Noodle on this. Dry packaged commercial pasta is preferred by home and professional cooks over fresh.
Why? It’s consistent, easy to cook, and it’s perfect for saucing. Good dry pasta has a rough textured surface to which sauce clings rather than sliding off and, because it’s dried slowly at low temperatures, it retains more of the wheat’s nutty flavor and aroma. Italians rely on small family-run artisanal producers, like Sunrise Creative Gourmet.
Sunrise hails from Hibbing and was founded in 1913 by Guilio Forti, who emigrated from Italy to the Iron Range and, instead of working the mines, opened a bakery. Sunrise has been the source of specialty Italian products to Iron Range towns (Chisholm, Eveleth, Nashwauk and Virginia) since 1930.
Guilio’s great-, great-, great-grandson, Tom Forti, brought the pasta and sauces business to full operation in St. Paul two years ago, and in January opened a small retail venue and cafe on Grand Avenue. Its new manufacturing facility uses a handmade bronze pasta extruder, imported from Italy, to produce pasta in small batches. Made of high-protein, durum-wheat flour from North Dakota, the pastas are created in a variety of shapes and sizes, some infused with different spices or vegetables. There’s a line of several gluten-free options, as well. Ironically, many of the best Italian pasta producers import North Dakota’s premium semolina flour.
Forti, a graduate of the University of St. Thomas, has been immersed in the family’s business his whole life except for a stint Sun Valley, Idaho, where he worked in retail and restaurants. In 2004 he returned to Hibbing and transformed the family’s retail deli and bakery into a gourmet food wholesaler.
“Our family’s rich history of crafting traditional foods like potica, pasties, porketta and pasta in Hibbing for decades has set us apart from other specialty markets,” he said.
The pastas, including gluten-free versions, all cook in just a few minutes. The spiced or vegetable pastas need only a splash of olive oil. “It took some time to get the dough for the gluten-free products to be equal in quality to our whole line,” Forti said. “They have the same flavor as our semolina pasta, but are higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates.”
Over the past five years, Sunrise has grown its presence to 300 grocery stores throughout the Upper Midwest and has become a mainstay at the St. Paul and Des Moines Farmers Markets.
Sunrise Market & Cafe sells all of its pastas, along with a line of frozen filled pastas and sauces. Traditional Iron Range specialties, such as pasties, porketta, potica and sarma, are also available at the St. Paul Farmers Market and online.
Sunrise Market & Cafe, 1085 Grand Av., St. Paul; 651-487-1913; sunrisecreativegourmet.com.