The time is now for Chris Becker.
For years, he’s operated Della Terra Pasta as a side business. First out of the Urban Agrarian building in the Farmers Market District and now in a little business park just east of Broadway Extension.
But now he’s putting all his noodles in one pot and pursuing it full time.
You can buy his pasta at Whole Foods, Gourmet Gallery and a handful of other shops across the state and you can eat it at some of Oklahoma City’s best restaurants — his squid ink pasta is what gives The Drake’s black mac and chicken its color and delicious flavor.
Now he’s doing something new: teaching you to make your own fresh pasta.
Della Terra’s dried packaged pasta is wonderful. Becker is a perfectionist and he’s been working in pasta as a chef for decades (including at some very tony spots, like the exquisite Del Posto in New York City), so he’s not going to sell a product that’s anything less than wonderful.
But fresh, handmade pasta is a different creature, as I was lucky enough to learn first hand.
The classes aren’t just about making pasta, though; it’s about gaining an appreciation for the history and craft. Learning which parts of Italy various pasta shapes originated and why is fascinating, because it gives you insight into the way some classic recipes came to be and a little more idea of how to best use them.
Becker’s no stranger to teaching, having been an instructor at Francis Tuttle’s culinary school for years, and it’s clear he’s looking forward to letting a new type of student learn from his years of experience and training.
He showed me how to make orecchiette — ear-shaped pasta — first by weighing out the ingredients.
“I use grams instead of ounces, because grams are so much more precise,” he said. “There are 28 grams in an ounce, so if you’re doing 7 and a half ounces, that’s a lot of leeway.”
We blended all-purpose flour with semolina flour and water, first stirring it together and then working it together by hand. Eventually, we kneaded and folded the dough, pushing it with the heels of our hands until it had some spring to it.
After it had a rest (and I took a rest, too) we rolled it out into evenly sized snakes, cut off chunks of dough and began shaping it with our fingers and a pasta knife.
There’s a kind of meditative quality to the repetition of shaping pasta by hand. Each time I pressed the end of the knife down and then dragged it across the pasta, I got a little more in-tune with work.
When the class is done, Becker boils the fresh pasta and creates a simple sauce to enjoy it with. He made a sauce of pepper, butter and olive oil for our orecchiette, but at his class on June 30 he’s preparing a spicy cherry tomato and garlic sauce.
The classes are BYOB and he provides some hearty Italian snacks at the beginning, to make sure nobody in the class is starving.
He’ll change up the pasta monthly, so anybody looking to make gnocchi or other shapes and styles should keep an eye on the class schedule.
When I got home with my leftover dough, I went right to my own kitchen and began shaping the rest of my orecchiette for dinner.
Tickets are $65 each and well worth it, in my opinion. Follow the Della Terra Facebook page for announcements on future classes. If you have any doubts, watch this video:
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