MEGAN BARONE, CHEF and owner of the pop-up Mixtape Pasta, says pasta was “always a part of me.” She made it with her mom as a kid, and fresh pasta always was a part of the holidays. She started teaching pasta-making classes in 2010 and over the years worked as a personal chef and recipe developer, but in 2017, her life took a turn, and she stepped away from pasta and feeding people.
“I just stopped. I had some medical stuff happen; my body needed to rest. And then I got into wine, and wine took over my life,” she says.
Barone worked in the natural wine world with importers for three years, but beginning in January 2020, there were looming wine tariffs, and she was “genuinely fearful I was going to lose my job.” She was beginning to look ahead and realized she missed the connections she made when she was feeding people. Then, the coronavirus pandemic hit, upending life for everyone.
“I started making pasta for my clients who were staying open and also essential workers — I have a lot [of friends] who work in grocery,” she says.
A few Instagram posts later, and friends began asking how they could get in on Barone’s pasta magic. By May 2020, she had launched Mixtape Pasta full-time — the name is a nod to her love of making mixtapes — and began working out of the commercial kitchen space at Marseille in Capitol Hill’s Melrose Market.
Orders go live every Tuesday morning. The menu consists of two types of pasta: One is an egg-based, la sfoglia dough, either fettuccine or tagliatelle; the other is an extruded pasta. Occasionally, there’s an accompanying sauce. People order online and schedule a Saturday pickup at one of five Seattle-area locations or a Sunday pickup in Tacoma. Barone also does limited delivery.
And while she does have what she calls “basic” flavors available at Rainshadow Meats all the time, the pasta flavors of Mixtape are inspiring: carrot and harissa pasta sheets and pizza-flavored rigatoni. Caramelized onion and fennel fettuccine and charred onion and activated charcoal “goth” pasta for Halloween.
“I call it an art project that’s grown into a business,” Barone says.
Her flavor inspiration partially comes from seasonality and the weather, but it also can come from music, current events or even “collective anxiety,” she says with a laugh, referencing the “election anxiety” pasta she offered in November.
She’s done purple pasta inspired by Prince, and a Spanish adobo pasta inspired by a regular customer.
The best part of all this pasta for Barone is “getting to actually collaborate and participate and feed people on a scale that I didn’t know I’d ever be capable of doing. And knowing that maybe I’m inspiring their creativity, too.”
In a time that has felt lonely for many, Mixtape Pasta has been a connection Barone “didn’t think would be possible.”
“It’s a way of being less alone. It’s been so powerful. I think it almost saved me in a way,” she says.
She’s had a few 120-pound weeks but is mostly averaging about 60 pounds of pasta per week. Additionally, she’s expanding to wholesale, and has her pasta on the menu at Frolik Kitchen and Bar in downtown Seattle.
“I started a business during a pandemic. It’s not thriving, but it’s going better than most people’s,” she says.
Arugula Lemon Pesto
Yield: 1 pint
This peppery, bright and verdant sauce is like a kick-start of fresh springlike flavor when we’re still waiting for the ground to thaw. I love it on just about anything: pasta of course, either plain, with some capers and smoked salmon; as a sauce for a Spanish-style pizza with shaved manchego cheese and jamon serrano; or just spooned on top of grilled halibut or some goat cheese. It’s never around for too long, which is why I generally make a double batch and freeze one for later. — Megan Barone
2 cups packed arugula leaves
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 2-ounce tin anchovies in olive oil (it’s so worth it — but if you’re squeamish, use a teaspoon of vegetarian Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce)
¼ cup toasted pine nuts (I like walnuts or pecans, too — I often use what I’ve got lying around)
2 lemons, zested, and the juice of 1
¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup extra virgin olive oil (plus more to cover for storage)
In a food processor, combine the arugula, garlic, anchovies, nuts and lemon zest/ juice. Pulse to combine until smooth. Scrape down the sides; add the Parmesan; and with the machine running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Taste, and season with salt if necessary (you might not need to, with the anchovy). Transfer to a jar, and pour enough olive oil to cover the surface of the pesto. Use within 2 weeks, or freeze for up to 2 months.
From Megan Barone, Mixtape Pasta