BELFAST — Every entrepreneur sources passion for their business in a completely unique method.
For Nick Grim and Noelle Wingate, they sourced the passion behind their business, Nomad Pasta, during a recent three week trip to Europe.
After starting in Zurich, Switzerland, the pair took a train down through Italy, stopping in Venice, Florence, Riomaggiore (Cinque Terre), Rome and Sicily. (The trip’s final stop was to Malta.)
“We were so inspired by the hand-made, high quality food everywhere we went, and of course the great Italian hospitality. Every meal we had was truly delicious,” Grim said. “And we came back from the trip with a desire to bring that quality and passion to our own business.”
Nomad Pasta, currently being created in the commercial kitchen at the United Farmer’s Market of Maine in Belfast, produces fresh, artisanal pasta from organic ingredients.
The duo opted to rent space in the United Farmer’s Market building as it is one of their favorite things about Belfast, Grim said, since it brings several local farmers and vendors from across the Midcoast together.
Grim, whose father built a pizza career on a passion for home bread-baking, and Wingate have made pasta at home for years, they said, and have always loved the simplicity of pasta.
“We have experimented with many different recipes, some with eggs, some with olive oil and salt, but we've realized that the best recipe is actually the simplest,” Grim said. “It is literally just flour and water. It's amazing to see the flour come together with the addition of just a bit of water, and to see the dough transform into all the different shapes of pasta.”
Entering the pasta business for Grim and Wingate was, simply, a natural move since it turned a passion into a business.
“We also love the idea of creating something that people can bring home and enjoy with their friends and families,” Grim stated. “Pasta is a rare food that, if produced properly, can be enjoyed restaurant-quality at home — and all you have to do is throw it into a pot of boiling water.”
Not only was the decision a natural one, it also filled a void in the area. After searching many stores and markets in the area for local, organic pasta, the duo determined, according to Grim, there was essentially nothing around that would be comparable to what they would create.
“Sometimes the best way to find what you're looking for is to make it yourself,” he said.
To start, pasta offerings will include spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine, fusilli, penne and rigatoni — a grouping Grim described as six of the most popular pasta shapes.
In the future, more shapes and varieties will likely be offered.
Investment into the business has been minimal, Grim noted, though there have been some significant expenses including $6,000 for the mixer and extruder and $1,500 for the company’s licensing, trademark, website, promotions and packaging. Additionally, there is rent for the commercial kitchen and regular ordering of bulk ingredients.
“We've also spent a lot of time and made pounds and pounds of pasta for testing, Grim said, while noting they have been able to give much of the test pasta away.
For Grim and Wingate, knowing what enters one’s body is incredibly important, hence why their pasta has no additives, preservatives or chemical pesticides and why they chose to specialize in producing organic pasta.
“We're lucky enough to live in a town and a state where there are many local, organic ingredients available,” Grim said. “We also think it's very important to support smaller local businesses. Many small farms are hard-working families making an honest living, who take pride in what they produce.”
Organic agriculture, Grim said, is better for the environment and farmers.
“We take pride in offering products that are good for the Earth and good for the community of people tending it responsibly,” he stated. “There seems to be a growing consciousness of the importance of responsibly grown food, and an ever-increasing demand for organic products. We're happy to support the movement.”
The fun to watch, according to Grim, pasta making process starts with weighing the flour and cold water, mixing for five minutes until the dough (pasta dough is very dry, Grim noted) just barely starts coming together.
The mixing and shaping aspects of the pasta making process are pretty fast, Grim said.
The mixing for small batches of six pounds takes five minutes, while the extruding, shaping and twirling takes 20 minutes.
The dough is then run through an extruder, a small machine that pushes the dough through bronze dies.
“Each type of pasta has its own die, to give the pasta its unique shape,” Grim said. “Bronze dies are preferable because they make the surface of the pasta rougher, which makes it cook better and absorb the sauce properly. Pasta without rough edges is smooth and slippery, so sauce just slides off of the noodles instead of coating them.”
Coming out of the machine “fairly” dry, the pasta can be placed into packaging and refrigerated to be sold as fresh pasta.
Dry, shelf-stable pasta, Grim noted, requires further drying and is placed in nests or twirls on trays and dried for 24 hours.
Since dry pasta slow-dries for 24 hours, Grim said dry pasta is the most time-consuming to make, though it is well-worth the extra time.
“Slow-drying is important because it preserves the flavor of the wheat, and prevents the dry noodles from getting too brittle,” Grim said.
Those interested in consuming Nomad Pasta products will, ultimately, find the handmade pasta at local shops, co-ops, farmer’s markets and restaurants.
Nomad Pasta will be able to be found at Eat More Cheese in Belfast, Gardiner Food Co-op, Marsh River Cooperative in Brooks, Morning Glory Natural Foods in Brunswick, Tiller & Rye in Brewer, Good Tern Co-op in Rockland and Vinolio in Belfast.
Both Grim and Wingate noted they love Belfast and Maine, in general, and have been inspired by Maine’s many talented and passionate business owners, farmers and restaurateurs.
As such, they pride themselves on their pasta being made from as many local and organic ingredients as possible.
“We are very grateful for all of the support and interest that we've received so far,” Grim said. “We really are passionate about pasta and quality food.”
Reach George Harvey at: firstname.lastname@example.org.