Pappardelle’s – in relentless pursuit of perfect pasta!
David Bowen and Bill Curtis founded Pappardelle’s in Denver on May 14, 1984. Their vision was for exquisite, fresh pasta in an array of flavors never before experienced by Americans. At that time, pasta in the United States was generally limited to the one basic flavor: plain.
After extensive research they decided that the only way to ensure that their pasta creations would be of the highest quality was to recreate the traditional Italian pasta making methods: fresh, high-quality ingredients and small batches. Like the finest pasta makers, David and Bill used bronze dies to form the pasta, which produces a coarser noodle that holds its sauce and feels luxurious on the palate.
Pappardelle’s was adhering to “Slow Food” principles such as preserving traditional methods of food preparation and using only the highest quality ingredients, long before it was the “in” thing.
As more chefs realized they could get very high quality pasta in small batches and in flavors never before imagined, the company’s requests for more flavors expanded (and so, of course, did its recipe collection). The company quickly developed a strong local reputation for quality, innovation and customer service.
If pasta is essentially just flour and water, what could possibly set Pappardelle’s apart from the hundreds of varieties available today? To begin with, the quality of the flour is integral to the final product.
Although flour is made out of wheat, it can vary wildly — not only nutritional content, but also flavor and overall integrity. Pasta made with all-purpose or bleached flours are inferior. Pasta made with a combination of all-purpose flour and semolina durum wheat are only slightly better. Only pure durum semolina flour gives birth to high-quality pasta. So, of course, this is the type of flour that Pappardelle’s uses in all of its pasta.
The majority of durum semolina flour used by the pasta industry in this country is grown in the northern part of the United States. Cool summer nights and long, warm summer days create ideal conditions for durum to thrive. Durum is planted in mid-April and harvested in late August.
Semolina is the coarsely ground endosperm of durum wheat that’s golden in color and very coarse and granular in texture.
Pappardelle’s knows that the better the durum, the better the pasta. It is from durum wheat, the hardest wheat known, that pasta gets its yellow amber color, pleasant nutty flavor and the ability to retain both shape and firmness when cooked. They have been sourcing their flour from the same supplier since 1984, ensuring the best and most consistent pasta quality available to you.
The “flavorings” are sourced from the industry’s highest quality producers. Pappardelle’s does not use preservatives or unnatural flavorings. Everything is natural. For example, they have found the best importer of Szechuan peppers and the highest quality producer of naturally dried oranges to flavor their famous Orange Szechuan pasta.
The durum semolina flour is mixed slowly with water and kneaded in small batches of 100 pounds or less. Scaling up of production process to higher batch sizes actually results in inferior quality pasta. Once mixing is complete, the pasta dough is then extracted through bronze dies creating the desired shapes. Pasta dough zips through the common Teflon dies used by most pasta producers, but it labors to get through those made of bronze. The extra effort results in coarser noodles, which feel more luxurious on the tongue and do a better job of gripping sauces.
In 2010, Pappardelle’s finally cracked the elusive “gluten-free” code. After over 60 iterations, they came up with a recipe for gluten-free pasta that is so tasty & firm in texture that the entire family can enjoy the same meal together. The pasta holds its shape (i.e., doesn’t become mushy and fall apart like most other GF pastas) and can even be reheated the next day. Best of all, they are able to infuse their flavors into this new gluten-free recipe, bringing gastronomic delight to celiacs and other gluten-sensitive individuals.
The Art of Drying Pasta
In 1991, Pappardelle’s began drying their fresh flavored pastas, preserving the traditional Italian methods of slow-drying pasta at temperatures well below mass-produced pastas. Commercial assembly line pasta is dried at around 190 degrees, but in order to preserve the flavor and nutritional components, they slow dry their long- and short-cut pastas at only 95 degrees. The drying process is monitored at set junctures throughout the 2 – 4 day drying period and adjustments are made as needed to ensure that the product dries neither too fast nor too slow. Although time consuming, this method creates a superior product.
Pasta is sturdy, but during production it can be temperamental — a host of factors can ruin a batch of dough. For example, the process must take into account the nature and moisture level of each raw ingredient, how much water is added during the mixing process and exactly what temperature water is ideal for the particular recipe, how much time is the mix allowed to churn, how much air is applied to the pasta as it is being formed, how much ambient humidity is present and what is the ambient temperature of the dough room.
After the noodle or shaped pasta has been formed, it is carefully dried, an art-form unto itself. The pasta is taken to special custom designed rooms to “tease the water” out by slow-drying it between 24 and 48 hours, making handmade adjustments to the drying process continually during that time.
Each room is specific to the type of pasta to be dried. Imagine, if you will, traditional Italians hand rolling their fresh pasta and hanging it on their clothes lines outside to dry in the soft Mediterranean breeze, the pasta gently swaying to and fro as the hot, humid climate does its thing. That’s exactly what the long-cut drying rooms are designed to mimic. If the pasta dries too fast, it becomes too brittle, fails quality control and must be discarded. The short cuts go in a different type of drying room. These are meant to provide a slightly more aggressive breeze so that even the most difficult tubular shapes receive proper air flow both inside and outside of the noodle.
After 18 years of building their little pasta idea into Pappardelle’s, David and Bill needed a change and sold the company to Jim and Paula in April, 2002. After over ten years at the helm, Jim’s vision has not changed since the first day he took over. Pappardelle’s remains committed to its core values of small carefully monitored batches using time-tested traditional Italian production techniques, unique international flavor infusion, and top quality all-natural ingredients — resulting in intense flavors, aromas and colors that retain their vibrancy through the cooking process.