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Archive for Pasta-Pizza

PRODUCTS: 5 New Favorite Specialty Foods

Four of this month’s roundup of favorite products will brighten your dinner table, and the last will satisfy your sweet tooth.

In alphabetical order, they are:

1. CRACKER BARREL Oven BAKED MACARONI & CHEESE

Cracker Barrel Cheese’s premium mac & cheese line has launched Oven Baked Macaroni & Cheese (photo #1) in three flavors:

  • Sharp Cheddar, seasoned with paprika and ground mustard.
  • Sharp White Cheddar, seasoned with black pepper and ground mustard.
  • Cheddar Havarti, seasoned with garlic and chives.
  •  
    Fans of oven-baked mac and cheese prefer it for the crispy edges and the toasted bread crumbs. The bread crumbs are included, as well as flavorful seasonings; and the level of crispiness is up to you.

    Just boil the noodles and mix the seasoning packet with melted butter and milk. Add the cheese sauce and the flavor mix, spoon into a baking dish and top with the toasted breadcrumbs.

    Get yours at major retailers nationwide. Suggested Retail Price is $3.99 for a 12.34-ounce package.

    For more information visit the Cracker Barrel Cheese website.
     
     
    2. DELTA BLUES RICE GRITS

    Delta Blues Rice (that’s the Mississippi Delta) is a fourth-generation family business that grows artisan rice. If you think that all white rice tastes the same, you won’t believe how much more flavorful it is than supermarket brands.

    The company sells the rice in white and brown rice and rice grits, all made in small batches and milled for freshness.

    We’ve enjoyed cornmeal grits since we were small fry, but had never tasted rice grits until the folks at Delta Blues Rice sent us a sample (photos #2 and #3).

    We devoured the package and ordered more. For those who avoid corn-based foods, they’re a real find.

    If you come from a grits-loving family, load up on them as gifts or favors for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

    Get yours at DeltaBluesRice.com.
     
     
    3. ENTUBE FLAVOR PASTES

    Big flavors come from little tubes. Entube is a line of flavorful pastes in three international flavors: curry, harissa and umeboshi (photos #4 and #5).

    These are great to have on hand and are so easy to use. Instead of adding more salt when a dish needs some pizzazz, just add a bit of flavor paste—to anything from grains to cheese fondue to soups and stews.

    We tried two of the three flavors: Curry and Harissa. Here’s how we used them.

    3a. Entube Harissa Paste

  • Dip: Combine with yogurt to your desired spice level and use as dip for crudités or tortilla chips.
  • Sauce: Stir some paste into pasta sauce or the hollandaise sauce for Eggs Benedict (quite wonderful). With a mushroom sauce for roast chicken, add 1-1/2 teaspoons for 1 cup sauce.
  • Spread: Add to mayo for a great sandwich spread.
  •  
    Roast Chicken: About 15 minutes before the chicken is due to come out of the oven, combine harissa-flavored plain yogurt with the hot drippings. Baste the chicken twice, five minutes apart. For the second basting, add the juice of 1/2 lemon to the yogurt and drippings, along with a bit of kosher salt to taste. This will slightly caramelize and crisp the skin.

    Grilled Lamb: Morroccan lamb dishes are classically made with a harissa spice rub. We made a rack of lamb with the yogurt-Harissa Paste mix (4 tablespoons yogurt with 1 teaspoon paste) and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Brush it in on at the start of roasting and once more 5 minutes from the end. It perks up the slightly gamy flavor of lamb beautifully. (Cooking time for medium rare lamb is 22 minutes in a 425°F oven.)

       

    Cracker Barrel Baked Mac & Cheese

    Delta Blues Rice Grits

    Rice Grits

    Entube Flavor Pastes

    Paella With Harissa

    [1] We love baked mac & cheese with crispy edges (photo courtesy Cracker Barrel). [2] Calling all grits lovers for great rice grits (photo courtesy Delta Blues Rice). [3] Rice grits (photo courtesy Neniemi Food). [4] Entube flavor pastes and [5] Entube harissa spices up paella (photos courtesy Entube | Facebook).

