Naked or Dressed
How do you like your pasta?
By Jan Walsh
Photography by Robin Colter
Bare Naked Noodles is a local business, making small batch pastas in many flavors.
After 25 years as a financial advisor Hoover, Alabama resident, Linda Croley, founder and owner of Bare Naked Noodles, started the business in 2011 with a mission of bringing fresh pasta using local ingredients to the Birmingham market. Bare Naked Noodles incorporates Hamm Farms produce, Stone Hollow Farms’ goat cheese, and Amelia's spiced pecans, along with local duck eggs and chicken eggs. Having taken cooking classes for years—including Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, Pasta 101 with Giuliano Bugialli, Italian cooking series at the Chicago Hospitality Institute as well as cooking alongside her grandmother’s apron her entire childhood—the success of this growing business is a dream come true to Croley. “I have a passion for pasta because it makes me remember my family growing up, my grandmother and grandfather in the kitchen, my mom, aunt, and cousin at Sunday suppers in an Italian family home in New York.” And like many successful entrepreneurs, Croley has learned by doing and has a sound support system of family, friends, and local chefs.
To date the most popular pasta is Buttons and Bacon Ravioli, a mixture of shiitake cremini and button mushrooms with bacon wrapped in a little dough to form the perfect ravioli bite. “Coming up with the unusual flavors of my pasta is just bringing my Northern heritage and Italian background to what is available in the South,” Corley describes. “Collard greens and sausage is the perfect example of that melting pot coming together. Collards are great when they are wilted down with olive oil, garlic, and onions, combined with a little bit of Italian sausage and folded in some ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan, a truly have a great Southern ravioli .”
With a tagline of “pasta so good it does not need to get dressed,” I decided to put this to the test. Croley provided a sampling of pastas:
Collard Greens and Sausage, Curried Pumpkin, Spinach and Cheese, and Sausage Peppers and Onions to try—along with and without her Tomato Basil Sauce. The pastas cook in less than five minutes and make a lovely plate mixed together, with and without the sauce. The pasta is tender and stuffed full of these lovely, local ingredients. The Tomato Basil Sauce has a nice texture that is not too smooth yet no tomato chunks and a dose of heat with balanced acidity. It is made of tomatoes, onions, carrots, celery, garlic, fresh basil, cracked red pepper, salt and black pepper—no unnecessary or unnatural ingredients. I prefer all the pastas dressed in the sauce with the exception of the pumpkin. I like it naked. The pastas also lend themselves to other finishes as well. They are so simple to prepare that I will enjoy experimenting with what I have on hand as toppings, such as Italian cheeses, balsamic vinaigrette, or simply—Pappa’s Vince’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Croley’s personal favorite, lasagna, is soon to be made into a new flavor of ravioli. In addition to ravioli and lasagna, Bare Naked Noodles offers dry pastas, biscotti, fresh pasta, gluten free pastas, orzo and two other sauces—Mushroom Marsala Sauce and Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce. And for Valentine’s Day, there is a special offering of Burgundy Pasta with Pear, Pecan, and Cheese. Look for Croley and her pastas at local farmers markets: Crestline Market, Pepper Place Market, Summit Market. Bare Naked Noodles products are also sold locally at Piggly Wiggly’s Clairmont, Homewood and River Run locations, V. Richards, The Pantry and New York Butcher Shoppe, Western in Highland Avenue Mountain Brook, and Rocky Ridge. Several local restaurants serve the pastas. And you can shop online on Bare Naked Noodles website
magazine February, 2015