You could say Maranda Spinweber picked the perfect time to burn out of the restaurant industry. Over the past 13 years she’s worked in kitchens around the world, from Italy and France to Warsaw, Poland and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Over time, she became disheartened with the state of dining, especially here in the U.S. From her vantage point, particularly in open kitchens, she witnessed scores of people taking the restaurant experience for granted. “You get really great diners who are interested in the meal and the company, but the other half are on their phones the whole time and aren’t actually present,” she recalls. “I think some of my best experiences with food have been in home kitchens.”
Home cooking is becoming a lost art. Spinweber believes many people are missing out on something special simply because they are intimidated by it and too easily seduced by the convenience of eating out or ordering in. “I wanted to reteach the art of cooking and bring back that joy and togetherness,” she declares. She decided to do that with pasta–fresh pasta that is, a staple that has all but disappeared from standard grocery store shelves.
Before she left the restaurant world, Spinweber helped open Josephine Estelle Osteria, a much talked about restaurant in the Ace Hotel New Orleans. There, she learned the art of fresh pasta-making from James Beard Award-winning chefs Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman. That’s when it clicked. Here was an artisanal product everyone loves, that’s easy enough to prepare at home. “But what if I could do this differently?” she thought to herself and set to work planning her new venture.
Spinweber left the restaurant world to get a “real job” to make enough money to fund her pasta-making endeavor. She went back to school and eventually landed a solid gig with great benefits. She picked up overtime when she could, worked side jobs, and saved as much as possible. When she received bonuses in the form of Amazon gift cards, she used them to buy exotic flours and pasta-making equipment. All the while, she perfected her craft and refined her product.
Earlier this year, Spinweber left her well paying job to launch her fresh pasta business, Creativa Pasta Co. Her intent was to sell in Farmers Markets but COVID-19 had other plans for her. So she pivoted to a home delivery model. Maranda posts weekly offerings on her Instagram for weekend delivery, and so far it’s worked out in her favor. “It’s actually been good for me because people are not eating out as much as they would before,” she remarks. “I wanted Americans to be cooking at home more and now they’re forced to. It’s a blessing in disguise.”
Spinweber’s offerings resemble something more akin to contemporary art than your typical nonna’s rustic homemade pasta. From chubby, truncated tubes of two-toned squid ink canestri to ridged cylinders of garganelli striped red from beet juice, she uses ingredients and makes shapes not often seen in typical home kitchens. Her signature pasta though are simple squares of stracci often featuring asymmetrical patterns of color fit to grace the walls of MOMA. “I wanted to make it challenging for myself,” says Maranda. “I like exploring the ingredients within ingredients and making something aesthetically pleasing. For me it’s expression”
If you are lucky enough to score a pound or two of Maranda’s pasta, she has some tips for you. First, fresh pasta cooks much quicker than the dry, store-bought stuff, so err on the side of al dente, about 30-50 seconds to avoid over-cooking it. Second, save your pasta water and use it for your next batch–it’s liquid gold. Finally, take it easy on the sauce and let the pasta itself shine. She can easily instruct you on a simple pan sauce you can pull together in the time it takes to cook the pasta, which is really no time at all.
Stay current on Spinweber’s contemporary noodles. Follow Creativa Pasta Co. on Instagram.
This feature originally appeared as the Bold Bites column in Void Magazine’s September 2020 issue.
Bold Bites is Void Magazine’s food column. If it’s BOLD and ridiculously tasty in the 904, we’re here for it.