Like all great pasta stories, chef Jamie Freda’s begins in Italy. “Summers were spent in Puglia, cooking alongside my Nonna Domenica who survived the Great Depression and lived until she was 102 years old,” Freda recalls. “Back then, everything was made from scratch using fresh, seasonal ingredients. Nothing was ever wasted and there was always a song or story to go along with her recipes.”
Studying at the Italian Culinary Academy was the natural next step for Freda, where she would knead her new knowledge into preserving Nonna’s tried-and-true methodologies. “It wasn’t long before I developed an unwavering passion for pasta, and began to channel everything she taught me into my dough,” says Freda.
Now, Project Pasta is the culmination of those efforts. Beet-red and earthy green nests of fresh fettuccine come in compostable plastic packaging for at-home cooking. The pasta is al dente in under a minute, hand-crafted using traditional techniques, and most surprising – completely gluten-free and vegan.
“What I quickly realized is not only the strikingly large number of people who can’t enjoy traditional Italian pasta due to gluten intolerances, but that there’s also people with very specific food allergies that make eating any pasta nearly impossible,” says Freda, who started working out of the Hope & Main incubator kitchen in Warren to create a pasta that’s both palatable and accessible – a labor of love that took time and patience.
“Since texture, quality, and authenticity are extremely important to us, we are always striving to perfect our recipes and processes,” Freda explains. “In the beginning, I had no idea where to start. There were many unsuccessful batches, but we just kept iterating, and researching different ingredients.” Konjac root, cassava flour, and flaxseed make up some of the alternatives to wheat flour used in Project Pasta’s staple fettuccine, while spinach, beet, or carrot powder add nutrients and color.
With the help of Prica Farina’s pasta expert, David Strenio, and food scientist Caitlin Jamison to develop pasta prototypes and processes, now the project is growing. Exclusively sold in RI, you can find them popping up at the Hope & Main market, Coastal Growers Market at Casey Farm, and Mount Hope Farmers Market this month, and now a new website also allows for custom online pickup orders to meet growing demand. “Sustainability is the foundation of scalability, and also a means to further preserving our traditions,” says Freda. “We want to increase access to traditional Italian pasta without compromising anything about it.”