Scott Ketchum and Steve Gonzalez were trying to raise money to open a pasta restaurant and market when they realized that few New York-based companies were making dried pasta for the retail market. So they started one.
Sfoglini makes dried pasta that's more or less to order; when a store or restaurant places an order, Ketchum and Gonzalez make whatever's needed then. Skipping out on inventory allows them to both keep costs down and provide the freshest possible products to their customers.
This also allows them to do short runs of seasonal flavors, or try out unexpected ingredients. They have a particular interest in working with "things people are just getting rid of"; among those they've incorporated into pasta are Eagle Street Farm's late-season basil that's going to seed, spent grain from Bronx Brewery, grape skins from Red Hood Winery,* and Brooklyn Grange' otherwise compost-bound tomato leaves. The latter are actually edible, says Gonzalez, despite persistent rumors to the contrary. "We read a lot of Harold McGee articles about it," before experimenting with tomato leaves, he says, "and we ate enough ourselves to prove [the rumors] wrong."
* They only got their hands on a small quantity of sauvignon blanc skins before the winery was severely damaged in Hurricane Sandy, though Ketchum and Gonzalez are looking forward to working with the skins from red wine grapes next year.
Any non-flour ingredients get pulverized in a Vitamix blender, then sifted carefully through a tamis to remove any fibrous bits that could cause problems for their extruding machine. Once they develop a dough they're happy with, they pick the best shape to show off the flavor. It may be a familiar shape, like fusilli, or one that's less common, like reginetti or spaccatelli.
Once the pasta shapes are extruded, they air dry for anywhere from 48 to 96 hours, depending on the air temperature and humidity, and are packaged in bags that are stamped with the date the contents were made.
It's all in keeping with their company's mission; sfoglini, Gonzalez explains, are generations of "ladies in Bologna who make pasta by hand." By naming their company after these women, Gonzalez and Ketchum hope to make clear their connection to the tradition of handmade pasta, but they also aim to convey their desire to pay it forward—they hope to begin teaching pasta-making classes soon. "I didn't know how to make pasta when I was born," Gonzalez says. "Someone had to teach me." By mentoring others and passing along their knowledge to people who have an interest in learning how to make pasta, Sfoglini aims to honor the sfoglini.
Sfoglini pasta is currently available at shops and restaurants around the city, as well as at the New Amsterdam Market. They launched a pasta of the month club around the holidays, though one can join at any time, that brings one bag each of their organic and specialty pastas along with a quick recipe for using them. Ketchum and Gonzalez are also excited about making their pastas available through CSAs this spring and summer.