SemolinaLA kickstarter. Support a talented and tenacious LA maker.
I’m a pasta snob. I admit it and I don’t apologize for it. I believe that great pasta is an Italian cultural artifact that’s been given to the world. And when I talk about pasta I’m talking about DRY PASTA, that is, Durum Wheat pasta. Pasta made with semolina from exceptional (now, often North American) hard winter wheat. Over centuries Italian artisans learned how to combine hard wheat with water, humidity and moving air into an easy to store source of calories and whimsy. High quality dry pasta is all about texture. When properly made it is porous enough to absorb condiments or “sauce”, yet sturdy enough to withstand boiling in water and remain resistant while tender. Good dry pasta should be as satisfying to eat as meat. It is not easy to achieve and my favorites are all imported from Italy. However, now a locally made tasted durum wheat pasta made here in Los Angeles has made it into my rotation. The maker is Leah Ferrazzani. Her company SemolinaLA is turning out to be one of the California Cottage Law success stories.
Leah is selling enough pasta to move out of her inspected home kitchen and into the communal kitchens of LA Prep. SemolinaLA pasta isn’t perfect yet in texture, but it’s close. I like it for it’s nearly floral wheaty aroma, great flavor and for what it almost is. Getting the texture right is falling down a very complex science driven rabbit hole. And Leah is smart and tenacious enough to master it. What does she need the kickstarter for if she’s just using flour and water? She needs an actual Italian pasta drying cabinet. Make some flour and water pasta at home and see what happens. It’s brittle when dry and mushy when cooked. In Italy pasta was dried by coastal breezes high in humidity. All pasta cabinets attempt to replicate the soft, moist warm breezes of the bay of Naples. Leah’s cottage set-up is a repurposed laundry room, with a heater, humidifier. fan and sensors. It’s astonishing that she’s achieved the texture and quality she has in that setting. I can’t wait to see what the pasta becomes once she has the equipment and space she needs. Support her.
Great profile of Leah! Thank you so much for spreading the word about her great work with Semolina.
I’m so glad you got to go to her house and see her in action. She really is a spit fire and she has the will and the knowledge to get her pasta to the next level.
Amazing! Always on the lookout for good pasta products when scratch-made just ain’t feasible. Adding this to the must-check-out list.
Evan your site is really, really great. I’m glad I found it. I like Pastificio Faella, which can only (?) be bought from Gustiamo in Brooklyn, NY
Nice write up, Evan! We all need to support this kind of quality in LA.
It did remind me of something that I saw years ago and lo! It’s still out there – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVo_wkxH9dU. The wonders of the internet. Not only will nothing ever go away, so many things have returned.
You saved me with your LA Times article from falling into the fresh pasta is better trap.
Is it possible for a home chef to make good Italian durum pasta?
It is not possible to make great durum pasta at home. For a number of reasons but especially, we don’t have easy access to the type of super finely milled semolina that pros use and the extruders that produce the best pasta are big and expensive. You need real pressure to force the pasta through the dies. And last of all and perhaps most importantly the drying of the pasta is an art.