Artisans in Italy import durum from Arizona for pasta. Luckily, we have first-rate mills that can grind our heritage wheat to flour here at home. These two ideas, blended like a heady dough you can smell through the window screen, are what animate Sonoran Pasta Co., a newly formed pasta company that will start selling to the public at the Open Air Market at Phoenix Public Market this Saturday.
Sonoran Pasta Co. will sell a legion of pasta shapes: spaghetti, “big rigatoni,” trottole, casarecce, creste di gallo, and others.
Arizona’s newest noodle artisans also will sell bags of pasta sheets: for baking into lasagna, for slicing to pappardelle, for turning to ravioli.
Brent Kille, who runs Sonoran Pasta Co. with Jasmine Brown, first developed a love for making pasta back when he was turning a crank-powered torchio to cut bigoli and gargatti shaped from Hayden Flour Mills grain, in the days when he was cooking at Crudo (now Bar Pesce, and soon to close). Kille is a convert to bronze dyes, which have been used in Italy for well over a century, since the early days when machine-assisted pasta-making started to be perfected in places like Campania.
So Kille went through some gymnastics to get the dyes he wanted from Italy. Generally speaking, using these dyes to shape pasta gives slopes and curves a roughness that makes sauce cling thickly, completely, beautifully.
Kille and Brown will be using hearty Arizona grains to make Sonoran Pasta. To start, they will be using Blue Beard Durum semolina and standard Blue Beard Durum flour for every shape. The result won’t be the kind of supple fresh pasta that comes from hand-shaped powdery flour carefully blended and kneaded with egg.
Rather, Sonoran Pasta uses an eggless dough made partly from semolina flour — both hallmarks of southern Italian pasta — which has more chew, structure, and ruggedness than the silk-robe pastas of Italy’s north. This eggless-semolina tradition of pasta isn’t fluffy-cloud-soft, but has more resistance, making it a better match for the more robust spirits of heritage desert grains.
Brown and Kille operate under a simple philosophy. If pasta is just flour and water, and that flour is some of Arizona’s best, the pasta can only follow.
“Ninety percent of the time, people don’t use semolina at home,” Kille says. “So, we wanted to really work on something that had a little toughness to it, but that also maintained a little bite.”
The two worked together at Cutino Sauce Co., one of Kille’s many stops after Crudo. More recently, he has been hosting pop-up dinners. Brown did some baking for Super Chunk Sweets & Treats and sold for the shop at the Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market. Kille approached Brown with the pasta idea. Being a believer in “flour, water, don’t screw it up,” she was quickly on board.
Both were in agreement to use Hayden Flour Mills, despite the ocean of cheaper options on the market.
“They’re really the only people doing stone-milled stuff around here,” Kille says. “So, it kind of fit what we wanted to do.”
Brown echoes: “There are other people growing interesting grains, but the stone milling was very important to us.”
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Again, the grain is so on point, Kille emphasizes, that all they do to make their pasta dough is hit flour with water. “The smell!” Brown gushes.
Sonoran Pasta will be selling four pasta sauces. There will be ragú, pomodoro, pesto, and “American Alfredo,” which Kille says is really just a fancy mac-and-cheese sauce. Cheeses in the gooey mix include cheddar, fontina, smoked Gouda, and a mystery cheese that Kille won’t reveal.
Bags of pasta contain 12 ounces of the good stuff and cost $9 (for now). Kille and Brown plan to expand to more farmers markets in the near future. If you can't catch Sonoran Pasta at the market, look for the noodles on special at restaurants like The Gladly and Hush Public House.
To start, all Sonoran Pasta noodles will be shaped from their standard Blue Beard blend. But Kille and Brown plan to wade into other waters, including faro, purple barley, bronze barley, einkorn, and maybe even egg. Like any smart pasta makers, they plan to follow the hearts and stomachs of their customers.