Since 1985, La Pasta has grown from an artisanal pasta maker to a foodservice and retail leader, manufacturing an extensive offering of healthy pastas and sauces, including its gluten-free, dairy-free, and organic certified options.
Don’t let the word healthy fool you; La Pasta’s flavors are complex and its products cry decadence. The company brings wholesome and unique artisanal pasta and sauces to markets across the United States.
When Alexis Konownitzine and Henrique Cogo first immigrated to the United States, thirty years ago, they likely would have never imagined owning a successful pasta company like La Pasta. Konownitzine purchased a pasta machine from his cousin and asked Cogo if he would be interested in becoming partners in a pasta making venture. Cogo agreed, and away they went. The two made pasta from a garage space and distributed it around Washington, DC using an old truck.
The partners were able to establish clientele by making contact with the restaurants and chefs whom they felt would be interested in the high quality, small batch and innovative pasta. The company expanded alongside its product range, establishing a reputation for a delicious product made with the freshest ingredients.
The company’s approach to pasta created complementary flavors and culinary artistry. La Pasta brought its delicious and distinctive fresh pastas and sauces of uncompromising quality to restaurants and chefs for almost two decades. It then naturally grew to include a retail line, built on the same artisanal-quality philosophy.
Since launching the retail line, not only have its products expanded but so has its geographic reach. In the United States, it has a presence on both the east and west coasts. La Pasta supplies Wholefoods, Earth Fair and Costco, as well as many independent markets nationwide. Throughout its growth, La Pasta has upheld its pledge to maintain quality, freshness and taste.
Each year, La Pasta attends food shows such as the Specialty Food Show’s Summer Fancy Food Show. At this show, the Sofi Awards are presented, the specialty food industry’s most prestigious honor. Each year, La Pasta is a major contender and has taken home a Sofi from 2011 through 2014. It has also received nods for its marinara sauce and last year’s fall and winter seasonal item: the beet, butternut squash and goat cheese ravioli.
“To get these awards, when you are competing against these very small, very culinary driven companies, I think it speaks a lot to our product, and we are very proud of them,” says La Pasta’s Director of Business Development Emily Buckley.
“It’s been growing exponentially, and it’s really exciting to see how the company is changing,” she says. “We redesigned the La Pasta company products and brand to reposition the company – which was an artisanal food producer – as an innovative and health conscious quality pasta enterprise.”
La Pasta is committed to using premium ingredients and marrying them to achieve original flavor combinations and aesthetically pleasing culinary masterpieces. “All of this, of course, comes at a premium, but we think it is worth it to have modest margins in order to produce a healthier, quality oriented product. We are just trying to change the food industry one company at a time.”
La Pasta has enlivened the pasta world, bringing together magnificent colors and flavors never before experienced. “For example, our beet, butternut squash and goat cheese item that won the Sofi Award last year has this deep pink interior with tan edges. It’s beautiful.”
Natural colors from fresh ingredients elevate the products La Pasta makes. From squid ink black and spinach green to the beautiful orange color of pumpkin, La Pasta produces vibrant-looking products whose beauty intensifies during the cooking process.
Just as its products originate from fresh sources, so too do its recipe ideas, which are the collaborative result of the passion of food lovers, industry trends and seasonal availability. The company’s resident chef then translates all of these culinary ideas into a tasty and visually appealing final product.
The possibilities are truly endless. La Pasta has customized proprietary items for several clients. One NFL team, for example, has requested southern-inspired raviolis and the results were shrimp and grit and pulled pork raviolis. La Pasta is also working with another team, creating striped ravioli in the team’s signature colors.
“We have a lot of flexibility in our food service line. We are not running large orders, and it’s not being pasteurized.” The flexibility allows the company to manufacture an extensive foodservice product line, in addition to being able to meet the changing needs and evolving tastes of the foodservice industry and its professional clientele.
La Pasta foodservice lines offer a variety of sauces, flat and ribbon pastas, short pastas, tortellini, tortelloni and gnocchi. With a broad array of pasta dies, La Pasta creates endless shapes of ravioli including raviolini, ravioli the size of your hand, panzotti, agnolotti, with over twenty standard filling options from which to choose.
The retail line, which is pasteurized and vacuum packed into nine-ounce plastic packaging, also comes in a variety of tastes, shapes and styles, including seasonal specialties. La Pasta’s signature sauces come in basil pesto, alfredo, puttanesca, marinara, eggplant tomato and pink vodka varieties. Buckley added that La Pasta’s retail line includes gluten-free and dairy-free options.
“We have everything from the innovative sweet potato, quinoa and kale or asparagus and gruyere raviolis to the traditional four cheese, spinach and cheese raviolis.”
La Pasta takes great care to obtain only the freshest, highest quality ingredients and requests letters of affidavit from its suppliers to ensure that the products are free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The company has also made changes to some of its cheese and dairy suppliers to ensure products are hormone-free.
Unlike its competitors, La Pasta refuses to compromise freshness and quality by using processed alternatives. “We’re not using additives,” she explained, “we’re not using enhancing powders. It’s like we like to say – made in our kitchen like you would in yours.”
The stringent internal quality control, SQF (Safe Quality Food Institute) certifications and the regulatory requirements of its specialty products (its gluten-free, dairy-free, and organic lines), enable La Pasta to produce consistent output. “We make a point to continue to, despite our growth, produce a quality-oriented product though wholesome manufacturing techniques, and that, of course, makes it healthier for you.”
La Pasta’s production generally runs two shifts a day, six days a week, at its 16,000 square foot facility where its thirty-two employees work hard to meet demand. La Pasta has the additional capacity to take on more orders, though eventually it may require further space to keep up with the growing demand.
If the last three years are any indication, it is likely that La Pasta will experience great success in the future, considering its commitment to, and delivery of, product quality and customer satisfaction, with its growing retail lines driving its growth. To meet new demand, increasing productivity and efficiency, La Pasta continues to invest in new technology and machinery.
Moving forward, after taking full advantage of the US marketplace, the company plans to expand only if it makes sense to do so. Once La Pasta has reached its maximum capacity at its current facility, it is possible that the company could make its way north into Canada, where a real love affair for fresh, innovative pasta flavors exists.
Having become one of the foremost manufacturers of fresh pastas and sauces in the US, it is important, as La Pasta continues to grow, that it never loses the culinary essence that has helped it achieve the level of success it enjoys.
“We make a huge effort to never oversee the quality of our product and to keep it as fresh and innovative and about food as we can, and not just about running a business.” She conveyed a real sense of passion for food, flavor and creativity and left me wanting a heaping plate of La Pasta’s ravioli.