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Top Pick Of The Week

March 18, 2008

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Gourmet Ravioli

A fantasy pasta course: a trio of large, gourmet ravioli. From the top: Portabella & Asiago Ravioli, Gorgonzola & Sundried Tomato Girasole and Roasted Vegetable Pansotti. Photography by Ryan Clark.

WHAT IT IS: Gorgeous gourmet ravioli served in the finest restaurants. The company makes other types of pasta, but we’ve chosen to focus on the sumptuous, stuffed pasta.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: Look at the photos! There’s great artistry in colors and shapes and great taste inside. With innovative stuffings, It’s not just “meat ravioli,” but osso bucco, Grand Marnier duck, braised short rib or sausage with escarole. It’s not just “cheese ravioli,” but Point Reyes blue cheese, portabella mushroom and Asiago, Parmigiano cheese, mascarpone and smoked chicken...and much more.
WHY WE LOVE IT: It’s like having a creative Italian chef making pasta in your home. It makes you a star in the kitchen. Plus, it arrives frozen: Keep it in the freezer, at the ready whenever you need it.
WHERE TO BUY IT: MarxFoods.com.
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Nuovo Pasta:
Riotously Regal Ravioli

CAPSULE REPORT: The word “ravioli” typically conjures up the image of pleasant pasta pillows stuffed with some vague meat or cheese. Not any more! Be prepared to be blasted to a higher level of ravioli consciousness by the artisans at Nuovo Pasta. For years we have lusted after Nuovo Pasta’s visually stunning, palate-tantalizing ravioli. We have longed to introduce them to you, dear NIBBLE reader. Heck, we have longed to get our own hands on them, but have been limited to tasting them at trade shows. The unmovable obstacle has been that Nuovo sells its gorgeous products only to restaurants, caterers and distributors.

*A few of the more traditional Nuovo Pasta varieties are sold in specialty stores, but most retailers aren’t interested in the flashier flavors because they don’t sell as fast as the basic ones.

But now, we all can buy the same amazing ravioli that the professionals do, and wow our families and guests in the way that diners are wowed at top restaurants. Our good fortune is thanks to Marx Foods, a distributor of gourmet products to fine food establishments. They’ve made their wares available to consumers nationwide, through their online store. As we sit here eating giant ravioli (a single piece is an entire first course), one stuffed with osso bucco and one with Point Reyes blue cheese (a prior NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week), we are eternally grateful. There are plenty of regular-sized ravioli, too, but there is nothing “regular” about these beautiful pastas—triangular, round and rectangular, flecked, striped and marbled. They are stuffed with veal Bolognese, crawfish and andouille sausage, Grand Marnier roast duck, portabella mushrooms and Asiago cheese and dozens of other wonders. They’re irresistible, and will make your dinner parties the talk of the town. Read more and see the photos in the full review below. Pick your favorite and order a memorable first course for Easter dinner.

     
THE NIBBLE does not sell the foods we review
or receive fees from manufacturers for recommending them.

Our recommendations are based purely on our opinion, after tasting thousands of products each year, that they represent the best in their respective categories.

 

Make Your Own Great Southern Food

Everyday Pasta, Giada De Laurentiis The Complete Book Of Pasta And Noodles Macaroni And Cheese
Everyday Pasta, by Giada De Laurentiis. More than 100 new recipes for tasty, quick pasta dishes. From light and delicate, to rich and hearty, it’s all easy to prepare with basic ingredients. A great cookbook for busy people. Click here for more information or to purchase.
The Complete Book of Pasta and Noodles, by Cook’s Illustrated. A comprehensive introduction to the world’s pasta: beyond spaghetti to couscous, spaetzle, ramen, udon, rice sticks and more. Hundreds of recipes, a treasure trove of information. Click here for more information or to purchase.
Macaroni And Cheese, by Marlena Spieler. Forget your preconceived notions of elbow macaroni covered with orangey goop. Here’s an international tour of fab mac and cheese recipes, from savory to sweet. A must-have for any macaroni and cheese lover. Click here for more information or to purchase.

Nuovo Pasta: Riotously Regal Ravioli

INDEX OF REVIEW

MORE TO DISCOVER

Introduction

How do we love thee, Nuovo Pasta? Let us count the ways:

Heart Shaped Pasta
For Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, proposals or a culinary conversation piece, these heart-shaped raviolis are available in four fab flavors: Coconut & Shrimp,
Goat Cheese and Asparagus, Lobster Herb & Crème and Ricotta, Mozzarella & Asiago Heart Raviolis. What’s not to love?

