To the uninitiated, the art of pasta making may seem inaccessible – a skill to be perfected behind closed doors in culinary institutes or in remote regions of Italy. But to Alex Reppe, stamping ravioli and crafting the perfect farfalle is about bringing the community together…over a pint of beer.
Though I’ve noodled (pun intended) with rolling out pasta dough, cutting not-so-neat but artfully variegated squares with a slightly wonky pasta cutter, and pressing them into petite pillows somewhat resembling ravioli – I would firmly place myself in the “uninitiated” category. When I learned that Reppe, a veteran and long-time chef, travels to breweries teaching casual workshops for beginners, I knew I had to redeem my early lackluster pasta-making attempts.
Reppe opened Newport Pasta Co. in Warren’s Hope & Main incubator kitchen just under a year ago selling locally sourced wholesale pasta to restaurants and delis around the East Bay, though he’s best known for his workshops. Six Pack Brewing in Bristol, Newport Craft Brewing, and Rejects Beer Co. in Middletown are just a few nearby haunts, though he travels statewide. My partner and I caught a workshop on a Sunday afternoon at Smug Brewing Company in Pawtucket. Tickets come with a complimentary pour, so we ordered a fruited sour and a stout before settling in to be schooled in pasta.
Demystifying the process from start to finish, Reppe began with the dough. He passed around premade balls to show the consistency of the two primary pasta flours, 00 and semolina – the former is much finer, producing a silkier dough, while semolina is grittier and yields a coarser, leathery variety.
Reppe’s niche is swapping water for beer or wine to create more flavorful pastas with hoppy IPAs or rich reds. He demonstrated how to create a well in the flour for the liquid and poured a dark stout in the center, then mixed the wet and dry elements together with a pasta scraper until combined and deftly kneaded the dough.
Next came the fun part – making the pasta. Reppe cranked a pancake-shaped slab of blue 00-flour dough into a fine sheet while explaining that a chitarra – an old-fashioned spaghetti-making tool – means “guitar” in Italian for the array of wires that slice the sheet into strands. Meanwhile, the motor attachment for his modern pasta machine made quick work of linguine.
With smaller tools at each table, we all tried our hand at pasta shapes both simple and intricate, from farfalle bow ties (pressed in the center into an “m”) to soprese (a couple of dexterous folds to achieve a bonnet). Most satisfying was taking a small wooden dowel to roll a thin square – positioned as a diamond on the gnocchi board – into a perfectly ridged garganelli.
By the end, I felt like I had the know-how to actually go home and make pasta myself, and maybe even banish the hordes of store-bought dry spaghetti and rigatoni from my pantry. That evening, digging into a batch of premade stout-based linguine, courtesy of Reppe, drenched in a quick browned butter garlic sauce and topped with parmesan, it became official – I’m a fresh pasta convert.
Chances are good Newport Pasta Co. is popping up at your fave brewery soon, or you can book a pasta workshop for your private event.
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