Eating Locally; Tasting Globally

Northern Italian style soft-wheat pasta is not the first local food item one would think of when one is living in Ohio.

However, right in the heart of the small Ohio river city of Marietta, stands a locally owned pasta factory that creates twenty-one different flavors of Tuscan styled noodles, the kind that Marcella Hazan calls “silken” with a “plump” texture and “marvelous fragrance.”

Rossi Pasta, (which Zak and I have jokingly called for years Rasta Posse, because my dyslexia is endlessly amusing) is a locally owned and operated business that sells pasta to the gourmet food trade and to local grocery stores alike. Thier noodles, which come in several shapes, including no-boil lasagne, and pasta sauces have been local favorites for decades, but are also well-known across the country as a premier gift item, and have been sold in the Neiman-Marcus catalogue and used as corporate gifts by the Ritz-Carleton.

And that is the only problem with their pasta–it isn’t cheap. At $4.95 per twelve-ounce package, their noodles do not fall into the category of “frugal food,” but they do have several other factors working in their favor such that they have been staples of my pantry for years.

For one thing, the flavor and texture of the noodles is fantastic–they really are tender and silky, as lush as pasta fresh from my hand-cranked Atlas would be. The flavors are subtle, but quite present, and the pasta is as good simply dressed in a bit of olive oil and parseley as it is tossed with any number of mild or spicy variants on the standard Italian sauces. It also cooks very quickly–depending on the size and shape, the noodles can take anywhere from one to four minutes to cook completely once they hit boiling water, which makes them a boon for a cook who is too famished to spend a long time preparing dinner.

There is a bulk option when it comes to ordering; any single pasta variety is available in ten pound boxes for $44.95, which is an improvement on the price, and makes sense if one plans on eating a great deal of their pasta, but it is still significantly more expensive than even most imported durum wheat pastas.

But, for the local eating challenge, it is a perfect basis for a quick, locally-derived dinner.

While I boiled water for the noodles, Morganna sauteed a cut up chicken breast from Canaan Valley Farms which is just outside of Athens, along with some baby squash, onions, bell pepper and a tomato from Athens Hills CSA. I heated up some pesto I had made last week and put into the freezer–all of its components save the olive oil, pepper, parmesan cheese and pine nuts were locally aquired. We cooked a combination of three different flavors of fetuccini: jalapeno (my favorite), spinach basil garlic, and garlic, then tossed them with the pesto and topped it with the sauteed chicken and vegetables. Some quick shavings of parmesan finished the dish beautifully, giving us northern Italian flavors born from the bounty of southern Ohio.

And what is even more exciting–the entire meal took us about thirty-five minutes to cook from start to finish. Wow. I don’t think that Rachel Ray herself could have done it any better!

I’d like to reiterate once more that I don’t feel as if the eating local challenge should be a case of deprivation and sacrifice–it isn’t Lent. I see it more as a game where all the participants are trying to become more aware of our food, where it comes from, how it is grown or produced and what difference, if any, is there between non-local food and local food.

5 Comments

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  1. That meal looks beautiful!

    You are inspiring me to become a much better cook and to fully explore the wonderful produce that is available at this time of year.

    :)

    (I’ve been reading back through the archives and love the stories about your Asian cooking influences – that is my favorite food to eat, but like most home cooks, I’ve had trouble duplicating my favorites. One of the meals I still dream about was a noodle dish that I had at wagamama in London – it was so subtle and complex that I’ve never been able to even come close. I’ve had to settle for my own tolerable interpretation of Pad Thai!!)

    Comment by Mary — August 5, 2005 #

  2. “I heated up some pesto I had made last week and put into the freezer–all of its components save the olive oil, pepper, parmesan cheese and pine nuts were locally aquired.”

    That leaves, what, the basil? :)

    Anyway, this post inspired me to find some Rossi pasta in Columbus. I finally found some at Hill’s Market. In a couple of days, I’ll cook some up and see how it tastes.

    Comment by Brian — August 5, 2005 #

  3. Thank you, Mary–I am glad you are enjoying the posts about Asian food. Tonight, we made za jiang mein–which I will write about maybe tomorrow evening, along with my final post on pie crust.

    I am glad that I am inspiring you to cook with more of the pretties that are available in the summer. That is the best part of summer, for me–all the beautiful fresh produce.

    Brian–it also leaves garlic. And really, in my pesto, the garlic and the basil are the important, and most prevalent parts–I use way more of them by weight than I use of anything else. The olive oil becomes a carrier of flavor, the cheese is just a bit of salty tang, and the pine nuts add a bit of a browned nutty flavor and a velvety texture. What hits the diner full force in my pesto is the full blown knock-down drag out bouquet of basil, with the garlic coming in as the second half of the one-two punch.

    My pesto is not subtle.

    Glad you got some Rasta Posse, I mean, Rossi Pasta. It is good stuff–just be very careful not to overcook it. Once you put it in the water, do not walk away from it.

    BTW, the plain noodles are a pretty good substitute for Chinese egg noodles, as I used them for my za jiang mein this evening.

    Good luck with the pasta–let me know how you like it–once you get used to cooking it, it becomes quite a handy thing to have around.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — August 6, 2005 #

  4. D’oh! Forgot about the garlic…I’ve never made pesto before. I did buy some basic and garlic at the Clintonville farmer’s market today…hmmm…

    No worries about the pasta. I always use a timer, and I’ve cooked fresh pasta before, which this seems closer to than your average Barilla.

    Comment by Brian — August 6, 2005 #

  5. Brian–you’ve not made pesto! Well, haul right off and make some–it is quick, easy and ever so tasty, and freezes up like a dream. It is nice to have tucked in the freezer to go in soups, or on pasta as a super quickie meal. Or on shrimp, or fish or chicken–so many possibilities.

    Yes–it acts like fresh pasta–so if you have cooked that, you will do fine.

    I also discovered that the plain unflavored Rossi Pasta does really well as a substitute for Chinese egg noodles, but more about that later….

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — August 7, 2005 #

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