Food processing is a part of the local foodscape that is frequently overlooked. Even in recent years, when consumers have started to be more concerned with the origins of their food products, larger processors are typically viewed as not being local, due to the volume of ingredients they require to keep up with demand. But that’s not always the case.
The story of Let’s Pasta is one that local food lovers love to hear. Though they are producing exquisite Italian pastas, their ingredient story is one that is centered around the Alberta foodscape.
Situated in Lethbridge’s industrial area, Let’s Pasta has been producing the freshest and finest pastas for the last 24 years, using exclusively Southern Alberta Durum Semolina wheat. This wheat is grown on two local farms and processed at P&H Milling, mere minutes from the pasta facility. In fact, those wheat farmers have an actual dedicated bin at P&H Milling, so there is always a steady supply available for Let’s Pasta. All their pastas, which include tortelloni, ravioli, and gnocchi, are also made using local cage-free eggs. This connection to their local agricultural community is at the root of all their operations, driven by the firm belief of growing with their farmers while supporting sustainable agriculture for future generations to enjoy.
“From an early age, we were taught about growing, about being stewards of the land,” says Rocco Suriano, Owner of Let’s Pasta. “Passing that down from generation to generation, it was important that we support the communities around us. With Alberta agriculture so rich and so vast, and we have some of the best crops and commodities that the world has, so why wouldn’t we take that to the world?”
Every great chef will tell you that the quality of the ingredients can drastically change the outcome of a dish. The same goes for processors, which is why Let’s Pasta uses only whole, real foods in their fillings too. No preservatives, no additives, no flakes, or by-products. Just good, old fashioned ingredients like potatoes, butternut squash, pork, and spinach. Now obviously the lobster and crab they use isn’t coming from Alberta, but they are from the Canadian Atlantic, and the Pacific region. All their fillings are lovingly made by hand in their test kitchen, where they also try out new recipes all the time to add to their lineup. It’s the same love and care that their families put into every dish that is put on their table.
The two farms that provide the Durum Semolina Wheat for Let’s Pasta, Saunders Farms (near Taber) and Neveridle Farms (near Lethbridge), grow for a program called Shepherd’s Grain, a collective that promotes no-till, direct-seed farming so they can renew and preserve the land for generations to come – theirs and yours. Each grower is certified by Food Alliance™ for sustainability and complies with their strict standards for land improvement. They even have a traceability program that reinforces their commitment to renew the relationship between consumers and the farmers who grow their food. On each bag that Shepherd’s Grain processes, you can visit their website to learn about the farm that grew those grains.
“We have a vast array of processors that utilize Alberta crops and commodities,” says Suriano, “and I think as Albertans and as Canadians, we need to start supporting those processors and growers. It’s important that we support our own before we support others, and if we don’t support our own, no one else will support us.”
The process is quite efficient, so they that a small, dedicated team that manages production. The milled wheat arrives in a metric ton bag, which is then hoisted, emptied, and piped into their mixer, where the eggs and water are added by hand. The pasta is shaped into big rolls, which then get moved over to the pasta machine. The machine puts the exact right amount of their delicious filling, then seals and shapes their pastas. The finished pasta is flash frozen to preserve as much of the nutrients and freshness as they can. After about 23 minutes in the freezer, they move into packaging, where pasta bags are loaded, weighed, sealed, and stamped so you always know you’re getting the freshest pasta.
From the facility, Let’s Pasta’s products make their way into retailers throughout Alberta, and across Canada. Not only are they available at select major retailers like Safeway, Sobeys, Federated and Calgary Co-Ops in Alberta, but you can also find their products at specialty shops like The Italian Centre Shop in Edmonton and Calgary, The Italian Store (also in Calgary) and Italian Bakery’s Mercato in St Albert. Some of the local customers, like Lethbridge’s Italian Table and Mocha Cabana (the pinnacles of local food in the city) will often opt to pick it up directly, giving Rocco and Tony the chance to connect directly with their supporters. Every customer is treated like family. Their products are also available through large-scale distributors like Sysco, GFS, Scarpone’s Great West Italian Importers and Italian Centre Shop making it easy to add to any restaurant order.
There’s a pasta for everyone in their product list. For the traditionalist, try the Four Cheese and Spinach Ravioli, or the Feta and Sundried Tomato Tortelloni. Feeling adventurous? Try the Veal and Prosciutto Tortelloni, or the Plant Based Baja Ravioli (stuffed with black beans, cheese, tomato, and cilantro). For a taste of the prairies, give the Buffalo and Blueberry Ravioli a try, filled with slow braised prairie bison, blueberries, and spinach. Some of their flavours are seasonal, so make sure to stock up on your favourites before they disappear!
“We try to mimic what our family has created, with the love and care that they took in making the products for our family,” says Owner Tony Rose. “We feel that we are keepers of our family food history that is passed on from generation to generation.”
The proof is in the pudding (or in this case, the pasta). In every bite, you can taste the love and passion that Let’s Pasta has for their local community, producers, and consumers.
To learn more about Let’s Pasta’s commitment to sustainable agriculture, watch the video below, or visit LetsPasta.com.