     
    Moroccan Chicken Kabobs: Cube 1 pound of chicken breasts and marinate for 3-4 hours in 3 teaspoons Harissa Paste, juice of 1 lemon, 2 crushed garlic cloves and 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, with an optional teaspoon of smoked paprika. Skewer onto pre-soaked (30 minutes) wooden skewers or lightly oiled metal skewers. Broil or grill, turning often. Brush with the marinade halfway through and continue until browned and cooked through, 16 minutes total. Serve hot.

    3b. Entube Curry Paste

    Mushroom Sauce: Boost the umami flavor in creamy mushroom sauces. Add as much paste as you like, tasting as you go in 1/2 teaspoon increments. The curry flavor was not overpowering and added depth to the character of the mushrooms. This combination also works in mushroom tarts.

    Grilled Shrimp: Marinate 1 pound deveined shrimp in a yogurt marinade made with 1/2 cup yogurt and 2 teaspoons of curry paste, the juice of 1 lime, mustard oil or coconut oil, chili powder to taste and 2 teaspoons of grated, peeled ginger root. Marinate in the fridge for 2-4 hours. Just before grilling (on medium-high), remove shrimp and wipe off the excess marinade with paper towels. Grill until black spots begin to appear, about 3 minutes per side. Delicious!

    The one complaint we have with the pastes is that there is too much added ascorbic acid (vitamin C)—almost 20%. If you have a sophisticated palate, you may notice a slightly medicinal acidic tang that is not as clean and lively as would have been given by lemon or lime. You can mask it by adding some real lemon or lime juice.

    Find a store locator on the company website.

     

    Salt With Sea Vegetables

    Werther's Cocoa Creme Caramels

    Werther's Sugar Free Caramels

    [6] Sea salt meets seaweed in these tasty blends (photo courtesy Sea Veg). [7] Werther’s new Cocoa Crème Soft Caramels and [8] longtime favorites, the sugar-free caramels line (photos courtesy Werther’s Original).

     

    4. MAINE MADE SEA SEASONINGS

    This naturally iodized sea salt has a little something extra: sea vegetables, including dulse and kelp, seaweeds known for their high vitamin and mineral content.

    The entire line of seaweed-based products are harvested in Maine waters; and the line is targeted to people who want to get the most nutrition they can from their foods.

    Here are the nutritional values of both seaweeds.

    Not that we don’t want the best nutrition; but we like these sea salts for their flavor, especially with rice and other grains and starches. And, we’re big flavor fans of Japanese seaweed, dried or fresh [which is actually reconstituted dry seaweed].

    The company offers variations of the sea salt with added cayenne or garlic; and with other seaweeds. Another product of interest is the applewood-smoked nori sheets.

    Find out more at SeaVeg.com.
     
     
    5. WERTHER’S ORIGINAL NEW COCOA CREME SOFT CARAMELS

    Werther’s newest flavor can be attributed to American palates: a survey of more than 1,000 American adults found that 44% chose caramel as their favorite candy flavor to combine with chocolate. The next closest is mint, at 19%.

    Werther’s Original Cocoa Crème Soft Caramels pair their yummy soft caramel with a cocoa crème filling.

    They join Werther’s other dual-flavor caramels, including Caramel Apple and Coffee Caramel.

    We love soft caramels. Aside from the pricey ones from artisan chocolatiers, Werther’s is our favorite everyday brand.

    Another thing we love about the brand is the sugar-free options.

    The line includes hard, chewy, soft and filled caramels, as well as the sugar-free caramels in seven flavors (the chewy sugar-free caramels and chocolate caramels are a must-try) and caramel popcorn.

    As they say at the company, they’re a treat that’s truly “werth it.”

    For more information visit Werther’s Original USA.

     

      

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    RECIPE: Ravioli Lasagna For National Ravioli Day

    Ravioli Lasagna

    Pumpkin Ravioli Lasagna

    Ravioli Lasagna

    Ravioli Lasagna

    [1] Beef and sausage ravioli lasagna. [2] Pumpkin ravioli lasagna (both photos courtesy Taste Of Home). [3] An even ravioli top (photo courtesy Oxmoor House). [4] Adding the layer of frozen ravioli (photo courtesy Design Mom).

