you get started.
GI: How does Fante’s help customers overcome their fear of making their own pasta?
LO: It makes me sad that people consider making pasta to be tedious and intimidating. The beauty of pasta is that you can make a pound of pasta with only a few ingredients in the time it takes your pot of water to boil.
We love to demystify pasta making for people, and provide tips for those mastering their own pasta technique. We host in-store demonstrations (without a demo kitchen!) every Saturday, and we focus on pasta three to four times per year. We also make pasta religiously at home, so if there are any questions, we can provide guidance and advice on how to get started, as well as troubleshooting. Pasta cookbooks also do well for us, especially Making Artisan Pasta by Aliza Green and Mastering Pasta by Marc Vetri, as well as a new book, Handmade Pasta Workshop & Cookbook by Nicole Karr.