Timeless Lowcountry Discovery

How To Have Fun With A Little Dough in Charleston

A Pasta-tively Perfect Party With Farina Charleston 

I’m heading to Park Circle, an area 11 miles north of downtown Charleston where small town resurgence draws wanderlust tourists to eclectic shops, and locals like me to a slower pace. Tonight though, I’m not venturing down Montague for a Stems and Skins meal or Commonhouse Ale brew. I’m in for a different treat. This evening, a private residence plays host to two chefs teaching three couples how to make four shapes of pasta. Chefs Derek Kustanbauter and Molly Bray of Farina Charleston guide the pasta making party fun, sharing a trick or two they picked up while training in Italy. Now that’s a fine way to enjoy Italian cuisine in Charleston!

Farina Charleston Chefs Derek Kustanbauter and Molly Bray bring Italy to your Charleston home with their pasta-timely perfect pasta parties.
Italian cuisine in Charleston casual style; true to their relaxed and friendly natures, when teaching and prepping in your home Derek and Molly prefer being called by their first names, leaving their Chef titles for more formal occasions. ©Catherine G. Woods

The two chefs fell in love with more than pasta while attending the Italian Culinary Institute in Calabria, Southern Italy. They kneaded and rolled their way into each other’s hearts, and by graduation time, they knew they’d found more than their culinary futures. Hailing from Charleston, Derek brought his bride-to-be home, where the now married couple share infectious passion — and delectable flavor — for their honed skills. 

Similar to a home-catered meal, Farina Charleston provides all the ingredients and equipment for a creative and tasty experience. Before this evening, my pasta forays did not include any made by my hand; tonight will be an exciting first. Let’s get mixing!

Fresh pasta starts with the freshest of ingredients, always brought to your Charleston home by Farina Charleston.
Farina Charleston brings fresh, pre-measured ingredients and all the necessary pasta making accoutrements to your home for pasta making party fun. Courtesy Catherine G. Woods

We start at the beginning, where each couple mixes and kneads their fresh pasta dough. Derek’s and Molly’s affable natures ease apprehension as they begin their demonstration. They set up three stations with ingredients, a large bowl, spoon, well-seasoned rolling pin, and a small but mighty pasta machine. We’re instructed to dump flour into our bowl, forming a small well in the center into which we drop beaten eggs.

Fresh made Italian cuisine in your home starts with the basic dough.
The key to delicate pasta lies in the right touch when mixing the dough. Courtesy Catherine G. Woods

Derek works his fingers in a blending technique that marries flour and egg. The key is for the dough to remain tender, never toughened by over-mixing. A final kneading and the last bits of flour blend into the mix. We then set aside the dough to rest under loose plastic wrap (to minimize the air’s drying properties.) 

With shiny stainless pasta machines clamped to the countertop edge (granite or marble are ideal cool surfaces), we all approach in a similar expression, “How do we get started?” 

Pasta making machines clamp to the countertop edge for secure rolling of the freshly made dough.
Passing the rolled dough through a pasta machine produces a variety of shapes; here we used the cutter for tagliatelle. ©Catherine G. Woods

Oh, the endless pasta-bilities!

Time for the rolling pins to do their thing. A dusting of semolina flour on the counter top prepares an ideal non-sticky surface to roll it out. The idea is to shape the dough into thin rectangles for hand-cranking multiple times through the pasta machine rollers. Molly shows the technique, explaining it’s all by the numbers. A dial on the machine turns from 1 to 10. We started at 1 and rolled six passes, each at a higher number. The desired thickness of the finished pasta determines the usage of all ten settings. Each pass reduces the thickness. As expected, the thinner the dough, the longer its length.  Molly aids with dexterity in the eventual four-handed process.

Grins abound with excitement over our accomplishments. We share “I’ve got this! … I think!” expressions. Uninhibited laughter resonates, incited by our amateur progress, and naturally, a few sips of wine. 

