Della Terra Pasta
To many people, pasta is the essence of simplicity. It’s an easy and elegant meal when paired with a few components, yet often the noodles serve as just a vehicle for sauce. When made thoughtfully, pasta can be elevated to a higher level whereby the star of the plate isn’t the pesto or the ragu, but the pillowy gnocchi or toothsome fusilli.
Few people respect this artistry more than chef Chris Becker, creator of Della Terra Pasta. “One of the nicknames I would be called when I was a chef back in New York was ‘The Mad Scientist,’ or ‘The Pasta Wizard.’ I really delve into the nuance and the details and the subtle characteristics that I can turn into the different pastas.”
A Connecticut native who learned his trade in the competitive NYC restaurant scene, Becker has dedicated much of his career to studying the complexities of pasta making. In particular, his experience at Mario Batali’s luxurious Italian restaurant, Del Posto, taught him how rich the world of noodles can be. He helped develop their menu of eighteen fresh pastas, which are each made from one of seven base recipes. Workshopping each individual recipe was a grand experiment, subtly changing minute details to attain the perfect noodle.
Becker has built upon that experience to create Della Terra’s products. The Oklahoma environment created a challenge early on. Our weather extremes mean constant fluctuations in temperature and humidity, which make certain recipes more challenging to perfect. The pasta was formerly made in the community kitchen at Urban Agrarian, which was not climate-controlled well enough to consistently craft some of the noodles. Recently, Della Terra has relocated to its own space where those variables can be better managed.
“That experience really allows me to pinpoint in a space where I have more control over the climate. If I’m running a certain shape, I’ll adjust the temperature and allow the humidity to fluctuate to get it to the right point,” Becker explains.
All of Della Terra’s pasta is handmade and cut with bronze dies that give the noodles a more porous texture than most other commercially made pastas that are cut with Teflon dies. This allows the noodles to better hold sauce and seasonings.
Is there really a difference between the different cuts of pasta, other than the fun shapes? Chef Becker assures us that there is, and describes how to get the most out of your noodles. “Every shape has its ideal sauce, and some shapes are good with a variety of sauces. Rigatoni is really terrific with robust sauces: big chunks of tomato, a lot of garlic, chili flake if you’re going the vegan route, sausage, butter, copious amounts of Parmesan, wilted greens go really well with this. Big, meaty sauces.”
“Fusilli can go with ragus, but it’s a really good shape for pesto. If you have a lot of basil in your garden, blanching the basil, mixing it with some garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan, and then tossing the fusilli through it, it gets through all the wings of the fusilli. If you take fusilli and put it with a butter sauce, it’s good, but not as good as the pappardelle with the butter sauce.” Additionally, linguine and tagliatelle are superb when paired with seafood, butter and wine sauces, and campanelle is best served in a light sauce, perhaps with fresh tomatoes.”
Despite understanding the myriad complexities of his craft, Becker also knows that sometimes the simplest preparations make for the most satisfying results.
“I eat pasta two times a week at home. At least one of those two times, it is the most home-style pasta you could possibly do. It’s our fresh spaghetti, and that’s with a sausage meat sauce. We take a pound of sausage, brown it in a pan, add some tomato sauce, a dollop of butter, a drizzle of olive oil, and stir the pasta in. It’s a two pot dinner and you’re done. Make a salad and it’s golden.”
Della Terra Pasta is sold locally at Whole Foods Market, Urban Agrarian, and Savory Spice Shop among other places. Visit their website for more information: dellaterrapasta.com