Chef Stephanie Fees turns her talent and imagination to making pasta exciting again!
Edible Blue Ridge Magazine | Winter 2018 | by Steve Russell | Photos by Paul Whicheloe
“It was peak summer when I first started at the market, when all the other vendors had already been there for a while and connected with customers,” she says. “I didn’t know if anyone would buy any pasta from me. And then I sold out.”
Fees had tapped into an apparent pent-up desire for locally crafted pastas that stretch expectations way beyond the modular stacks of rectangular boxes at the supermarket. Indeed, even though to date Fees has met her customers only at area farmers markets, she regularly sells 400 bags a week. She’s had to get very busy, and very good, at making pasta.
The headquarters for Scratch Pasta is a room, plus a small sunroom, just off the garage of Fee’s family home overlooking a wide bend of the James River. It is here that she often spends 15-hour days coaxing her pasta machine to satisfy the wants of customers and her own chefy urge to try new things.
About that machine: One could be forgiven for mistaking it for a hardware store paint mixer. But it’s an Arcobaleno model AEX30, aka the “Stella,” manufactured in Pennsylvania. Despite their utilitarian appearance, Arcobaleno extruders have high status among chefs, and this one is instrumental in allowing Fees to create the pasta she wants. Fees outfits the machine with one of 14 bronze die attachments, each which costs $200 and is designed to extrude a different shape of pasta, from the familiar fusilli and rigatoni to the less common bucatini and radiatori to the strikingly fanciful mohawks and pumpkin-shaped zucca.