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 V.17 No.47 | November 20 - 26, 2008 

Food Lover's Gift Guide

Buon Appetito!

Michelangelo's fresh pasta renaissance

Michelangelo perfects the art of pasta sauce.
Maren Tarro
Michelangelo perfects the art of pasta sauce.

I'm starting to notice a pattern: If it's interesting or good, and it’s in New Mexico, it's usually at the end of a dirt road. Whether it's people living on the fringe of society, stunning vineyards or, in this case, fresh pasta, I find myself turning off the pavement to bounce along dusty alleys in search of what's hidden from beaten-path travelers.

Fresh pasta is weighed on a scale before it’s packaged.
Maren Tarro
Fresh pasta is weighed on a scale before it’s packaged.

In a semirural area of Santa Fe I found Michelangelo Raffaello Leonardo Stanchi laboring over dough in a converted garage. His mouthful of a name came about when three ships—the Michelangelo, the Raffaello and the Leonardo—appeared in the Genoa harbor the day he was baptized. His mother, sensing an omen, quickly added Raffaello and Leonardo to his already chosen name of Michelangelo. She may have been on to something.

Multilingual, artistically inspired and with several trades under his belt, Michelangelo has shown himself to be something of a Renaissance man. His current venture is fresh pasta, gnocchi and sauce. He crafts all three on his own while also educating customers on the virtues of authentic Italian fare.

To make his pastas and sauces, Michelangelo starts with the freshest ingredients he can find, including organic durum semolina wheat and cage-free eggs. His pasta dough is mixed and cut by a machine from Italy that makes short work of pappardelle, tagliatelle, linguini and even ravioli. He uses a separate machine for turning out gnocchi. His sauces are made from scratch on a vintage-looking red stove and canned on-site.

Looking at the ingredient listing on the labels is the first indication that his products are something special. Everything is pronounceable and familiar. No poly-mono-partially-hydrogenated-mumbo-jumbo or other laboratory-concocted add-ins. Just wheat and eggs for the pasta and tomatoes and seasonings for the sauces.

Michelangelo points to his use of quality ingredients as one reason his pasta is better than store-bought dried pasta. But the biggest difference is the fresh eggs. He explains, “Dried pastas use water while fresh pasta uses eggs. It has more flavor and cooks up nicer.”

I did a little taste-testing at home. It took all of 10 minutes for a plate of pappardelle--a wide, ribbon-like pasta--tossed with his “Santa Fe Style” sauce to go from freezer to table. Fresh pastas take only four minutes or so to cook, and the fresh basil in the sauce calls for little heating. Just toss the sauce on hot, drained pasta and enjoy.

The pappardelle was firm and richer than dried pasta. Its texture grabbed onto the sauce so tightly that there was no extra pooling on the plate. A bright tomato-based sauce with basil and green chile—hence the Santa Fe—didn’t seem like it was dumped from a jar. It tasted like I had made it from scratch that day. I also tried his basil-tomato sauce. Whole basil leaves adorned the light and sweet sauce, and again its freshness defied expectations.

Now that I've worked up your appetites, you probably want to know where to buy it. You can pick up his Michelangelo-brand pastas, tomato sauces and pestos at La Montañita Co-op or order directly from Michelangelo by visiting theartoffreshpasta.com for products and pricing information. While you’re there, ask about his fresh-baked focaccia, made to order.

 
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