  • We love thee because thou art beautiful to look at.
  • We love thee because thou art so easy to cook and serve.
  • We love thee because of they rare, gourmet flavors.
  • We love thee because thou make us look like a culinary wizard to our family and guests.
  • We love thee because thou taste great.
  • And, and, if God choose, we shall but love thee better after we have tasted every one of your flavors.

O.K., literature majors: Don’t write in to say that we have dragged one of the greatest sonnets* in history from the poetry pantheon to the dinner table. Some people write of their love for their soul mates; we write of our love for great food.

*Number 43, “How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways,” Sonnets From Portuguese, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

We have found such excitement in the stuffed pastas of Nuovo Pasta Productions: ravioli and specialty ravioli shapes like pansotti, girasoles and ravioloni, jumbo rectangles four inches long by three inches wide. Just one makes a meal for a child, and a first course for the rest of us.

For years we lusted after these beautiful ravioli, which we saw several times a year in beautiful displays, like culinary artwork, at professional food shows. Filled with delectable gourmet stuffings—more about those in a minute—they are sold to restaurants and caterers. (Sorry to out you, guys, but your patrons don’t care that you didn’t make the pasta yourself, any more than they care that you didn’t make the ice cream—what matters is that it looks great and tastes great). For years, we hopefully asked, “Are these available at retail?” Nope. Strictly for foodservice (which is what restaurants, caterers, cafés, take-out and other types of food preparation operations are referred to). You can look, you can taste, but you can’t have.

But if you wait long enough, solutions present themselves: here, in the form of Marx Foods, a Pansotti - Sundried Tomatodistributor of gourmet products to fine restaurants and other foodservice operations. Since Marx Foods clients needed online access to browse and order, building a user-friendly website gave the company an opportunity to make its products available to consumers, too. And that means Nuovo Ravioli can now be ordered by us, regular folks. The only constraint is that, since this isn’t a retail store, you can’t order a pound or two, but need to order the entire five-pound box. Let us assure you: While this may run into more of a cash outlay than you might like to make, or limits how many varieties you might purchase at once, you will love this ravioli so much, it will rapidly disappear. And, the price of one box, which will provide you with 10 or 20 servings (servings will vary depending on the style), is the price of four such plates of pasta at any restaurant that would serve them.
Shown above: Sundried Tomato & Roasted Vegetable Pansotti. Pansotti means “pot-bellied” in Italian.

Ravioli Varieties

There’s nothing plain here. There are stripes, colors...even the ravioli that look white have pretty colored flecks in the dough. You’ll choose your pasta by the filling, most likely (unless you want to match your meal to your decor or a color theme—the black-and-red-striped Crab & Lobster Ravioli, for example, would play look dramatic in our black and red dining room).

Large Round Ravioli
These are ovals, really—2-1/2" long by 2" wide. But we’re not here to quibble over geometry, only to tell you how delicious these were in the aforementioned Crab & Lobster, the elegant Grand Marnier Roast Duck, the very flavorful Portabella & Asiago and the Marbled Ravioli Parmigiano, shown at the right. You haven’t had cheese ravioli until you’ve had Nuovo’s. It’s not cheese, it’s CHEESE!

“Maximus” Ravioloni
Ravioloni means “big ravioli,” and these are almost double the size of the already-large ravioli. The chefs at Nuovo come from fine restaurants, and they know what customers want: big portions of good food. These Maximus Ravioloni are mind-blowing, at 4" x 2-1/2". One makes a first course, two a main course, accented with a few pieces of seafood or grilled vegetables (and those two should be different flavors, please)! The Sausage, Escarole & Roasted Garlic was spicy and stunning. As for the Braised Short Rib: Can one ever find enough opportunities to enjoy braised short rib? Serve these with a great red wine.

Marbled
Even the “basics” are out of this world: Here, large, round marbled ravioli stuffed with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. The intense Parmigiano taste is impressive—you can serve these ravioli in a butter sauce with a Barbera or a Barbaresco.

Girasoles
Girasole means “sunflower” in Italian. These pretty ravioli are shaped like sunflowers, and are made in both the regular and the “gigante,” four inches in diameter. The gigantes—in Frutti Di Mare, Osso Bucco and Point Reyes Blue Cheese—deserve a shout out.

Osso Bucco Ravioli
The Osso Bucco Girasole Gigante is shaped like
sunflower, petals turned up to the sun. Inside: real
osso bucco, tender, wine-braised veal shanks pulled
from the bone. Four inches in diameter, one piece
makes a first course portion.

