Flat Rock resident leads popular pasta-making classes
Launa Marie Tierney learned to cook from her mother. Well, her grandmother and her mother. And maybe a little from her great grandmother, as well. And Uncle Tony, and Uncle Vito, and … the list goes on. Like many whose heritage traces back to southern Italy, Tierney’s family’s specialty has always been pasta, particularly the homemade variety. It’s something she’s started teaching to anyone who wants to learn, hosting pasta-making classes in her home kitchen.
“My very first memory with pasta was with my great grandma,” she recalls. “She brought over her pasta stick from Italy, and they were poor, so they just used flour and water to make their pasta dough. She would make the dough and roll it out on this little wooden stick. It would wrap around the stick like a telephone cord, and she would slide it right off into a wicker basket, and my job was to take that wicker basket and dump it out on her bed where all of the pasta would dry, and that would be dinner.”
Where Tierney’s maternal family hails from, Calabria and Sicily, handmade pasta was a necessity to feed the family, a hard-earned staple — not a feat of artisanship, much less a luxury. The knowledge was carried with them in their passage to the States early last century and handed down through their family as they moved from New York, New Orleans, and Philadelphia, through West Virginia and Detroit, and eventually, about a decade ago, to Flat Rock.
Still, today, one doesn’t need fancy equipment to make pasta, just a little flour and some water or eggs. While working at the Flat Rock Village Bakery, Tierney got in the habit of bringing her pasta to her coworkers, who eventually asked how to make it.
“It started as a cooking exchange,” she explains. “You teach me tamales, I’ll teach you how to make pasta. You teach me your Brazil bread, and I’ll teach you ravioli. It was really starting to grow, and then COVID hit.” Disappointed, she followed her kids’ advice to sell pasta at the Hendersonville Farmers Market. But in March of 2021, she launched her own business, Homemade Pasta Noodles With Launa Marie, from her house. “I’ve had more than 60 classes since [then],” she reports.
Making pasta isn’t hard in theory, but there are specific techniques for nearly every style of pasta imaginable, and matters of texture, dough handling, and moisture are crucial, which can make it tricky to learn on your own. YouTube tutorials and cookbooks don’t always cut it — but Tierney’s approach demystifies the process.
Starting from a pile of flour and a whole raw egg, students learn to knead their dough until it reaches the right consistency, and how to work a pasta machine to laminate (a folding-and-texturizing process), stretch, and cut the dough into noodles. The class provides a good foundation that allows you to dive deeper into the world of pasta making — or keep as a handy back-pocket skill for a dinner party down the road.
“For the first class, everyone makes their fettuccine, and everyone gets to take that home, and then we eat fettuccine with the sauce, salad, and bread,” she says. “And if you choose to, you can come back for Pasta 102, which is all about ravioli.”
She also offers classes on making pasta shapes and scratch-made lasagna, and can coordinate special private classes in a client’s own kitchen. Most of the classes last about two hours, and tend to be leisurely experiences. With no set schedules, the events are as flexible as the attendees need them to be. Tierney hosts a lot of them in the middle of the day, others for couple’s date nights in the evenings. She occasionally leads classes and demos in Hendersonville at Wine Sage and Gourmet and at Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards.
“We’ve been making pasta our whole life. It’s just a natural occurrence,” she says. While most folks this month are dealing with turkey and stuffing, Tierney’s family is indulging a whole different tradition.
“Every year we have pasta day, which is usually in November, and everyone comes over and we make pasta in preparation for Christmas. Fettuccine, lasagna sheets, gnocchi … and hundreds of ravioli.”