We love pasta, and we love it even more when it’s made locally with the freshest ingredients! Started in Brooklyn in 2012, Sfoglini Pasta is now calls Coxsackie home. They are known for their fun, unique pasta shapes, all made using American-grown grains—much of which comes front right here in New York State. Co-founder & CEO Scott Ketchum spoke with us this month about what led him and Steve Gonzalez to start up a pasta company, and how business has fared amidst a pandemic and extreme weather.
photo credit: Heather Phelps Lipton
Can you tell me a little bit about what moved you and Steve to go from loving pasta to starting a pasta company?
We got started in 2012, and it was a little bit of a strange journey. Steve had already been a pasta chef for 14 years. He first learned in Philadelphia and also worked in New York, Italy, and Spain doing mostly handmade pasta. I had a background in design and wanted to do something in the food and drink space. Steve had an idea for a restaurant with a pasta focus, but it wasn’t a great time for opening a restaurant. Through our research, though, we realized that there was wholesale opportunity for pasta. At that time, there was no New York-based pasta company, which we thought was strange given New York’s strong pasta history. So we bought some pasta making equipment and started selling to restaurants.
Why is it important to Sfoglini to use American grains?
We started using organic American grains early on because the quality was excellent. We believe that organic farming is important to the future of farming and want to support farmers that have taken the extra steps to produce organic crops. When we started looking at restaurants, we focused on the shapes of the pasta to give some new fun options for menus and retail. We wanted to bring back shapes from the past. Steve began experimenting with New York grains as part of that, and we caught the eye of GrowNYC’s Greenmarket Grains program which we partnered with to expand the use of these unique wheats NY State has to offer. It also allows us to use different ingredients to create seasonal pasta flavors for quick and easy meals.
How much of your grain comes from New York State?
Most of our whole grains come from New York. Our durum comes from North Dakota and Canada. We tried to get the durum from Maine, but it’s just not the right climate for it. Some of the whole grains have been hard to get locally because of the pandemic.
Speaking of which, how has the pandemic affected Sfolgini’s business?
We’ve been dealing with a lot of supply chain issues for packing materials. There are a lot of out-of-stock issues. Every part of the supply chain has been affected. We buy from the United States which helps, but because of supply issues in parts of the world, a lot of other companies that used to buy foreign goods are now buying US made/grown items which creates even more shortages and delays.
This summer’s weather has been excessively wet on the East Coast and excessively dry in the West. Do you think this will affect your ability to get grains?
We could have grain supply issues in a couple of years, but our suppliers assure us it will be all right. It’s always a concern every year with when you’re dealing with crops. North Dakota actually hasn’t had as extreme weather, so our durum supply hasn’t been at as high a risk this year.
Looking at the variety of pasta you make, Cuttlefish Ink Spaccatelli could seem a little intimidating to some home cooks. How would you recommended preparing it?
It’s a pretty common dish in Italy, and it definitely has a select audience in this country, too. Restaurants buy it a lot. It pairs great with seafood. I cook it up with some shrimp and a light tomato sauce. There are also some great recipes on our website.
What’s your favorite pasta shape to work with?
The traditional trumpets are our most popular. They are great with any kind of sauce and look beautiful on the plate. My favorite is the Reginetti. It’s usually a longer cut, but we cut it shorter and its ruffled edges captures so much sauce. It works with everything.
One last question, how do you think the pandemic will continue to affect small producers going forward?
The pandemic has caused a lot of retailers and restaurants to rethink their supply chain. I’m not sure what that will mean long-term, but heard some stores might have less selection to reduce supply chain issues and increase their own store brand. That may make it harder for local companies to get shelf space. It’s also been hard to get products delivered with all the staffing shortages freight companies have been suffering. This year, we are going to move up our “guaranteed by Christmas” date to take that reality i