     

    March 20th is National Ravioli Day.

    We like ravioli in any form, but have been especially delighted with ravioli lasagna.

    Bless the person who first thought of the trick of using cooked ravioli instead of lasagna noodles. (Alternatively, you can use penne or other tube pasta, but ravioli supplies added filling.)

    What looks like a complicated recipe couldn’t be easier when you use frozen ravioli (no cooking required) and store-bought pasta sauce.

    Prep time is 25 minutes, bake time is 40 minutes.
     
    RECIPE: RAVIOLI LASAGNA

    We adapted this recipe from one by Patricia Smith for Taste Of Home.

    The recipe uses sausage or cheese ravioli and adds ground beef. But you can make vegetable ravioli, chicken ravioli, or anything you prefer. Here’s another Taste Of Home recipe for (here’s the Pumpkin Ravioli Lasagna (scroll down).

    You can vary the recipe any way you like. For example:

  • Substitute ground chicken, turkey or textured vegetable protein (TVP) for the beef.
  • Add veggies via two layers of frozen, thawed spinach or kale (pressed dry), frozen peas or medley.
  • Substitute Alfredo sauce (cream sauce) for the tomato-based sauce.
  • Substitute vegetable ravioli for the meat or cheese versions.
  • We’ve even use ratatouille as the sauce, when we’ve made a large batch (pulse it into a chunky vegetable sauce.
  •  
    Ingredients For 6-8 Servings

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 jar (28 ounces) spaghetti sauce
  • 1 package (25 ounces) frozen sausage or cheese ravioli
  • 1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Dried herbs/spices: (chili flakes, garlic chips, oregano)
  • Optional garnish: minced fresh herbs (basil, parsley, thyme)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Cook the beef over medium heat in a large skillet, until it is no longer pink. Drain.

    2. LAYER in a greased 2-1/2-quart baking dish: 1/3 of the spaghetti sauce, 1/2 of the ravioli, 1/2 of the cooked beef, and 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat the layers. Top with the remaining sauce and cheese.

    3. COVER and bake for 40-45 minutes or until heated through.
     
     
    THE HISTORY OF RAVIOLI

    China gets the credit for inventing not only strand pasta—thin chow mein noodles like Italian angel hair, chow fun noodles like Italian linguine, chow fun noodles like Italian pappardelle, and stuffed wontons like Italian ravioli.

     
    When it arrived Italy, stuffed pasta (another name for the category is pillow pasta) was served with Italian-style pasta sauces.

    Some food historians believe the name “ravioli” derives from the old Italian word riavvolgere, to wrap.

    Others believe that the dish was named after a renowned 13th-century chef named Ravioli, who lived in the Republica di Genova (a.k.a. Genoa, today the Italian region of Liguria).

    The record on him is scant, but according to DeLallo Authentic Italian Foods, Chef Ravioli is credited with the invention of the stuffed pasta composed of two layers of thin pasta dough with a filling sealed between them.

    Interestingly, the Venetian Marco Polo, who brought the concept of stuffed pasta back from China, had subsequently become a soldier in Venice’s war with Genova. He was taken prisoner by Genova in 1296 and released in 1299, to return to Venice [source].

    We don’t have dates for Chef Ravioli, but might he have heard about the stuffed wontons via someone who heard it from Polo? Given how scant the record is on the chef, we can say with almost-certainty that we’ll never know!

    Here’s much more on the history of ravioli.

     
      

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    RECIPE: Chicken Tortolloni On Arugula

    This quick and easy recipe, from Buitoni, combines two different types of their refrigerated fresh tortolloni with fresh arugula.

    Tortellini are larger versions of the bite-size tortellini.

    You can also substitute ravioli or other stuffed pasta (check out the different types of pasta).

    Serve it for lunch, dinner, or as a first course for dinner. We also enjoyed the leftovers cold the next day.

    Prep time is 10 minutes, total time is 15 minutes.