  • The Osso Bucco Girasole Gigante (photo at left) can simply not be categorized as “meat ravioli,” but as “osso bucco in pasta.” Large pieces of veal shank, caramelized baby carrots, onions, and celery in a classic gremolata, are encased in saffron dough. You can have your osso bucco and your ravioli too, and it is divine.
  • A second experience not to be missed is the Point Reyes Blue Cheese Girasole Gigante—one of the most exciting and flavor-forward raviolis you will encounter in this lifetime. Sure, we’re prejudiced—we love blue cheese, and Point Reyes Blue Cheese was a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week. But blue or white, this is the best cheese ravioli we’ve ever had (and Nuovo’s other cheese flavors are pretty impressive).
  • Frutti Di Mare Girasole Gigante, though it can’t dazzle like these first two, is a truly excellent scallop and shrimp ravioli. Following the Nuovo play book, everything is fresh and chunky—no fishy filling, which is what one often gets in other brands seafood ravioli, no matter how expensive. That’s because the Nuovo line is meant to be served at fine restaurants; it has to be the best. Here, in a sherry cream reduction, combined with roasted shiitake mushrooms and fresh herbs, it’s as good as it gets, unless you were to get it handmade at a fine coastal restaurant in Italy.

Cremini PansottiPansotti
Italian for “pot bellied,” pansotti (pan-SOHT-tee) are the word used to describe triangular-shaped stuffed pasta with pinked edges (see photo below). You don’t see triangle ravioli very often, so the novelty is terrific. You can never go wrong combining wild mushrooms and cheese. Here, the cremini and portabella mushrooms are sautéed with shallots, butter, red wine and brandy then folded into a blend of ricotta, mozzarella and imported Parmigiano-Reggiano. We wish the chefs had not chosen the “theme” brown mushroom-colored stripe, because it’s too low key, and this flavor rocks. See the photo at right and the photo below, and read more about the different wild and exotic mushrooms in our Mushroom Glossary.

Ravioli Fillings

Nuovo, founded in 1989, is one of the few independent artisan pasta makers left in America. All the fillings are hand made by chefs, the majority of whom have come from fine restaurants. That they stay atop of fine dining trends can be seen in their creative recipes. For example, noting that osso bucco is a perennial favorite dish, they created osso bucco-filled ravioli (dynamite!). When braised short ribs became popular, the short ribs ravioli appeared (marvelous!). Crab and braised fennel is often paired together, so the two flavors were made into ravioli (haven’t had it yet—send it over!).

The pasta dough is made from hard durum semolina flour, whole pasteurized eggs and water. Colorings are natural (from beans, beets and squid ink, for example). The pasta is produced in small batches on Italian machinery that replicates the mixing and kneading of dough, the way a chef would to it by  hand. This produces a true Italian al dente texture.

The fillings are made by hand, and hand-stuffed into the pillows by the chefs. These fillings are not processed and ground into a smooth uniformity. Cut into a ravioli and you’ll see the meat and vegetables are in chunks. On the palate, the textures are as exciting as the flavors. Everything is all natural, no additives or preservatives. You can tell with each bite that the ingredients are truly the finest. And, the final blessing: The pastas take just 5 to 6 minutes to cook, from freezer to plate. No one would ever dream that they had been frozen.

There is a cornucopia of choices, and the biggest challenge is where to start. Our advice: spend some time perusing the website, and don’t be timid. Those that sound challenging—osso bucco, blue cheese—are fabulous. So are those that sound familiar—cheese and mushroom fillings.  You can’t go wrong. If we had to do it all over again, we’d probably choose fewer vegetable flavors (roasted vegetable, sundried tomato); both because we can get roasted vegetable ravioli locally, and because Nuovo’s other fillings are truly rare and more exciting to us.

Sausage Ravioli
The Sausage, Escarole & Roasted Garlic “Maximus” Ravioloni.

Different recipes are available in different sizes, so you if you don’t leap to order some of the favorites we’ve mentioned here, you’ll have to spend some time perusing the MarxFoods.com website. The groupings include:

  • Cheese: Goat Cheese, Roasted Tomato & Herb; Gorgonzola & Sundried Tomato; Marbled Ravioli Parmigiano; Point Reyes Blue Cheese; Portabella & Asiago; Roasted Pepper & Smoked Mozzarella
  • Meat: Grand Marnier Roast Duck; Mascarpone, Smoked Chicken, Pine Nut; Veal Bolognese;
  • Seafood: Crab & Lobster; Crawfish, Andouille & Roasted Pepper; Lobster; Frutti di Mare (Shrimp & Scallop); and more
  • Vegetables: Black Truffle & Crème; Cremini  & Portabella; Fire-Roasted Vegetable & Herb,; Porcini Mushroom; Pumpkin & Butternut Squash; Pumpkin & Sage; Spinach & Toasted Sage; Sweet Potato & Pecan; Sundried Tomato & Roasted Vegetables; Wild Mushroom & Herb

These are just a fraction of the delights that await.

