Valicenti Pasta Farm
When life gives you (a spectacular crop of) tomatoes, make sauce.
At least, that’s what David Valicenti did. After a career as a chef at Arnaud’s and Martinique in New Orleans—and a dream of opening a restaurant in Boston that was shattered by the economic downturn—he moved back to his hometown of Hollis, New Hampshire. There, he noticed that the tomatoes on his family’s farm were particularly flavorful. He cooked a “red gravy,” jarred some, and sold it at a local harvest fair—“as a joke,” Valicenti says. The stunt turned out to be pretty lucrative, however: It always managed to sell out.
The budding entrepreneur—who had grown up cooking pasta and canning vegetables from the same garden—decided to combine his knowledge of farming with his passion for cooking. He saved up for a commercial kitchen, purchased a pasta machine at a local auction, and opened Valicenti Pasta Farm to grow his own ingredients on-site. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today the farm’s products—available at 35 farmers’ markets across New England—include at least 14 varieties of fresh pasta and 20 varieties of ravioli. Valicenti harvests herbs and vegetables (eggplant, basil, arugula, sage, carrots, beets, butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, and sweet potatoes) in his own greenhouse. Other ingredients are sourced locally: grains and flours from Brookford Farm in Canterbury, ricotta cheese from Wolf Meadow Farm in Amesbury, and mushrooms from New Hampshire Mushroom Company in Tamworth, for example. After that, everything’s processed and packaged right in Valicenti’s kitchen—and it’s all free of preservatives, hormones, and otherwise artificial ingredients.
Best-sellers include a Wild Garlic Scapes Tagliatelle and a Brown Butter & Sage Roasted Sweet Potato Ravioli. Other flavored pastas include the Squid Ink Spaghetti all Chitarra and Basil Garganelli (which we love tossed with sweet spring peas, fresh black pepper, and parmesan). Those on a gluten-free diet can safely enjoy a Lemon Basil Tagliatelle or a Truffled Wild Mushroom Ravioli—simply toss that one in olive oil or butter. Carnivores, meanwhile, are bound to salivate over the Slow BBQ Lamb w/ Caramelized Sweet Potato or Brandied Lobster Ravioli.
Seasonal varieties play to whatever vegetables are fresh, as well as to the whims of Valicenti’s culinary team. In the winter, the company might make a wine-infused pappardelle or incorporate chestnut flour, while in the springtime, they often juice vegetables to use in the dough.
And the red gravy that launched the entire operation? While Valicenti has remained faithful to the original recipe, he’s also expanded his line of sauces over the years. In addition to the classic tomato and basil Red Gravy, the company also now offers a Golden Gravy with butternut squash and Parmigiano Reggiano, as well as a hearty Alla Norma sauce packed with roasted eggplant and ricotta salata. The house pesto includes peppery arugula and rich, earthy pistachios for an innovative twist.
Among many other farmers’ markets, look for Valicenti products at Copley Square, Central Square, Brookline, Union Square, Natick, Arlington, and SoWa. To avoid the letdown when items sell out, customers can order items in advance online and choose the market to pick them up. Additionally, the pasta line can be found at a range of local stores, including Cambridge Naturals, Savenor’s Market (Boston and Cambridge), City Feed, Siena Farms South End, and Whole Foods.