    RECIPE: ARUGULA, PESTO & GOAT CHEESE TORTELLONI

    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 1 package Buitoni Refrigerated Chicken & Roasted Garlic Tortelloni (20 ounces) or 2 packages Buitoni Three Cheese Tortellini (9 ounces)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup Buitoni Refrigerated Pesto with Basil (7 ounces)—or substitute your own pesto
  • 1/4 cup julienne-cut sun-dried tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 3 to 4 cups baby and/or micro arugula
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled goat cheese
  • Optional: toasted pine nuts
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREPARE pasta according to package directions; drain, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water.

    2. PLACE the pasta and reserved water in large bowl; add pesto and tomatoes. Toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Add arugula and cheese; toss gently. Top with pine nuts.
     
     
    MORE TORTELLONI RECIPES

    Tortelloni With Cherry Tomato Sauce

    Tortelloni with Roasted Eggplant & Cherry Tomato Sauce

    Tortelloni With Shaved Brussels Sprouts & Pomegranate Arils

     

    Ravioli With Arugula

    Tortolloni With Brussels Sprouts

    Buitoni Chicken & Garlic Tortelloni

    [1] Chicken & Roasted Garlic Tortellini with fresh arugula and goat cheese. [2] The same tortollini with Brussels sprouts and pomegranate arils. [3] Look for Buitoni Tortellini in the refrigerator case (photos courtesy Buitoni).

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: How To Sauce Pasta

    Mound Of Sauce On Pasta

    How To Sauce Pasta

    Angel Hair Pasta

    [1] Don’t sauce pasta like this. It may look neat, but it doesn’t cover all the pasta, and eating it can be a mess (photo courtesy International Pasta Association). [2] The correct way: Toss the pasta and sauce in a pot or bowl to fully cover each strand (photo courtesy All-Clad). [3] Authentic saucing (photo courtesy Davio’s Boston.

     

    Every great pasta experience requires a great sauce. It’s not just the flavor of the sauce that matters, but when and how the sauce and pasta get come together.

    Correctly saucing your pasta is the difference between cooking authentic Italian and following an incorrect culinary path.

    Americans have been trained to place a pool of sauce in the middle of a plate of pasta.

    No! No! Do not pour sauce on top of un-sauced pasta, as in the top photo. According to DeLallo, an importer of Italian foods, a dish of pasta served in this manner in Italy would be a disaster.

    Americans have been accustomed to serving pasta as a mound of undressed spaghetti or other noodles in a bowl or on a dish, topped with a ladleful sauce.

    We couldn’t track down how this practice originated, although it is definitely an American practice. It likely began in Italian-American restaurants, and our guess is that the first cook who topped pasta with sauce this way did it for aesthetic reasons. It does look prettier.

    But it isn’t as functional.

    In authentic Italian cuisine, the sauce is always incorporated into the pasta before serving. Every strand of pasta is thus coated with sauce, and the eater doesn’t have to work to coat his/her own—many of us creating drips and spatters in the process.

    Plus, the amount of sauce used is just enough to coat the pasta—not to create a sea of sauce. Authentic Italian pasta dishes do not swim in sauce.

    SAUCE YOUR PASTA THE CORRECT WAY

    1. Heat the sauce by the time you add the pasta to the boiling salted water. Keep the sauce on a low simmer until the pasta is ready. Your pasta shouldn’t wait for your sauce to cook; the sauce should be awaiting the pasta.

    2: Moderation is everything. Use at most a quarter cup of thick sauce per person (such a tomato- or cream- based sauce), or two to three tablespoons of an oil-based sauce. The ratio is 1.5 cups sauce to 1 pound of cooked pasta, or 1 cup of oil-based sauce to 1 pound of cooked pasta.

    3: Reserve some of the pasta water in another container when you drain the pasta (we use a cup). Never rinse the pasta: That will eliminate important starches that help the sauce stick.

    4. Return the empty saucepan to the stove, over high heat. Add the drained hot pasta and the heated sauce, and toss to coat evenly (hot pasta will absorb more sauce and flavor). This quick toss in a hot pan allows the two components to meld and and create a beautiful flavor and texture. The starches from the pasta will slightly thicken the sauce.

