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Get to Know a Plated Partner: Sfoglini Pasta Shop

WHY WE’RE PARTNERS

So long cardboard-tasting pasta, hello craftsmanship. Investing in organic, small-batch pastas doesn’t just mean a big payoff in flavor and texture. It means nutrient-dense, restaurant-quality noodles, made from traceable ingredients with a real connection to the community. That’s why we collaborate with Brooklyn-based Sfoglini on custom orders of fresh pasta, made just for us—and sent right to you. They hold up to any sauce that our chefs can dream up in our test kitchen. (We have the clean plates to prove it.)

For Steve Gonzalez, the difference between mediocre and memorable when it comes to pasta isn’t so much marked by a proximity to Italy as it is to an organic mill.

THEY’RE COMMITTED TO DOING THINGS THE ITALIAN WAY, WHICH MEANS FOCUSING ONHIGH QUALITY LOCAL INGREDIENTS AND COMMUNITY ROOTS.

It’s a subtle, but crucial distinction that has shaped his career as a chef and restaurateur, and now as co-owner of the Brooklyn-based Sfoglini pasta shop.

For him (and us), what defines Italian cooking is a commitment to fresh, local ingredients and the transparent production that transforms them into something remarkably delicious, yet simple. Still, when most big box brands routinely ship their grains overseas to cut corners on cost, what’s added is far more than the seemingly superior “Made in Italy” emblem. Preservatives. Artificial colors and dyes. They’re all there. But most notably? All of the nutrients are gone, and then strangely enough, added back into the pasta in the form of powdery vitamins and minerals, because the naturally occurring ones are eradicated from hurried, high-heat drying. It’s why most pasta is printed with the label “enriched macaroni product.” It’s a death wish as far as nutrition and texture go, a shortcut that produces a dramatically lower-quality product—but still one that most pasta makers rely on. That, in our kitchen, is no bene.

That’s what brought our head chefs to Steve and his business partner and co-founder Scott Ketchum. At Sfoglini, they’re committed to doing things the Italian way, which means focusing on high quality local ingredients and community roots—right here in Brooklyn.

Sfoglini has set up shop in the country’s first Pfizer lab building, alongside some of NYC’s emerging foodies, ranging from macaron makers to kombucha crafters to some of the city’s most revered food trucks. Though nostalgic science posters still show off the building’s storied history, the collection of budding artisans here are more interested in experimenting with food than medicine these days—even going so far as to organize pot-luck lunches in the building for taste-tests and strengthening community ties.

True to their no-shortcuts approach, what happens inside their tiny kitchen (with sweeping views of Manhattan, might we add) is a time-consuming, traditional labor of love.

Steve and his team use organic grains sourced from farmer-owned American mill co-ops. The bags of durum (or wheat) are called semolina when they’re milled coarsely, and form the building blocks of fresh pasta. The semolina is mixed in with water—and that’s it. Just organic wheat and water.

They invest in high quality semolina from local suppliers we trust (we spotted stacks of bags from North Dakota Mill when we swung by the shop), because even though the pasta-making process can be intricate, it’s the simplest and best ingredients that command attention on your plate. Steve and Scott have direct relationships with their farmers, which means you’re getting freshly milled grains that haven’t been sitting in a factory for months overseas, but are transformed into fresh pasta almost immediately. That has a huge impact not only flavor, but also on our ability to connect you transparently to your community with as few middlemen as possible.

IT’S THE SIMPLEST AND BEST INGREDIENTS THAT COMMAND ATTENTION ON YOUR PLATE.

It’s not just what goes into the pasta dough that’s so imperative—which at Sfoglini can range from specialty saffron spices to organic porcini mushrooms or fresh basil. It’s also how the dough is handled that bears the mark of craftsmanship. Unlike most pasta makers that create batch after batch for upwards of 80 days in a row, relying on machines (extruders) that are coated in cheap silicon, Sfoglini has invested in traditional bronze dies (which turns the dough into familiar shapes like cavatelli or spaghetti) to keep the pasta from becoming shiny, and plastic-y in flavor.

Coupled with their signature low-heat drying for 24-30 hours, the payoff in flavor is huge. It’s comparable to what would happen if you taste-tested slow-cooked meat versus a steak that had been thrown in the microwave. The fresh, nutrient-dense difference is impossible to ignore, and each chewy, slightly porous noodle delivers on its promise to soak up every bit of sauce perfectly.

It’s often a give and take in our test kitchen between making a request for custom pasta and being open to discovering what’s in season and allowing it to inspire new recipes. We work with Sfoglini on custom orders ranging from basil radiator pasta in the summer with nearly a ton of basil sourced from local New York farms to fresh squid ink spaghetti. Sometimes, we keep it classic with fresh linguini so you can have a lady and the tramp moment with spaghetti and ricotta meatballs. At other times, we quite literally play with our food and collaborate together on new flavors, shapes and textures to help you discover a new take on Italian classics.

With this partnership, we’re able to dream up new pastas for you that would be tough to reproduce at home without elaborate equipment, and probably wouldn’t even make it onto the menu of a great Italian restaurant because of the time involved in making them. But for us, that’s where the fun comes in.

It’s never just about the ingredient, but about elevating dinner into something special, where you can discover new dishes at home that carry with them the story of farm to table cooking. It connects us, and you, to our community. That’s Italian cooking done right.

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