Eight years ago, college kid Bob Ricketts had a notion—a notion about pasta.
He was studying hotel and restaurant management at Penn State University’s main campus, working as an intern at the school’s Center for Food Innovation, when he was encouraged by an advisor to set up a pasta-making machine. He decided not only to teach himself the art of pasta-making, but to experiment scientifically with breaking down ratios of durum and semolina to come up with the best recipes.
What started as a college project has now become a business, as Ricketts went on to found the Fasta & Ravioli Co. in State College, which later expanded to a stand inside Harrisburg’s Broad Street Market.
Early on, Ricketts discovered the value in developing strategic partnerships with local farmers to grow boutique crops to use in his recipes. Besides that collaborative, Fasta & Ravioli Co. also works with a mill in Halifax that grinds corn to use in special recipes. This summer, Ricketts even bought 50 lobsters from JB Kelly Seafood Connection in the market to use in his ravioli.
Ricketts said he always tries to use his ever-present analytical approach to create new and unique items, such as ravioli with grits.
“I have Italian grandmothers who scold me and say, ‘You put grits in ravioli!?’” he joked. “I don’t know any better. It’s what I do.”
Ricketts has two locations in the State College area, with a store in the borough and one in nearby Pleasant Gap. The State College store, his original shop, burned down last Christmas Eve due to an electrical fire. Since then, he moved into the space of a gluten-free bakery where he was part owner. The bakery has since closed to take shape as his new pasta shop.
At the Pleasant Gap location, Ricketts makes the pasta that’s delivered weekly to the Broad Street Market. He jokes that he selected his Harrisburg location for selfish reasons. His young nephews live in Mechanicsburg, so this gives him a chance to spend more time with them. And it’s a true family affair beyond just the visits. His mother also helps out from time to time, and his parents are partners in the business.
Besides inside the Broad Street Market, Fasta & Ravioli Co. products can be found at several area markets including the Farmers Market in Hershey, the Boalsburg Farmers Market and the Huntingdon Farmers Market.
So what’s his secret to coming up with recipes? It isn’t “The Cooking Channel.”
“I really don’t have time to watch TV,” Ricketts said. “I like to eat, and I like high-quality ingredients, and that is how I decide what I am going to use.”
Those recipes include the ever-popular basil garlic spaghetti and bucatini, a thick spaghetti-like pasta with a hole running through the center. He intends to make some seasonal pasta this winter, including pumpkin ginger cranberry ravioli, chestnut pasta and everything-but-the-wishbone ravioli, which include peas, corn and potatoes.
Beyond seasonal flavors, long-range plans for the Broad Street Market location include having machinery on site.
“We’re planning to have a pasta machine installed so we can make it right here,” he said.
Since Fasta & Ravioli Co. products are made fresh each week, the pasta stays fresh for 10 days to two weeks, but it can be frozen for longevity.
With his analytical and statistical approach to his craft, is Ricketts the mad scientist of pasta-making?
“Yes, I guess so,” he said with a smile.
Fasta & Ravioli Co. is located in the brick building of the Broad Street Market in Harrisburg. To learn more, visit www.fastaraviolico.com.