RMamma mia indeed! When we started hitting Minnesota-temperature weather in New England this weekend, I racked my brain for something to make this weekend a twenty tiny little bit less sucky. Luckily, I had stopped at a farmers market (indoor obviously I'm not a total psycho) the weekend before and picked up something amazing. Back to that in a second though - let's talk about farmers markets.
One of my best friends from college works out in Western Mass helping to support farmers markets, and mentioned to me this week that very few people know about all of the winter produce and other local goodies you can grab at winter farmers markets. I felt super proud of myself for attending one that very week, but I only found it by searching local events in Facebook. Now I have plans to hit up new farmers markets for the next few weekends! And really, how can you not: a warm, sunny place (I was in a greenhouse) full of samples - wine, cheese, jam, veggies, rubs, syrups, coffee - and cheerful vendors who actually want to talk to you about what they're growing or making.
Even bigger-picture than that, in these frigid New England winters it's next to impossible to chat up a stranger, unless you're asking the cashier at the grocery store about their day as they ring you up or trying to snag the last two seats at the bar as the couple currently occupying the spot is preparing to leave. There's not the same stop-and-chat mentality that exists when the world warms up and so do, apparently, everyone's personalities. So the opportunity to share a short friendly conversation and feel like a real person instead of a snowman waiting for May is an understated treat.
On to the food! One of the vendors I was super excited by was Valicenti Pasta Farm. Their website seems to be down right now so I'm linking to their Facebook page, but click on that link in the future because I've seen their site and really liked it!
Founded by Michelle and David Valicenti in 2008, Valicenti Pasta Farms creates fresh pasta and sauce that they sell in their shop in Hollis, New Hampshire and at local farmers markets. When I popped by their stand, Michelle was working, with huge coolers behind her and a chalkboard of fresh pastas and sauces in front. At first I just glanced for fun, thinking how great these would be if only I'd found them pre-Celiac diagnosis. Then I noticed the gluten free section. With fresh pasta and ravioli that is prepared separately on its own equipment, the Valicentis are making dreams come true for Celiacs and those who have gluten intolerance.
I asked about the Casarecci, and Michelle pulled out a container with pasta that looked like green beans! These bad boys are made with spinach and upon closer inspection are almost shaped like long figure eights. Since my dad prefers plain foods, I figured this was a safe bet to start trying out the Valicenti products, and Michelle patiently and kindly chatted with me as I thought all of this out loud.
We had this pasta with a tomato sauce we had at home, ground hamburger and cheese - just the basics to feel out the pasta (although of course I had a few pieces plain!). This is chewy, dense, almost sweet pasta, with beautiful flavor that understands your hunger and cooks up in only 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Even though it was perfect with a red sauce, we decided it could also go well with a simple butter, or olive oil and garlic, or light cream sauce with lots of veggies. Really this is the best kind of pasta because it works with absolutely everything, since it's so delicious on its own.
In addition to the gluten free pasta options, there was also a selected variety of gluten free ravioli. I'll be ordering some of these for myself in the future, but they're a little too exciting for my dad so we'll stick with the more standard pasta varieties for him. Some of the ravioli offerings include Brown Butter and Sage-Roasted Sweet Potato, Pasture Raised Braised Beef, Slow Barbecue Lamb with Carmelized Sweet Potato, and Brussels Sprouts with Guanciale and Grana. Gluten free offerings are a limited selection of these that appear to switch depending on farmers market, so go in with an open mind and prepare to be surprised!
Valicenti also offers a pairing sheet to take with you, matching ravioli with a series of quick 1-4 line sauce summaries, so you can cook like the best of 'em! Next time I'll be buying both pasta and rav, and I'm thinking I'll throw in their own sauce in the near future. A huge thank you to Valicenti Pasta Farms for identifying a need in the gluten free community and filling it with your delectable fresh pastas! We are totally in your delicious debt.