Winter weather always brings out the “let’s cook something really good” in us. One of the things we love is making a dish using fresh pasta, especially a nice Bolognese.
Not better or worse than dry pasta (just different), fresh pasta lends itself to dishes that have a more delicate sauce that’s more creamy, like fettuccine alfredo or a creamy mushroom sauce (with of course, the exception of a Bolognese).
But where to buy? There are a few choices but we like the Pasta Peddler on Hertel Avenue, with its flavored pastas that are both vegetarian and vegan. Not to mention, made with love.
Pasta Peddler’s dried pastas can be found throughout Western New York at farmer’s markets and at local retailers (see here). But for fresh, make a trip to the Hertel Avenue shop, which opened up in September 2014.
What started as a basement business by Mike Sedia, has now grown to include his son-in-law Eric Amodeo who is director of educational technology at Canisius High School. Wife Andrea shares the space with her Blackbird Sweets.
Amodeo notes he usually has fresh on Tuesdays and then for the weekend. But call ahead to make sure they have it on hand, or place an order for exactly what you need. Check the shop’s Facebook page, too.
At the heart of the operation is the giant pasta-making machine imported from Italy that was purchased 12 years ago.
The big beauty has been moved — twice — including from the original basement operation, which involved a crane and removal of the basement stairs.
“We had to pick up the machine in Cleveland,” said Eric Amodeo. “They told us it weighed 500 pounds.”
Amodeo, whose career started as a math teacher, laughed, “It was 500 kilograms. It was really 1,200 pounds.”
Before the machine, Amodeo said he could make 16 bags per hour. The demanding process included rolling out sheets and cutting by hand. The machine has allowed the business to grow. They now can make up to 150 bags per hours.
In addition to pasta makers, the machine has forced Amodeo and Sedia to wear many hats, like machinist, economist and meteorologist to name a few.
Because the contraption is from Italy, so are the instructions. Amodeo and Sedia have had to fix it themselves several times.
“He’s [Amodeo] is braver than me,” said Sedia. “He’s pulled sections apart.” Repairs have included ball bearings, chain links and belt replacements.
Early on they also learned the simple lesson of supply and demand. When the government was giving our corn subsidies, their supplier urged them to buy more flour because he forecast the price of wheat would rise, as wheat farmers would be planting more corn.
Amodeo said they didn’t heed the warning because at the time they were hauling 50-pound bags up and down the basement stairs. The thought of stocking up had them wincing, physically.
“We use a special high quality durum flour that comes from only two U.S. sources. The price increased four times what we were paying. We learned that lesson that hard way,” he laughed. Now in the new space the supplier can wheel in pallets of flour.
But like most things in Buffalo, the weather wreaks the most havoc the pasta making operation.
“There are only about four months out of the year when it’s easier to make,” said Sedia. He notes this dry time of year is the worst. They are forced to enclose the pasta drying racks to prevent it from drying too fast because it will crack.
Conversely, they have to watch it’s not too humid or warm, as the pasta will begin to mold. Both men have apps on their phone to alert them of any changes at the shop, which means a drive — day or night — to adjust the conditions.
Pasta Peddlers pasta is vegetarian and vegan, and comes in a variety of flavors, with garlic parsley as the most popular.
“We don’t use any eggs,” said Amodeo. “Our ‘wet’ comes from what’s added, like artichoke black olives or tomato basil.”
Making pasta is not an exact science. Both men have learned as they go along what works and doesn’t.
Ingredients are added to the machine and then the dough is worked to a specific point to be rolled. How do they know it’s right? By sound and sight.
“Once the machine begins to sound like it’s working we know it’s time,” said Amodeo. “We also like the dough to look like peas. Big, too sticky. Grainy, too dry. The artichoke pasta is the most temperamental.”
Amodeo notes on a visit to Eataly in New York City (owned by uber chefs Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich and Joe Bastianich) he watched fresh pasta being made.
“It was incredible. But just watching I was reassured. I thought, ‘I got it right,’ " he said.
Through trial and error the recipes have evolved and both men have found their niche. Amodeo makes the pasta while Sedia concentrates on the ravioli, which are sold in a freezer at the store and the housemade sauces available for sale.
Fresh pasta will last up to three days in your fridge. Amodeo notes that fresh pasta can be frozen, too. Linguine and the wider tagliatelle are most readily available fresh. Pasta Peddler will make angel hair and lasagna sheets on request.
Raviolis are sold frozen and include different fillings such as stuffed hot pepper or cheese with mint. Call for availability.
What's the best benefit of a pasta meal? Amodeo sums it up.
“For our family, sitting down to a pasta meal happens every Sunday. It is always seen as an opportunity to take time out of our busy schedules. Most of the time our ‘Saucy Sundays’ include aunts and uncles, and our cousins.”
And his 90-plus-year-old grandmother, who when asked if she'd like to relinquish her holiday ravioli-making duties to Amodeo replied, “I would love that!”
“I have been blessed that my parents and my grandmother are still healthy and able to teach my children the traditions that have been so important in my life.”
Pasta Peddler is located at 1547 Hertel Ave. • 393-9547. Open daily Tuesday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. (until 4 p.m. on Saturday). Closed Sunday and Monday.
You can also buy fresh pasta are Gondola Macaroni Products at 1985 Niagara St. (874-4280). Fresh pasta is usually made on Tuesdays for restaurants, but call ahead to see if they have it, or place an order. Its pasta dough does have eggs.
Wegmans carries fresh pasta in the dairy aisle.