SOS: Pasta Package
Maybe you saw Albany Jane’s pasta giveaway from earlier this month. Well, little miss motivated got the scoop on me. We both received a generous care package from Giovanni Rana. Ostensibly they were similar, but mine had a little bit of a different selection.
Food bloggers get stuff like this periodically. The goal is obviously for the brand to get a little bit of exposure. But I’ll only write about the things I actually like, and might find myself going back to the store to buy with my own money.
Since I’m both really particular and a tightwad, that list turns out to be precariously small. Which is probably why you may not recall reading any posts like this in a long long time.
So which of the Rana pastas make the cut?
First, a little bit about this Rana business. Giovanni Rana is taking the U.S. by storm. I’m really quite serious. They are an Italian company. Giovanni Rana is a real person and he’s built a pasta empire in Italy.
His son Gian Luca Rana comes to the U.S. and builds a pasta factory outside of Chicago. It apparently took him 11 months to do in Chicago what took 7 years to accomplish in Italy. That Chicago plant by the way is expected to produce 25,000 tons of fresh pasta and sauce per year.
They have also recently launched the Giovanni Rana Pastificio and Cucina restaurant in Manhattan’s Chelsea Market. You can read about that in The New York Times or Yelp, but the bottom line is that people like it.
I’ll admit that I’m not generally a filled pasta eater or buyer. I know there are a lot of Italian markets in upstate New York that carry frozen ravioli, some even make it themselves on site. And in a few days I’ll be at Venda Ravioli in Providence, RI. It’s very likely I’ll leave there with some meatballs. Much less likely that I’ll buy any actual ravioli.
But I have to admit being charmed by the convenience of these pouches of fresh Rana ravioli. They range in cooking time, depending on the size and filling, from two to five minutes.
In an effort to taste them all, I had a little ravioli party here with the in-laws. I set up a couple of simmering pots of well-salted water, and people simply dropped whatever pasta they wanted to try, set a timer, fished them out, and topped with one of a few available sauces.
That was actually a lot of fun. My favorites based on flavor and texture were the “forte” (aka strong) cheese and the mushroom.
You may know that I’m a little bit of a slut for good ingredients. And these strong cheese ravioli amazingly contains Parmigiano-Reggiano. Not only is it in there, but you can taste it, along with a little whiff of gorgonzola funk. These struck me as very un-American in the very best way.
The first ingredient in the filling of the mushroom ravioli is mushrooms. That almost never happens. And these are filled with tender pieces of mushroom and plenty of umami.
For me, I wanted to really experience the pasta and filling, so I dressed these specimens two ways. Once with some homemade chicken broth, and another time with a good, fruity olive oil. Broth can be tricky, because I like to cut open a raviolo and use its pouch to help collect a bit more broth from the bowl. The Rana filings are tender and moist, but nicely packed so they stayed together even in hot broth.
Young Master Fussy, who can sometimes have simpler tastes, was enamored with the basic “delicato” cheese ravioli. He was putting away bowl after bowl of the stuff. If we ever need to fatten him up, he’ll go on a diet of these and meatballs.
Now as far as the sauces go, I’m going to urge you to try the pesto, although I do say that with a little reservation. I’ve been very hard on other “pestos” in the past that stray from the pentaptych of basil, pine nut, garlic, oil and cheese.
Rana takes some liberties.
However, I reference my status as an ingredient slut a few paragraphs up. This is made with Genovese basil. In fact, Genovese basil is the first ingredient, and it’s the only basil in this sauce. That is to say, it is pure and uncut. And a pot of this sauce is really quite aromatic and redolent of summer.
Locally, I’ve seen these at Hannaford and have been told they are available at Price Chopper too, where you can find 12 oz. bags of the filled pasta and pots of the pesto for $4.99 in the refrigerator case.
Now I’m wondering, after finally receiving some good food products worth writing about, if more brave manufacturers are going to try and step up and try their luck with the Profussor.