We're Stuffed

One Year, 12 Pastas

Four months ago we were in a stranger’s kitchen, turning out a mixture of semolina, water and sea salt for the first time. We had no idea then if our attempt would work out.

More than a dozen attempts later, we still don’t.

We’ve come to expect that each new recipe will be more challenging than it looks. Kneading the dough into submission is physical and demanding. A perfectly balanced filling requires trial and error. And very often our excitement will trick us into overstuffing the pockets of dough until they barely hold together.

Surprisingly, with each attempt we also recognize a parallel to the way we move through our lives. Slowing ourselves down to make our meals from scratch has exposed our propensity toward convenience and excess.

But thankfully, it is also teaching us to be centered and focused on what is important. 

It’s shown us that the end result is secondary to enjoying the process; that there is beauty in the making if you are present for it.

And while we may not always know what we’re creating or where it will take us, we’re learning to trust that the effort will be worth it.

It Chooses You

One Year, 12 Pastas

“Most of life is offline, and I think it always will be; eating and aching and sleeping and loving happen in the body. But it’s not impossible to imagine losing my appetite for those things; they aren’t always easy, and they take so much time. In twenty years I’d be interviewing air and water and heat just to remember they mattered.”



Pasta is Social

One Year, 12 Pastas

Unless you count the time Zan tried to master hand-pulled asian noodles while I was away on business (gotta love his the lack of hubris), it’s taken years to work up the courage to try making pasta from scratch.

Ironically, after all the overthinking, we were totally unprepared for our inaugural attempt...

We were just days into our stay in another country, in a stranger’s apartment with access to only basic utensils. Hubris in check, we kept our first shape simple. We chose orecchiette (translation, ‘little ear’), a pasta from the heel-shaped region that completes Italy’s boot. 

We made it a few times then invited our hostess to dinner. It was thrilling! Not only because it was not disgusting, but because it tasted like only made-fresh-with-our-loving-hands-then-delivered-straight-to-your-heart could taste.

It was also a poignant reminder that great meals have less to do with experience or equipment than they do with intention.

In our kitchen, the most prized ingredient is not saffron or truffle — it’s time.

Time to cross reference dozens of drool-inducing recipes, gather fresh ingredients and slow dance between mixing and rolling. And, of course, time to truly savor the meal, meditating on all the lovely things that make it worth the extra effort.

Connected to time, sharing is the other essential. We learned this one years ago when we started Social lunch —a weekly meal where work comes to a halt so we can gather as a team and break bread. It’s still one of my favorite things about Social and, no surprise, our longest running office tradition.

We hosted this past Social lunch at our home and everyone took part in the pasta making. And while we shared the tips and techniques surrounding the making (not to mention calories), we also shared the intangibles that make a meal truly memorable — good company, lively conversation and positive energy.

Time may be limited, but sharing knows no bounds.

For Nonny

One Year, 12 Pastas

My nonny (my mom’s mom) is the oldest of 14.

A first generation Italian-American, she was born into a lively immigrant family with little money but plenty of mouths to feed.

I grew up next door to my grandparents and, though I loved them both dearly, I could never identify with their traditional lifestyle. I robotically helped shell beans and fetched canned vegetables from the cellar. I barely noticed her fresh baked Easter breads, shaped like small dolls with a hard boiled egg for a face, or how she effortlessly minced garlic — between her thumb and a blunt steak knife.

As a young girl, I dispassionately told my grandmother that I didn’t need to learn “woman’s work” because someday I’d have an important job and the business of making a home was, quite frankly, irrelevant and boring.

I was convinced that a world lacking proper feminists or modern gadgets could never be interesting or important. 

(You see where this is going, don’t you?)

Today I live hundreds of miles away as nonny approaches her mid-90s. A glimmer of her former self, she’s no longer lucid enough to remember the names of her own siblings or recall which are still living. 

Yet, as the years pull me away from my time with her, my respect for all things made simple, fresh and by loving hands only grows stronger.

In keeping with our journey of making small batch chocolate and such from scratch — and enchanted by stories of nonny’s handmade dough lining crisp white bed sheets — making fresh pasta has become my attempt to reconnect with her. 

This year, Zan and I have decided to learn a new pasta each month. Pictured is our attempt at Ricotta Caramelle Elle Erbe Emilia-Romagna.

Without any equipment, we mixed, formed and rolled the dough into transluscent sheets by hand. We then cut the paper thin sheets into strips, dolloped a cheesy herb mixture and proceeded to wet, fold, press, score and twist.

Who said this was boring?

As I spent the morning rolling and folding mounds of gorgeous dough, warm memories of watching nonny at work flooded back.

If she was here to see me, I know that she would barely understand the making of our fancy, modern lifestyle. But, as we gently tossed our rustic creation into a fragrant herb-butter sauce, I just knew that she’d be proud.