1/29/2013 02:00:00 PM

Making Noodles with Pasta Puttana's Jessica Volpe

The fragrant and delicious winter garlic pasta.
Pasta Puttana,” a lovely little Italian phrase that rolls off the tongue. What does it mean? Is it the name of a rich pasta dish topped with velvety sauce? Nope, it means, “pasta whore.” It is hardly a phrase we would use to describe the owner of Pasta Puttana, and self-proclaimed “Head Puttana,” Jessica Volpe. But it is a phrase she heard a lot while growing up in the kitchen with her Sicilian-American grandfather.

The phrase stuck, and became the name of the company making fresh pasta, using local ingredients, in Chicago. In operation since 2008, Volpe makes ten different kinds of fresh and filled pasta ranging in flavor from golden egg to seasonal herb. She sells her pastas at local groceries, in the Ukrainian Village storefront and at Green City Market.

We stopped in the shop one Tuesday morning to watch her make some pasta. Her dough, made the night before with farmers market eggs and semolina flour before it is refrigerated and rolled out the following morning. On the day of our visit she was working with her seasonal herb and roasted squash pasta. She incorporates all seasonal ingredients into her dough, many of which are selected at Green City Market.

It is hand rolled and pressed in her pasta sheeter. The same machine and table, in the basement of the store, sees every batch of pasta prepared. After being pressed into a thin sheet and dried for half an hour to several hours, depending on the weather, it is cut by hand into ribbons. Her pastas are then packaged with the bright red portrait silhouette, a nod to the red hair of the equally fiery pasta-maker.

“I love the process of making pasts, the physicality of it - I like that my hands are constantly touching the product and are in the flour,” Volpe said. “The way I make it at least, it’s all about the feel.” Watch Volpe make a batch of her pasta in the gallery below. Then, pick up a package of her flavorful noodle. Only requiring a few minutes of cook time in boiling water before serving with olive oil and sea salt. It is one of the most tasty two-minute meal a Chicagoan can cook.


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