Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What I Did Last Summer - Part Six (Butta La Pasta!)

I made it! The final post in my "What I Did Last Summer" series. Just in time... summer 2010 is about to begin. The moto and I hit Colorado in less than a week. I am off the walls excited!

Actually, I'm not sure it was officially still summer by the time I visited Scottsdale Culinary Institute graduate (and former teacher) Scott Morisson's boutique pasta factory in Tempe, AZ. In fact, I think it was well into autumn. But I figured I'd catch up on my summer blogging soon enough (hah!) and keep things in chronological order.

I first found DeCio Pasta at the St. Phillips Farmer's Market here in Tucson. Wow, that market has come a long way in the past few years. There's actual, well, FOOD there now, as opposed to just trinkets and emu oil. Anyway, at the market they had pasta samples to taste. Woo! This was the real deal, similar to the pasta I had at Chez Panisse which I wrote about here and Flips in OK mentioned here. I grabbed more than one package to bring home with me. Closer examination revealed that the pasta was made just "up the road" from me, and I tracked the maker down on our glorious inter-web.

Scott is my kind of guy. First of all, when I asked him for a look-see of his place, he didn't feed me the "sorry, our insurance doesn't allow it" line. Honestly, when I hear that I get a bit leery of the place. What are they trying to hide? No, Scott's response was more like "Come on down!" He proudly (he should be!) and humbly showed me his shop and loaded me up with generous samples at my departure. He also happens to ride a CBR 600, which doesn't hurt. Even better, he bottle fed a lost pup he found in a gutter, "Noodles," now the shop mascot. Like I said, he's my kind of guy. Here they are:

Scott takes pride in his pasta for good reason. He uses pure semolina from N. Dakota, freshly pureed natural vegetables for unique flavors, and filtered water, if he needs water at all. The pasta (literally "paste" in Italian), first goes through a mixing and extruding machine. The dies used are of brass, with etched teflon linings. So he gets the beautiful texture of artisan pasta, with the ease of teflon. Then the pasta is dried slowly on racks, using no supplemental heat to speed the process. These two things really DO make a difference. It's obvious. But don't expect this pasta to be $1.50 a lb. Those dies I talked about? They can cost several thousand dollars a piece. And think about the space it takes to naturally dry 280,000 lbs of pasta a year. In fact, pasta was a luxury reserved for the very wealthy for a long time, because it is so labor intensive.

Here are a few of the dies from which the pasta is extruded.

And the finished product, before packaging. Lovely.

This pasta is truly, truly delicious. My only wish would be for the option of a DeCio "plain jane" pasta, in addition to all the wonderful and creative flavors offered. When I asked about that, Scott just shrugged. "That's not the way I roll," he said. I can respect that!

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