    Tip: We’re a bit messy, so rather than clean sauce spatter from the stove, we first toss the pasta and sauce in a large bowl; then add it to the pan.

    5: Add a couple tablespoons of the reserved hot pasta water to the pan, to smooth out the sauce. Reserved pasta water contains starch that can be used to thicken the consistency of the sauce, so add another couple of spoons if you like. Total time of the pasta and sauce together on the stove is about 2 minutes.

    6: Transfer the pasta to a warm serving bowl or individual plates.

     
    10+ MORE WAYS TO LOVE YOUR PASTA

    Pasta terms and shapes: a glossary of explanations with photos.

    Ingredient substitutes: What to do when you don’t have sauce or parmesan.

    Leftover pasta for breakfast: You’ll love it!

    Make stir-fried pasta with leftover pasta.

    Turn leftover pasta into an antipasto.

    More recipes for leftover pasta, from green salad to cole slaw.

    How to sneak veggies into pasta: Your family won’t complain!

    Breadcrumbs on pasta: a Southern Italian tradition.

    Dessert pasta: from berry lasagna to chocolate pasta.

    Toast uncooked pasta for a toasty, nutty flavor.

    The history of pasta: It began in China.
     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Classico Riserva Pasta Sauces

    Having grown up with a mom whose acclaimed pasta sauce set a bar, we never liked supermarket sauces, even in our less-picky, less flush college days.

    As we grew into long work days and a paycheck, we treated ourselves to Sauces ’n Love, its shelf-stable Scarpetta line, and other high-end brands.

    All have the same thing in common: top-of-the-line tomatoes, which means that no sugar needs to be added to sweeten dull tomatoes (the corollary problem being that the typical popular brand adds more than a pinch of sugar).

    When we don’t have time to make their own—or when tomatoes are not in season, which is most of the year—we often pick up a bottle of Riserva from Classico, a brand owned by Heinz.

    The Classico brand’s pasta and pizza sauces, pesto and bruschetta are familiar to many consumers.

    The Riserva line’s vine-ripened tomatoes mean that there’s no sugar added. That’s our kind of sauce (and given all the hidden sugar in purchased foods, it’s not easy to find popularly-priced sugar-free tomato sauces).

    A 24-ounce jar is $4.72 with free shipping at Walmart (for orders of $50 or more—you don’t even have to schlep it!).

    Varieties include:

  • Arrabbiata Sauce
  • Eggplant Artichoke Sauce
  • Marinara Sauce
  • Puttanesca Sauce
  • Roasted Garlic Sauce
  •  
    You can find Classico Riserva at retailers nationwide including club stores, and at e-tailers such as Amazon.

    (We were quite surprised at some unhappy Amazon reviews, e.g. “Heinz should stick to ketchup.” At this price, we can’t find anything better—rich tomato flavor, thick and chunky).

    So, what’s for dinner:

  • Chicken or eggplant parm (with marinara sauce)?
  • Eggplant artichoke pizza?
  • Penne all’arrabbiata?
  • Spaghetti with puttanesca sauce?
  • Anything in creamy roasted garlic sauce?
  •  

    Classico Riserva Marinara Sauce

    Classico Riserva Eggplant Artichoke Sauce

    Classico Riserva sauces are thick, chunky, delicious and made from quality ingredients. [1] Marinara Sauce (photo courtesy Classico). [2] Eggplant Artichoke Sauce at Cravings Of A Lunatic. Here’s how Kim uses it.

     
    For a creamy sauce, just mix Greek yogurt, ricotta or sour cream into the tomato sauce. Don’t boil or the dairy may curdle, unless it’s crème fraîche.)

    We’re hungry already!

    TIP FOR THE VEGETABLE RESISTANT

    Cook veggies to al dente and place in a heat-proof dish. Cover with pasta sauce and mozzarella and heat in the oven, under the broiler or in the microwave until the cheese is melted.

    Garnish with any fresh herbs at hand, or a sprinkle of oregano or thyme. For the truly veggie-averse, serve with grated parmesan.

    Yum.

      

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