Let’s face it, it’s not easy to make new friends as an adult. In an increasingly digital world, in which we wear headphones on the train and widely shop online, making social connections requires serious effort. Throw in a global pandemic with quarantines, masks, and germaphobia, and meeting new people only got that much trickier.
Enter Pasta Social Club, with a motto that reads: “Make ravioli, make friends.” The carbs club was founded in 2018 by Meryl Feinstein, a Rockville, Maryland native who, at the time, was in her late-20s and living in New York City. She had recently honeymooned in Italy (the origin of her pasta-making obsession) and was fresh out of culinary school at the Institute of Culinary Education, honing her pastry and spaghetti-making skills at Italian hotspots Lilia and Misi in Brooklyn.
In search of a wider community of like-minded pasta people like herself, Feinstein started a website and a series of supper club-style dinners. Even after moving to Austin in 2019, she “commuted” to New York City monthly to continue hosting her frequently sold-out dinners. Meanwhile, she also turned her attention towards Instagram, documenting new noodle techniques and recipes.
“I didn’t go into it with a business plan, and I still don’t have one,” she admits. She did not strive to become an influencer scheduling posts 24/7 (she still does not schedule content) or creating sponsored posts. She simply hoped that over time, she would be able to turn the hobby-turned-project into a job.
Her online presence steadily grew, and she captured the attention of culinary community board Food52 and Food & Wine, for which she started developing recipes. Her recipe inspiration is somewhat seasonal, as she believes “produce tastes better in the season it grows.”
But Feinstein also takes inspiration from Jewish and Eastern European cooking and flavors; “I’m not Italian, but I have other things to share from my background,” she notes. Feinstein, who grew up keeping Kosher and has fluctuated between vegan, vegetarian, and pescatarian diets, typically develops meatless recipes (with some exceptions).
Then came the pandemic, and Pasta Social Club had to adapt. Like baking sourdough bread, she decided pasta-making could be a meditative new hobby for stir-crazy quarantining periods. People flocked to her Pasta Social Club handle for quality pasta content. Feinstein was quicker than most to jump on the virtual class bandwagon, and she was already hosting online classes by the second week of lockdown. “I already knew how to teach a pasta class; it was a natural evolution,” she says.
And evolve she did. Just a few years in, Pasta Social Club’s Instagram has climbed to about 226,000 followers, her Substack e-newsletter has more than 11,000 subscribers, she offers online and in-person classes monthly, and she even wrote a cookbook that comes out this fall.
“I would never have guessed how it took off,” she says. Feinstein, who still runs the account herself, does not churn out content just for the numbers (“I’m a stickler for quality over quantity,” she says). Her strategy has always been simple, to just be genuine and educational. “I always want people to learn something from my posts…I want something to be worth saving,” she says.
After two years in Austin, Feinstein spent another year in Birmingham. Last summer she finally returned to her DMV roots, where she and her husband plan to stay for the foreseeable future. “[We] love the atmosphere, livability, and people,” says the current D.C. resident, adding “the food scene now is just mind-blowing.” Her favorite spots as of late include Tonari, Lutece, Petite Cerise, Bar Spero, Centrolina, and Grazie Nonna.
Feinstein is now busy establishing D.C. as the new home base for Pasta Social Club. She holds classes at La Cosecha’s studio kitchen in the Union Market district, supplies recipes for Domestique’s wine club, and partners with area organizations like FRESHFARM and the Common Grain Alliance (CGA). Feinstein was recently inducted as a D.C. chapter member of the esteemed female hospitality group Les Dames d’Escoffier International.
Her upcoming cookbook, Pasta Every Day, is available starting September 12. The ethos of the book — that anyone can make fresh pasta at home — is largely focused on pasta-making techniques, with illustration-heavy instructions on preparing combos like winter squash and brown butter ravioli or cavatelli with Calabrian chili sauce. The book’s structure involves “mixing and matching” pasta doughs, shapes, fillings, and sauces, “separating the components to give everyone autonomy to do what they want.” She’ll be signing copies at Dupont’s farmers market on September 10 and Bold Fork Books on September 14.
For those interesting in experiencing her pasta-making practice firsthand, Feinstein plans to resume in-person classes in D.C. this fall (with virtual options available for non-locals). Classes are announced on her website and Instagram and typically sell out fast.
After several moves to new cities herself, Feinstein’s original goal—to make new connections with others over pasta—remains unchanged.
“It’s a little bit selfish because I want to meet people too,” she jokes. Five years and a big nationwide-turned-global following later, she stays approachable in order to create a “low-key, warm, and welcoming environment.”
If you take a look at the Pasta Social Club Instagram, you will see a lot of pasta—but not a lot of Feinstein herself.
“It’s not about me,” reflects the “camera-shy” founder, whose name is not listed on the account. “It’s about learning something and bringing people together.”
—Tierney Plumb contributed to this report