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Categories: Dining

Pasta from Scratch is Easy with Mr. Holmes Bakehouse

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Theoretically, I’m in the exact demographic that should be consuming pasta on a regular basis. Nearly everyone in my freshly-college-graduated generation has made the uninspired joke of only knowing how to make pasta and coffee competently. Furthermore, I’ve got that Gen Z-Millennial combination of low-spirited nihilism and perpetual sadness, so carb-loaded dishes should be a serotonin goldmine.

And yet, pasta has never been one of my pantry essentials, so making it from scratch seemed like a thoroughly random deep dive into a dish that made few cameos in my life. But it was a deep dive made easier with Mr. Holmes Bakehouse. The LA-SF bakery joins restaurants around the country as they pivot to DIY meal kits in the COVID-19 pandemic. After trying out their pasta and focaccia kit, I’ve definitely changed my formerly-apathetic tune on the dish.

The kit costs $25 and came with two numbered bags, a packet of precious yeast and instructions printed on glossy hot-pink paper. While Mr. Holmes Bakehouse combines and delivers the dry ingredients, you’ll need to provide three eggs and a ton of olive oil from your own pantry.

Step one is just combining your ingredients. You’re meant to make a little bowl out of the salt and flour and mix the wet and dry ingredients slowly, until it comes together as a dough. For those who aren’t familiar with pasta-making (or who haven’t watched hours of Tasty videos while doom-scrolling through social media like me), this part might be a little confusing, as there aren’t any pictures to illustrate this process.

The printed instructions do come with a QR code you can scan with your phone. It’ll take you to a video of a Mr. Holmes Bakehouse chef walking you through the recipe. Unfortunately, there isn’t an overhead camera, and the video is shot from a slight distance, making it a little difficult to see what’s happening on the kitchen table.

After mixing the ingredients until incorporated, you’ll knead the dough until it forms a little mound. At this point, the instructions say that “the dough should be elastic and slightly tacky (like the sweats you haven’t taken off in 2 weeks).”

Mr. Holmes Bakehouse drops in little side notes like this throughout the printed booklet, which I believe are supposed to make the instructions seem a little more human and friendly. I’m just wondering if anyone finds parentheticals like these cute, because reading about sticky, stretchy sweatpants is not the most appealing (or even useful) comparison when making food.

After kneading the dough, wrap it in plastic and let it rest for half an hour at room temperature. Once the dough is done resting, roll, fold and cut it so it forms long noodles. Marvel at your work.

I’m just so proud.

At this point you can either hang the pasta to dry, freeze it or throw it into salted boiling water to cook. I wasn’t sure what Mr. Holmes Bakehouse meant by “hanging” the pasta, as someone who has never made pasta from scratch before. When I Googled the phrase, I found out that there are actual, wooden-dowel based inventions for this purpose.

I do not have a pasta hanger or sufficient freezer space, so I tried to get inventive by hanging my pasta around a repurposed jiu niang (sweet fermented rice) jar instead.

Mr. Holmes Bakehouse has two recommendations for cooking your pasta. You can opt to do a quick sauce of butter and cream, or you can try it “aglio de ollo” style instead. Though, when I Googled “aglio de ollo,” I only found results for “aglio e olio,” so I’ll chalk this misspelling up to typos.

I went for the latter option.

I added a ridiculous amount of sliced garlic, parsley, grated Parmesan and roasted tomatoes. The result was glorious, and fed me for about three lunches.

While the pasta itself doesn’t taste like it’s made by a professional chef (my noodles were misshapen, a little pasty), the actual process of making pasta by hand is strangely, immensely satisfying. I think it follows the same logic of baking bread: Making dishes from the most basic ingredients reminds us that — despite the modern luxuries of fancy kitchen gadgets and Doordash takeout — we’re still capable of creating things, and surviving on those creations.

Cost-wise, Mr. Holmes Bakehouse’s meal kits are not the most economical purchase. You can probably buy at least five large bags of flour for $25, and that’s not including shipping.

But purchasing a meal kit might be the push people need to surmount any mental blocks they may be facing while cooking. Mr. Holmes Bakehouse’s kit provides guidance for a seemingly daunting process. There’s palpable comfort in receiving almost everything you need — flour, salt, and printed instructions on how to turn them into masterpieces.

It also comes with yeast, a curiously valuable substance in the pandemic era, so you can make your own focaccia to go with the pasta:

Are there other meal kits you’d like this amateur chef to try out? Let me know with the email below.

Grace Z. Li covers arts, culture and food for SF Weekly. You can reach her at gli@sfweekly.com or follow her on Twitter @gracezhali.

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Grace Z. Li

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