Pasta artist Linda Miller Nicholson to make live installation at Food & Wine Classic
In the opening pages of her cookbook, the pasta artist Linda Miller Nicholson compares her Technicolor spin on the Italian staple to a Buddhist monk’s sand mandala.
Like those sacred creations, she reasons, her museum-worthy, meticulously crafted lasagna sheets, fettucine and gnocchi are made to be destroyed.
“Art cannot be possessed, it is something that should be enjoyed and embodied,” she writes. “Food, at the confluence of science and taste, amounts to edible art.”
Nicholson has become an unlikely food star and artist, using pasta as her medium. Some 268,000 Instagram followers ogle her eye-popping creations and her YouTube channel includes a video of her making “pasta balloons” that’s racked up a quarter-million views.
She’s figured out how to make dozens of distinct colors, dying pasta dough naturally — her blue comes from butterfly pea flowers, yellow from turmeric, pink from dragon fruit — while developing a decorative process through which she can make minute designs on her pasta pieces. She’s re-created van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” candy canes, Mario Kart-inspired mushroom cartoons. Last year she appeared on “The Today Show” with a pasta portrait of co-hosts Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford.
Nicholson will be in Aspen for the Food & Wine Classic, teaming with the Italian beer company Peroni, which will run a specialty bar in the Grand Tasting Pavillion, where Nicholson is staging an interactive pasta art installation. Guests can put down their glass to help her make what’s being billed as a “farfalle pasta puzzle” and mural while she serves up dishes.
Last fall, Nicholson released the cookbook “Pasta, Pretty Please.” It includes photo portraits of her museum-worthy pasta creations, meticulous directions for how to make your own pasta, the tricks and tools of the trade, and original recipes. But it’s also a mini-memoir about her journey into pasta, which is far more interesting than it could be expected to be.
Growing up in small-town southern Idaho, she spent summers with her grandparents in California, where her grandmother put her on pasta-rolling duty. Helping out, and sipping grandma’s Michelob, she got a glimpse of her future life in pasta.
“For the first time in my young life, I felt like I was part of something,” she wrote.
She turned vegetarian as a kid after her father slaughtered her pet calf, Slobber, and fed him to the family. The turn away from meat led to a love of pasta, solidified during a hard-partying trip to Italy at 19 and a later two-year stint living there.
But the extraordinary decorative adventures in pasta that made her famous began more recently, when her own son entered a picky eating stage. Nicholson struggled to feed him vegetables or anything healthy. But he’d scarf down pasta. So she started making it fresh and infusing her dough with fruit, vegetables and superfoods in an attempt to get the kid some nutrients.
The colorful pieces and dishes created by these additions led Nicholson into her new life as a professional pasta artist, Instagram star, author and pasta-maker to the stars.
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