A teacher by trade, pasta-making in any capacity other than for her own personal culinary enjoyment was not ever something Christina Handwerk thought she would ever do. But the idea was sparked over lunch with a dear friend, Ben Stolztfoos – over Mexican food, no less.
Ben lamented that one thing he felt Lancaster was missing was fresh pasta. Christina agreed, sharing that she makes her own, regularly. Excited by the possibility, the two talked preliminary logistics, and Ben, an entrepreneur, helped her get the ball rolling.
Not only does her handmade pasta make for delicious dishes, but it connects her with her Italian roots.
“My great-grandmother, every Sunday, she would make fresh pasta. It was just what she did. My family is from Reggio de Calabria, which is the toe of the boot, and my grandmother came over through Ellis Island when she was young,” she shared.
Christina continued, “I lived in Italy one Summer, and I learned how to make it from this little Italian woman – she didn’t speak English, and I spoke minimal Italian because my grandmother spoke a dialect. But it was all about learning, and she would just say over and over, ‘You have to feel it.’”
The art of pasta-making is not an easy endeavor, especially when you’re looking for repeat perfection. Christina spent a considerable amount of time in the kitchen with Jill Stoltzfoos, Ben’s sister-in-law and Buona Tavola part-owner, feeling it out.
“Jill and I were in the kitchen for what felt like weeks,” she chuckled. “We want it to be really fresh, we want it to be something that is really easy, so we worked at it for a while to make sure it was the right, consumer-happy consistency.”
What they came up with was an eggless take on a traditional Italian recipe that cooks in under four minutes, offers a plethora of types from plain angel hair to spinach spaghetti, and pairs beautifully with just about anything, including their handmade sauces.
“We rotate sauces through the year. We like it to be fresh, we like it to be seasonal. Our marinara is my great-aunt’s recipe, and the Winter meat sauce we do is my take on my grandmother’s recipe.” Christina said. She has a few sauces in rotation, most-loved of which sounds to be her Autumn pumpkin alfredo, which she admits has become a birthday dinner staple for her loved ones.
As for coming into Market, Ben approached Ada Stoltzfoos, his mother, Buona Tavola part-owner, honorary Italian grandmother, and pasta-making extraordinaire. Ada shared, “I’d been working here at Shenk’s Poultry for three years, and enjoyed it, and three of my aunts sold flowers here years ago, so Ben thought that I might be interested in opening a stand.”
Christina chimed in, as well, “My grandmother lived where I live now, and she would always tell me stories of Market and Southern Market. To make our pasta part of this, something so iconic as Market, it was really a dream. We want our pasta to be fresh, we want it to be local, we want it to be something for people who live here to eat, and this was the best way to do it.”
It marries perfectly with the heart of Italian cooking, which Christina divulged as, “Italian thinking is just pure joy in feeding people.” And every week, three times a week, plus the menus on which their pasta shines at Horse Inn, Pressroom, and Annie Bailey’s, they get to do just that.
It can be a big step to add fresh pasta to your shopping list, but Christina has some words of wisdom to encourage anyone interested to try it, “I always say to people who buy the first time that it should come with a warning that once you go fresh, you never go back. When you have boxed pasta, sauce is king. When you have fresh pasta, pasta is king. And I think that’s what makes it so different, like, ‘Woah, I’m tasting something that’s fresh and delicious and complements everything in the dish just because its freshness.’”
So true, Christina! So true.