Picture this: A row of small pasta shops line the back streets of Milan, Italy, almost like a doorway. Rolls of freshly pressed sheets of dough are waiting to be cut into the amount and shape each person desires. Every customer, many of them regulars, gathers their bushel of noodles to bring home for their family dinner.
“That’s what inspired the idea,” Creator Bill Erickson said of SoNo Marketplace’s newest addition, PastaPresta. “We’re trying to recreate what we loved about living in Europe. Part of the fun of the marketplace is exactly what we saw there. We want foodies who like great ingredients, who will come down and build the market into their routine.”
Featuring everything from squid ink, to tomatillo, to heirloom tomato, New Canaan residents Erickson and his wife Meri are providing innovative flavors of handcrafted, farm fresh pasta each week. Made with local produce, the help of their new Pastation machine, and the secret to boiling perfect noodles, here’s why they’ve already gained such a following:
TSJ: What makes PastaPresta a great addition to the SoNo Marketplace family?
PP: A lot of people coming down are very much into food and they love the subtle touches we have. You can get clams at Bloom Brothers, olive oil at Olivette, bread from Green Leaf Bakery, and you’ve got dinner. We share recipes and pictures with the other vendors to get their take on it. We’ll come up with pairings such as using our squid ink pasta with seared scallops and blood orange olive oil. You can create world-class food by going to the market.
TSJ: Do you serve hot meals or is it all fresh pasta to-go?
PP: It’s all take home and cook.
TSJ: Can you share any special tips for That’s SO Jenn’s readers cooking your pasta at home?
PP: A lot of people are old school and they pull the pasta out of the boiling water, rinse it, then maybe add salt and water. We teach them to warm sauce in another pan while the pasta boils, ours takes one and a half to two minutes. Then, gently put the pasta into the sauce pan and stir it around, sometimes adding pasta water as the starch.
TSJ: Tell me about your new Pastation machine making it’s U.S. debut!
PP: Ours is the first in U.S. and the fifth in the world. There’s a mixer and extruder on one side, a ravioli maker in the center, a cutter and sheeter on the other side, and storage underneath. It’s an excellent quality machine producing a compact product in a small space. It weights over 900 lbs. and can efficiently produce a little over 20 lbs of pasta an hour. It’s very efficient. When there are a lot of people at the market, we keep it busy all day.
TSJ: What are some of the unique flavors you’ve created?
PP: We recently made an herb pasta with chives, arugula, basil and spinach, which was absolutely delicious. We put the ingredients in the dough itself so it was part of the pasta. We’ve also made squid ink pasta, tomatillo and heirloom tomato. The squid ink you just can’t find anywhere else so it went quickly. The tomatillo and heirloom both had a great flavor, which was still very subtle. A lot of people came back for them. We’ve also done traditional spinach and whole wheat, and just experimented with three cheese ravioli, mushroom and onion. Each week we try to come up with something special.
Photo credit: Susan Borgen
TSJ: Has there been a most popular so far?
PP: The spinach always sells well because we use fresh, organic spinach puree. It’s a beautiful green color that looks healthy. A lot of people like the traditional egg if they don’t want to go out too far on the culinary limb. Customers get the whole wheat because it’s a healthy way to eat, but will come back the next week and say it was fantastic. As long as it’s fresh, good ingredients it’s hard to go wrong.
TSJ: Where do you get your ingredients from?
PP: Our veggies come from Hudson Valley Farms, and now that the farmer’s markets are coming in, we’ll get them from those stands. One thing we learned in Paris was they really took advantage of what was fresh at that moment. They were in tune with the seasons.
TSJ: Tell me about your packaged products.
PP: We have two pestos that have been made special for us up in Maine. There’s an artichoke and spinach and a sun-dried tomato. They’re great on their own, with a bruschetta, or delicious over pasta with olive oil. We also have graters, colanders, pasta forks, colander spoons, Italian themed cutting boards; everything you need to get your pasta going.
TSJ: How has it been working with your wife?
PP: It’s a lot of fun. She’s a great cook. I’m a tech and gadget guy so I enjoy running this giant Pastation machine. She provides the recipes, perfects the product, and handles the social media and merchandise in store. It provides a good balance. It’s been great.
TSJ: What have been some of the biggest challenges so far?
PP: We don’t sell any pasta if we haven’t perfected it, so many evenings you can find us there making pastas and testing them. Although, it’s not a bad job to be the pasta taster!
TSJ: Creating personal relationships with your customers seems very important to you. Any regulars yet?
PP: It builds each week. We have a lot of very loyal customers coming in on Friday to get their supply for the weekend, then again on Sunday for the upcoming week. A couple of people now told us they no longer have to drive to Arthur Avenue [Little Italy] because they can get everything right here in Norwalk.
TSJ: What else can we look forward to?
PP: We hope to finish our gluten-free pasta recipe soon. We’re working very hard because a lot of people have asked about it. We try to give everybody an option. Also, we have an almost endless list of recipes for expanding our raviolis. That will really be the focus now. We’re taking advantage of all the beautiful summer ingredients, experimenting and offering innovative choices. It’s a steady growth and it grows each week. We are gradually branching out into providing pasta for restaurants and stores.
PastaPresta is open Friday through Sunday from 10am-6pm at the SoNo Marketplace in South Norwalk, CT. Visit www.pastapresta.wordpress.com and sign up for their newsletter for each week’s specials. You can also follow them on Twitter, and like them on Facebook.
I would love for you to join me at That’s SO Jenn! Simply FOLLOW BLOG VIA EMAIL at the top right of the homepage for all the latest recipes & party planning tips!