We’re huge fans of Sfoglini Pasta over at Jacobsen, so we were pretty tickled when Steve Gonzalez, Sfoglini cofounder and dare-we-say pasta expert, agreed to answer some of our starchiest questions. Read on for some tips and tricks to take your next pasta night to new heights.
1. How did Sfoglini come to be? Can you recall the moment that made you realize you needed to start this company?
The original idea was to have a pasta restaurant that also sold pasta on the side. But starting a restaurant is an expensive endeavor, so Scott (my co-founder) and I realized we could start a little fresh pasta business delivering to chefs twice a week with minimal investment. We started with a small machine that made 20 pounds an hour, working in a 400 square-foot room.
2. You have traveled throughout Western Europe learning and teaching pasta making. Is there a surprising technique(s) you learned from your travels that you could share with beginner pasta makers?
Weigh all your ingredients in grams before you start making dough. It helps you develop a consistent dough method much more quickly than trying to do it by feel. And be sure to rest the finished dough before you start rolling.
3. There are a lot of opinions out there about pasta shapes and which ones pair best with which sauces. What’s your take on these “rules” or what to consider when pairing the two?
Eat whatever you think is tasty!
4. When making fresh pasta, do some flours work better than others? Do you have a favorite, and why?
I like to use a 50/50 mix of whole grain flour (for flavor) and semolina (for structure and bite). While you can make fresh pasta without egg, the egg really helps with structure and means you can experiment with a lot of other fun flours, like emmer, spelt, and rye.
5. What is your favorite type of fresh pasta to make at home? Is there a seemingly-intimidating pasta shape that is actually “easier” to make than people think?
Ricotta ravioli is my personal favorite. Farfalle (a.k.a. bowties) look fancy but are pretty easy to make.
6. The first thing you ever learned to cook– what was it and who taught you?
Classic Italian-American lasagna, made with pasta sheets out of the box, plenty of ricotta and red sauce. I grew up in Philly, and my mom taught me how to make it.
7. What’s one ingredient or kitchen tool that’s been a game-changer for the way you prepare a pasta dish (can be at any stage of the cooking process i.e prep or plating)?
If you’re making fresh pasta, an Escali kitchen scale. For $20 you can really get your dough to a precise spot.
8. How do you salt your pasta water, and is there a difference when cooking fresh or dried?
With lots of salt! I usually salt when I put the water on so I can easily taste it. As everyone says, it should be salty like the sea.
9. For someone new to cooking in general, what are the top three kitchen items or mottos you’d recommend keeping on hand?
Eat what makes you happy. And don't be afraid of repetition, because making the same dish every week is how you get good. You don't need to splurge on fancy ingredients, but make sure you have something good (nice cheese or fresh tomatoes from the market) and make that the center of your dish. Plus a nice fish spatula always comes in handy.