Carmella Alv grew up in an Italian family with a mother who cooked traditional food. Her passion for her heritage led her to start Melina’s Fresh Pasta in 2010, just after she moved from Syracuse to the Triangle.
Carmella’s parents, brother, and sister came to the US from Calabria, Italy in the 1970’s. Carmella was the first family member born in American, which gave her a desire to maintain her ties to the “old country.” With family in Italy, she made several trips and traveled to different regions. After years of watching her mother cook, plus a culinary tour of Italy that culminated in pasta-making school in Bologna, she recognized a goal of teaching people about authentic Italian food, which she describes as “the simple preparation of a few fresh, high quality ingredients.” Carmella recognizes the seasonal nature of Italian cuisine as well: Italians would never eat Caprese Salad outside of summer and tomato season.
Carmella’s family is from the south of Italy. Attending pasta-making school in northern Bologna enabled her to learn the regional methods of Emilia-Romagna, “the center of fresh pasta in all of Italy,” as well. She prepares small batches using fresh local ingredients, or imported ingredients when authenticity requires it. (For example, she uses eggs with bright orange yolks from local farms, but imports Italian Tipo “00” Flour which has a fine consistency like talcum powder.) After mixing the dough and letting it rest, she rolls it out with a three-foot rolling pin called a matterello. The flat dough is cut, rolled, squeezed, and twisted into the familiar shapes of pasta: tagliatelle, garganelli, farfalle, tortellini....
Carmella makes a variety of pastas, from stuffed ravioli and pierogi to gnocchi. Her fillings include unusual combinations and seasonal produce like organic collards from Eco Farm mixed with smoked ham, ricotta and pecorino, or a Bacon & Blue Cheese potato pierogi. Her gnocchi are made with ricotta and flour instead of potato to make them lighter. She also sells jars of her sauce and family-sized trays of ready-to-bake lasagna. We carry cheddar onion pierogi, ricotta gnocchi and spinach gnocchi, and three flavors of ravioli: spinach and cheese, three cheese roasted garlic, and lemon ricotta.
Carmella tells us that Bologna is scattered with fresh pasta shops, like Seattle is filled with Starbuckses. Every morning, the “Sfogline” – the pasta making ladies – get to work producing pounds of fresh tortellini and gnocchi by hand. The Bolognese stop on their way home to pick up some for dinner that night. Melina’s pasta is not available on every corner, but it is at Weaver Street Market, and you can stop by on your way home! Look for it in our Specialty Department.
Visit Melina’s online at www.melinaskitchen.com and on facebook at www.facebook.com/melinaspasta. Melina’s is also at several farmers’ markets, and Carmella offers pasta-making classes and parties.