Eager eaters around Vancouver Island continue to hunt out and gather more and more local foods. And if you make it, they will eat it. Today on Food Matters I profiled two companies in the Cowichan Valley that are now bringing fresh pasta to the masses.
With my Italian background I have put away a fair amount of pasta over the years…two or three times a week at home growing up, lasagna was the special dish for family gatherings, but the funny thing is that we rarely ate fresh pasta noodles, most of it came out of a box with the exception of when my aunts would get together to make hundreds of little cheese or meat-stuff ravioli. Now of course I’ve learned how to make fresh pasta, and it’s fairly quick for me to crank out a fresh batch of spaghetti or fettuccine, but most people don’t take the time to do that…
Which is where fresh pasta companies come in, and I know that most supermarkets these days offer some sort of fresh pastas in the refrigerated section, but lately I’ve been tasting offerings from two companies, both in the Cowichan Valley, and both who started, by total coincidence, around the same time last year. First up is Cowichan Pasta, the brainchild of a young chef named Matt Horn. I caught up with him at his booth at the Winter Farmers Market in downtown Victoria on Saturday morning. Business was brisk, and he’s making something he’s always loved to cook with and eat. Traveling through Italy and seeing so many shops selling fresh pasta convinced him that we needed that kind of choice on Vancouver Island.
Matt makes 8 different kinds of pastas, 4 that are extruded and 4 types of ravioli he painstakingly makes by hand. He uses only Vancouver Island ingredients, including salt from Vancouver Island Salt Company, Cowichan Valley beef, BC spot prawns and vegetables and foraged items like seaweed and mushrooms with the seasons. Matt stresses you don’t need fancy sauces to complete the experience when you’re eating his pastas, you don’t want to overwhelm the delicate flavour of the pasta. The flour comes from Vancouver Island-grown hard wheat that is milled at True Grain Mill and Bakery.
Sourcing that flour locally makes it a more pricey buy, but once folks try it once he says they come back for more. He’s in the midst of adapting a food cart to bring to the markets so he can offer plates of pasta for sale there.
The other pasta and sauce is from Kilrenny Farm, owned by Deborah and Russ Fahlman. I’ve been buying fruits and vegetables from the Fahlmans’ organic farm and booth at the farmers market for years now. They’ve had the dream of making pasta for sale for about 20 years, and finally last year they took the plunge, renovated their farm gate shop into a commercial kitchen, bought an Italian extruder pasta machine, visited Italy once again to learn more about making pasta, and started cranking it out. Deborah has been having fun learning to master all the bronze dies that came with the extruder, so today I brought in some malfadine, which is a ribbon of pasta that is very ruffled along the edges, really holds the sauce, which is Deborah’s marinara sauce made from tomatoes grown on their property. Along with egg based pastas Deborah also makes spelt and kamut pastas which are a lighter on the gluten factor. So while her flour isn’t local all the sauces she sells are, because she either relies on ingredients they grow themselves or are available nearby, and they’ve started to offer lamb sausages as well from their own lamb, and that is one of my favourite dishes to make, a nice grilled sausage and maybe some fried onions poured over freshly boiled pasta.
The good news is that they are both developing a list of shops in Victoria and beyond that carry their products. But I have to mention that if you want to see in person how I use some Kilrenny Pasta you can sign up for my Romantic Roman cooking class at Kilrenny Farm just in time to impress your sweetie for Valentine’s Day.