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Pasta therapists counsel local food critic after viral spaghetti video

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As an unabashed pasta lover, friends told me I had to watch a TikTok cooking video. I don’t want to spoil the plot, but it opens with an oxymoron and goes off the rails technique-wise. It’s downhill from there. 

“We’re making fresh pasta out of pasta,” says the TikTok influencer with the username @foodsfuns3. 

The cheery host proceeds to break up a box of dry spaghetti into a blender and pulverizes it. 

The pasta tutorial continues as she pours the powdered pasta on a counter, cracks an egg on top and works it into a dough ball she pounds and flattens with a rolling pin. 

Cutting the sheet into rough strips, @foodsfuns3 boils them and dishes them topped with heated, jarred tomato sauce, dried oregano and shredded mozzarella.  

Not unexpectedly, those of the Italian persuasion reacted to this abomination as if their ancestors had been insulted. I was wide-eyed, gasping, laughing and slightly revolted as I watched the silliness. It was like a pasta parody. 

Stefano and Rachel Demartin, owners of Pasta Press. Photo by John Lehndorff.

However, since I suffer from age-related TikTok intolerance, I wondered: Was I missing something great about @foodsfuns3’s noodle creativity?

The only recourse was to force two Boulder professionals to sit through the video and offer me in-person counseling.

Stefano and Rachel Demartin recently opened Pasta Press. The sunny shop in downtown Boulder offers scratch-made fresh pasta from Italian ingredients. They sell it by the pound and as prepared noodle entrées with classic sauces. 

For instance, their memorable fettuccine carbonara features freshly made noodles lightly boiled and coated with a spot-on sauce of eggs, imported pancetta, and black pepper with aged Parmesan on top. The kitchen also prepares authentic focaccia, panna cotta and tiramisu, all mainly for takeout.

The couple — he’s an engineer, she’s a web designer —  decided to open shop in Boulder because they didn’t find anyone locally making pasta like they enjoyed when they lived with their kids in Italy. 

Italian-born Stefano watched the TikTok and was initially bemused and polite. 

“It’s kind of ingenious and creative,” he says with a grin. 

Stefano Demartin cuts fresh pasta. Photo by John Lehndorff.

“But really, I don’t see why you would do it. The spaghetti is just hard durum wheat and water. In Italy, they definitely wouldn’t call that ‘fresh’ pasta,” he says. 

The basic problem, says Rachel, is that it is easier, cheaper and faster to make fresh pasta from scratch at home.  

“I watched the video and wondered why she doesn’t just use pasta flour,” she says. “It’s not that hard to find in stores and online. The way she made it, the noodles will be very grainy.” 

Sefano shows me how Pasta Press noodles are made. He mixes semolina and water in an Italian-made machine which extrudes it through a brass die. The pasta dough is pressed into sheets and sliced into various widths. 

“It’s simple and only takes a few minutes, even if you do everything by hand,” he says.

When it comes to cooking pasta, the couple strongly objected to the way @foodsfuns3 composed the meal. For starters, she under-salts the boiling water and adds oil under the mistaken belief that it prevents noodles from sticking together. 

Photo by John Lehndorff.

“We always finish the boiled pasta in sauce on the stove so it absorbs the flavor. You would never add a dried herb at that point. Maybe some fresh basil or oregano as a garnish. I did not like the mozzarella,” Rachel says — this is pasta, not a pizza. 

For Stefano, the bottom line is that it is faster, cheaper and results in a better taste to make pasta from scratch rather than reverse engineering it in this bizarre way. 

I’m not that much of a snob. Jarred spaghetti sauce can be easily tweaked and dry pasta upgraded into a fine meal. The TikTok cooking influencer insists “there are no rules for making pasta this way.” 

She is wrong. There is one rule: It has to taste good.

I would allow @foodsfuns3 more leeway except for one inescapable truth: What she cooked looked like long, grainy, chewy dumplings that were likely to taste yucky.  

If you want to learn how to make fresh pasta, there are plenty of accurate YouTube videos to watch and classes to attend. Both major Boulder home-cooking venues, Food Lab and Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, host fresh pasta workshops on April 16. Sur La Table has a class on May 14.

The Nut Milk Mustache Connection

Back in the 1990s and 2000s, “Got Milk?” ads for dairy milk featuring celebrities with milk mustaches were everywhere in print and on TV. A new, next-gen ad series from Silk, maker of plant-based milks, is starring the offspring of David Beckham, Christie Brinkley, Shaquille O’Neal and John Travolta. Silk — now owned by the French food conglomerate Danone —  was introduced as soy milk by Boulder-based New Wave Foods in 1978. (Image credit: Danone)

Local Food News

Colorado brews took home seven medals at the 2023 Best of Craft Beer Awards, including Czech Yourself, a pilsener from Niwot’s Fritz Family Brewers, and Cerveza Mecanica from Liquid Mechanics in Lafayette. 

There were 13 Colorado semi-finalists for the 2023 James Beard Foundation Awards, but only one finalist survived. Chef Michael Diaz de Leon, of Denver’s BRUTØ,made the finals in the Best Chef: Mountain Region category. BRUTØ is a sister eatery to Boulder’s Basta

Marrocco’s Family Dining, an Italian-American eatery, is open for the season in Ward. A few hills over, the Gold Hill Inn opens for its 61st season on May 5.

Roadside Attractions: Finding Papa Burger

The next time you’re in Berthoud, be sure to visit one of the few surviving Burger Family statues in Colorado at the A&W Restaurant. In 1963, Burger Family fiberglass statues first appeared at A&W Root Beer stands when the iconic Papa Burger, Mama Burger and Baby Burger were introduced. The Teen Burger arrived in 1964. By 1974, A&W swapped the family for the Great Root Bear mascot. 

While the statues are no longer revered, A&W still serves the bestselling, Big Mac-like Papa Burger: two beef patties, two melted American cheese slices, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and Papa Sauce on a toasted bun.  

Words to Chew On: Spaghetti Suction

“Spaghetti can be eaten most successfully if you inhale it like a vacuum cleaner.” 

– Entrepreneurial actor Sophia Loren

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