Washington has an abundance of locally made fresh pastas, but when it comes to the dried variety, I’m often left reaching for the De Cecco (which is a great brand, albeit from much farther from home). Giving the Italians a run for their money: Seasonal Pantry chef Dan O’Brien, who recently launched a small line of dried pastas fashioned in his Shaw market.
I first picked up a bag of fusilli at Glen’s Garden Market, which supplies a number of O’Brien’s varieties; you may find orecchiette, penne, shells, large paccheri tubes, or long strands of bucatini, also sold in the Seasonal Pantry market. The noodles have a wonderful chew when cooked right, and do what chefs call “hold al dente” well—i.e., don’t turn to mush, even if they linger too long in the pot. High-quality dough means the pasta tastes like an actual ingredient in the dish, instead of an afterthought to the sauce (so yes, worth the slightly higher $8-to-$9 price).
Eventually O’Brien envisions an all-local process with grains grown and milled in the area, but even when using semolina flour the formula is as small-scale as possible. The team extrudes noodles using an Arcobaleno machine—considered by some to be the “Rolls Royce of pasta makers“—and then hangs them on racks in the shop to dry overnight after the Saturday-night supper club concludes. Pieces are then collected and packaged for sale.
Even if you’re not a home cook, you can try the noodles at the just-announced “dine and dash” pop-up on Sunday, November 23, during which O’Brien will open the market from noon to 9 and serve one simple-yet-luxurious dish: tagliatelle with classic butter sauce and shaved white truffles ($35 per person, with optional wine for $5). Reservations are currently accepted for the small space, which holds a maximum of 12 diners at a time. Chances are you’ll want to grab a few bags of pasta to carry home.