By Kathy Mak
Dried pasta is one of the most popular staples in home pantries around the world. While it may seem like a basic food – made with flour and water – there’s far more to dried pasta than you think. Specifically, artisan-style dried pasta crafted from traditional methods is higher in quality, flavour and is better for you, as I learned from North Vancouver’s Ingrain Pastificio. What it boils down to is that their artisan pasta offers a better textured, more flavourful, highly digestible pasta with greater nutritional values.
Behind an understated storefront in Parkgate Village, near Deep Cove, you’ll find the welcoming contemporary pasta-centric eatery, Ingrain, where stellar dishes are abundant and pastas are all house-made on premise by Head Chef Erick Kauko and his team. Ingrain is considered the only manufacturer of slow dried, traditional pasta in the Lower Mainland and one of a few on the west coast.
This West Coast Pastificio opened in 2015 after co-owners Erick Kauko and Alistair Knox were determined to produce the perfect dried pasta in Vancouver with 100% western grains.
The inspiration for a Pastificio (meaning pasta factory) was conceived during a trip to Italy, the world’s largest producer of dried pasta. The “aha!” moment came when Knox discovered that pasta made in Italy and sold in Canada contained exported Canadian-grown grains. He also realized the advantages of the traditional methods for making pasta, which yields a healthier and superior taste experience.
Knox and Kauko have been successful restauranteurs, running the popular Arms Reach Bistro in Deep Cove, since 2004. They were already passionate about local ingredients and starting a Pastificio was a natural opportunity when no other existed in the Lower Mainland and organic, ancient and single-origin grains are easily sourced from the Fraser Valley as well as durum wheat from neighbouring provinces. Rather than exporting Canadian grains and buying back a finished product, they believe their pasta is created with a dramatically smaller carbon footprint.
Before opening, the ambitious Ingrain team spent a year and a half exploring what makes perfect pasta and painstakingly experimented with various grains. Their winning formula is a delicate process using high quality milled grains from western Canada and the time-tested, traditional method of extruding dough through bronze dies (molds) then slow drying at very low temperatures.
In contrast, cheaper and mass-produced pasta uses steel or Teflon dies, creating pasta that is too smooth for sauces. The use of bronze dies allows for traditional, rough-textured surface to which sauce can cling.
Ingrain Pastificio makes available 5-6 diverse types of hand-crafted dried, short noodle pasta with 100% western grains. The main flours used are durum semolina, organic spelt and organic emmer with the organic flours coming from Anita’s Organic Mill in Chilliwack. Shapes of pasta include Rigatoni, Lilies, Penne, Shells, Spinners, Paccheri, Casarecce, and Radiatori.
After the dough is extracted, the newly made pasta is cured and dried slowly for 24-48 hours at low temperatures. In comparison, conventional pasta is dried in ovens at ultra-high temperatures for 1-2 hours, converting gluten into a harder state. Ingrain’s slower drying process delivers numerous advantages – nutrients are preserved, the pasta is easier to digest, and the aroma and flavour of the grains are retained.
At Ingrain’s casual dining space, accented with an open kitchen as an anchor point, you can enjoy beautifully prepared, modern pasta dishes with a variety of well-crafted sauces. Think Maccheroni tossed with braised beef, Mornay sauce, mushrooms and aged cheddar, or broccoli, chilis, garlic, lemon, walnuts and parmesan folded into Lilies.
Bags of their dried pasta are available for purchase to cook up at home with your own favourite sauces. Pick up Ingrain pasta directly at the eatery or from a growing number of locations in Metro Vancouver.
You may never want to seek out imported dried pasta again. With Ingrain pasta, you’re getting a higher quality product that is made in Vancouver from Canadian ingredients with traditional Italian methods.