The Wine Shop of Charleston's expert advice ensures perfect pairings for any meal.
Pasta tastes better with the right paired wine, courtesy of The Wine Shop of Charleston. ©Catherine G. Woods
  • {Shameless Plug #1: For perfect pasta pairings, check out The Wine Shop of Charleston.
    They’re well known for their extensive selection and congenial service. Sincere thanks for the spot-on Italian Gavi Sauvignon Blanc and Meiomi Pinot Noir they provided to support the evening’s festivities.}
A simple pinch is all it takes to create beautiful farfalle "bow tie" pasta.
Italian Nonna’s pinch more than their grandchildren’s cheeks! A simple squeeze of square cut dough between thumb and forefinger yields tasty farfalle pasta bows. ©Catherine G. Woods

Shaping Up

We evenly divide our dough into four sections, each with a purpose unique to the differing shapes we’ll make. Derek introduces a specialty 5 wheeled pasta cutter to create uniform squares for the first two shapes. We’re shown how to pinch the forefinger and thumb in the center to create farfalle (also known by its Italian translation, butterfly), or bow tie pasta. We picked up the technique after a few attempts, and dinner literally shapes up. 

Piles of freshly made pasta rest under a light semolina dusting.
Molly and Derek’s skilled instructions result in picturesque pasta piles, resting in wait for boiling water and simmering sauce. ©Catherine G. Woods

Next comes the trickier ‘gargnelli’ — similar to the well-known penne — one of my favorites for how sauces cling to its grooves. We try not to appear clueless as Molly removes all hesitation with another easy to follow demonstration. Aiming the square at a 45’ angle, gently press onto the end of a thick round wooden spoon handle and roll it around; then, while continuing to roll, gently press into the accompanying gnocchi board to imprint the spiral grooves. 

Our next two shapes take us back to the machines, where we roll our final rectangular dough sections into long thin strips, then swap rollers for cutters and turn the handle a few last rounds. Tagliatelle spills from the first cutting, then taglioni the second. A cupped hand catches the long, shapely pasta as it passes through the shape cutters. We then place each handful in loose piles on a semolina dusted cookie sheet to set up before introducing into boiling water. 

Hand cranked pasta yields the tastiest result on your plate.
The evening’s reward awaits table side with two pasta dishes, fresh greens, bread and of course, wine! ©Catherine G. Woods

Buon appetito!

Pots of hot salty water are bubbling and after a brief douse, the al dente pasta is ready for awaiting sauces. The chefs prepared two pasta sauces, a traditional tomato style, and an olive oil based for different interpretations of classic fare. “Pasta Alla Norma,” a traditional dish of Sicily infuses bite sized roasted eggplant with marinara sauce and fresh basil. Garganelli and farfalle are the perfect pastas with ridges and nooks for marinara to cling. And if you like eggplant parmesan, you’ll love this one dish marvel. 

  • {Shameless Plug #2: Shout out to Tarvin Seafood on Shem Creek for donating fresh shrimp.
    Look for their fresh catch announcements on Insta @MissPaulaShrimp. We’re equally impressed by their commitment to sustainable seafood.}

Derek’s second prep showcases the essence of the Carolina coast. He tosses fresh peeled shrimp with olive oil, lemon juice, and olives, eliciting a bright flavor that allows the shrimp — and tagliatelle and taglioini pasta — to come through. The meal is complete with a bountiful locally-sourced salad, and an unexpected delight: Derek’s heralded sourdough bread.

Using his well-tended starter, Chef Derek bakes a terrific sourdough bread for the occassion.
Warm, crusty sourdough bread completes our meal, thanks to Derek’s well-tended starter. ©Catherine G. Woods

When asked about the fresh baked loaf, he humbly shares his recipe’s backstory, including the history of his October 2020 sourdough starter that he’s fed and tended several days a week since.  Like the pasta he and Molly taught us to make, and finessed with savory sauces, the result is a standard against which you’ll measure all future fresh foodie experiences.

The best Italian cuisine in Charleston can be hand-made and served in your own home by Farina Charleston.
Grab your friends, a bottle or two of vino and a reservation with Farina Charleston for a delicioso pasta making party. ©Catherine G. Woods

Pasta Party? Oh Heck Yes!

You’ve now got yourself a vicarious experience that leaves only one more step; reach out to Farina Charleston and book your own memorable fun! Chef’s Derek and Molly are easy going, engaging, and personable, sharing skills and instructing you in the same, while preparing a beautiful meal. And as much as I enjoy Park Circle, you don’t have to venture that far — just step into your very own kitchen.

Looking for the best places to eat in Charleston? Experience fresh, local seafood at these hand-picked favorites.