Simply Pasta: The Gateway Handmade Food
By Jessica Luhning | Photos By Jim Klousia 2
A perfectly al dente fettuccine blanketed with a velvety smooth vodka cream sauce punctuated by fresh farmers market heirloom tomatoes, sweet and deliciously pungent basil, fresh cracked black pepper and a light sprinkling of Parmigiano. This meal left an imprint on my palate that forever changed my appetite in favor of pasta as pasta should be—fresh.
This pasta was unlike any I had ever tasted. Handmade and boiled just moments before plating, the tender bite and light, earthy wheat flavor of the fresh fettuccine married beautifully with the sauce.
Borrowing the words of renowned chef Paul Bertolli, the “pasta and sauce were equal partners in a harmonized interplay of texture and flavor.” Yes, harmonized tasty goodness.
Food memories like this have always inspired me to be more creative in my home kitchen. Making handmade pasta was as intimidating as the thought of making my own cheese and cured meats. Honestly, I am not terribly skilled in the kitchen, but I will say from one home cook-in-training to another—pasta is the simplest of handmade foods and a gateway to others. If you are not careful, you will soon be whipping up a fresh goat’s milk chevre or hand-stuffed sage and apple sausage. Ravioli for dinner anyone?
RP's Pasta: Handmade with Heart
Others, too, have been transformed by the gastronomic effect of fresh pasta. On a recent culinary field-trip to Madison, I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with Peter Robertson, Madison’s own fresh pasta-making aficionado. If you should know one thing about Peter, it is that his love for pasta is infectious.
Peter’s pathway to pasta was a rather serendipitous one. Seeking a more dynamic field of study, he left mechanical engineering for a more alluring theatre degree at Boston’s Northeastern University. He was soon touring Europe as a stage carpenter, and after seven years spent sampling France and Italy’s culinary delicacies— including one especially memorable plate of fresh pasta—Peter came home and started re-creating those same dishes in his home kitchen. In 1994 after sharing his handmade pasta with neighbors, he was encouraged to take off his home apron and turn a kitchen hobby into a career. Soon RP’s Pasta Company was born and has become one of the most successful fresh pasta companies in the United States.
RP’s Pasta produces a diverse line of fresh pasta products including linguini, fettuccine, rigatoni and lasagna, as well as filled ravioli and tortelloni. Peter and his small team of dedicated employees whip up incredible fillings such as portobello and parmesan, asparagus and Asiago, spinach and feta, and sweet potato and gorgonzola.
For all you non-gluten eaters, RP’s started experimenting with gluten-free pasta recipes in 2008. Spurred by national growth in the gluten-free market, they launched a complete line of gluten-free pasta products in January 2011—the only fresh gluten-free pasta on the market.