It’s noticeable how many of the products featured in Shunyi Family Foodie have been “comfort food”; that authentic taste of home so hard to recreate in foreign lands. And no food is more comforting than versatile and satisfying pasta.
Of course it’s easy to get pasta in Chinese supermarkets, and even jars of sauce. But the pasta is dried, and the sauces mass produced, packed with sugar and preservatives.
So it’s no surprise to find that someone has filled that niche, producing pasta and sauces like mamma used to make. It may come as more of a surprise that that person is not Italian but Spanish. We asked Jorge Cordero to tell us more.
“My passion for making pasta started long ago,” he said, “when I was living on a small island in Spain, called Fuerteventura. At that time there was a large number of people coming from Italy, Uruguay and Argentina, where there is a great tradition in making fresh pasta. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work for several years in a restaurant-pasta factory, run by an Uruguayan family with Italian roots, the Cabbanos, where I learned all the basic skills to make fresh homemade pasta and pizza.”
In 2011 he and his wife set off to explore the world.
“After a year of adventures, we ended up coming to Beijing, where my wife found a job as a teacher. After working different jobs, I decided that I wanted to start my small business of making fresh homemade pasta, La Factoria. I started selling pasta twice a week to the teachers of Beijing City International School (BCIS), and many people have encouraged me to expand it, to reach out to more people. So far the support has been amazing and I am very appreciative of the overwhelmingly positive feedback I have received, in only a short time.”
Spag bol and macaroni cheese are staples for my family, with the occasional venture into seafood linguine at weekends. So my kids were enthusiastic about the arrival of Jorge’s ravioli and sauces. They come in little boxes, like cream cakes – this is to protect the delicate fresh pasta, but does make them feel more exciting, like you’re unwrapping a present.
With three pastas and four sauces, we held back the bolognese, to try with some spaghetti. Seven pieces of ravioli was a little awkward for a family of four, but we worked out a rotation system so everyone got to sample each combination.
First up was spinach and mozzarella. I have attempted pasta making myself, in the UK where I had a kitchen full of gadgets, and the process involved a lot of cursing, followed by fairly stodgy, clumpy results. I therefore have the greatest admiration for Jorge’s fine, light ravioli. I quickly realized they’re best cooked the right way up; they float in the boiling water, and the thicker base pasta cooks through without overcooking the filling.
“They’re like dumplings, but tastier,” Noah observed. “And Italian.”
My wife noted that they were packed with filling, and no water squirted out as it does with cheaper pasta. The rich tomato sauce was noticeably fresher than the shop-bought equivalent.
Next came something a bit different, ricotta and walnut ravioli, which we paired with red pesto. This was an instant hit, nutty and delicious.
The final combination was ham and mozzarella with funghi sauce.
“Carnivores would love this,” Noah said, and it was certainly a meaty treat.
Because they’re fresh, Cordero recommends cooking his products the next day at latest, or freezing them immediately. However we risked holding onto the bolognese until the following evening, when I boiled up some dried spaghetti to have with it. Cordero’s sauce was sweet, with finely ground beef, and surprisingly delicate compared the sort of big pot I cook up for a weekday supper.
Cordero’s attention to detail extends to delivering his products personally, as his business gradually grows.
“My passion for cooking motivates me to always experiment with new flavors and recipes to create new types of pasta,” he said. “I am hoping that more people will enjoy my food as I expand little by little.”
Photos: Karen Killeen