Serving Suggestions

Each type of ravioli has its own distinctive, gourmet flavor profile. This is not generic ravioli that needs a marinara or Bolognese sauce to give it character: It arrives with as much character as it needs. Thus, a heavy sauce is not recommended. Sauce takes the back seat when ravioli is this good.

Think minimalist—which cuts down on your time in the kitchen, as well. Each of these raviolis is great with a butter sauce or a dressing of olive oil and garlic. If you wish, a light cream sauce, a truffle cream sauce or using a key ingredient in the filling to make a light sauce is the best course of action. (For example, for a lobster-filled ravioli, mix some lobster stock into a light cream sauce.)

Pansotti
These triangle-shaped pansotti combine cremini and
portobello mushrooms. The shape beguiling, the
flavor, divine. Garnished with shaved Parmigiano-
Romano cheese.
Perhaps the most attention should be spent with garniture:
  • Any flavor—or a mixture
  • Fresh herbs, sprigs (rosemary, thyme, oregano) or shredded
  • Fried crispy herbed—basil or sage leaves, for example

Pasta & “Turf”

  • Serve the giant Point Reyes Blue Cheese ravioli over steak. When a cut is made into the ravioli, the great blue cheese will ooze onto the steak.
  • Try something similar with any of the meat or seafood ravioli and paillard of chicken.
  • Or, top a hearty piece of grilled fish with the exciting Sausage, Escarole and Roasted Garlic or Osso Bucco Maximus Ravioloni—4 inches by 2-1/2" inches wide.
  • Three regular-sized ravioli are enough to complement steak or chicken as a side, instead of potatoes or other starch. Roasted pepper and smoked mozzarella ravioli goes particularly well with chicken.
  • All of the sacchette (sah-KAY-tay, beggar’s purses) flavors pair well with chicken, steak or veal.
  • The wild mushroom ravioli flavors pair nicely with chicken, lamb or steak.

Hors d’Oeuvres & Appetizers

These pasta beauties can also make an impressive hors d’oeuvre, passed on a tray, or a non-traditional appetizer, served with a dipping sauce.

Finger Food

  • Any of the ravioli (non-jumbo size) can be arranged on a plate or tray and passed as finger food with cocktails. Sour cream-based sauces work well for dipping, mixed with exciting flavors like chipotle or cilantro and lime.
  • Sacchette, the “beggar’s purses” shown in the photo at right, can be deep fried as an appetizer.

First Courses

All of the ravioli make beautiful first courses. However, to make an impression “beyond pasta,” think big:

  • Serve the jumbo Maximus and Girasole ravioli—you only need one per person.
  • Think of a dazzling accompaniment. For example, the wild mushroom and herb ravioli can be served as an appetizer over a bed of grilled leeks with an aged balsamic reduction.
  • The meat and seafood varieties—Braised Short Rib; Sausage, Escarole & Roasted Garlic; Osso Bucco and Frutti di Mari—provide the perception of an even heartier course.
Sacchette
Sacchette, or “beggar’s purses,” were delicious when we boiled them as a dish of pasta. But they can be deep fried as an appetizer and served with a dipping sauce.
  • Make a dazzling pasta salad, with an oil and herb dressing is best. Avoid mixing with tomatoes, or add at the last moment; the acid will break down the pasta pillows.

Pasta is a great comfort food. There can be no greater comfort than a plate of Nuovo Pasta’s ravioli.

— Karen Hochman

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to anyone who loves pasta (i.e., everyone) and to people who are always looking for new and exciting dishes to serve.

NUOVO PASTA
Gourmet Artisan Ravioli

  • 5- Or 6.5-Pound Box
    Depending On Size

    Serves 16 To 18
    Depending On Portion Size
    $67.50 To $99.75
    Depending On Flavor
    Website Has Detailed Information
    On Serving Sizes
  • Pasta arrives frozen. Use what you
    need. You can share a box with a
    friend or several friends and order a
    variety of flavors.

 

Purchase online* at
MarxFoods.com

Or telephone 1.866.588.6279,
Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.,
Pacific Time.

Lobster Ravioli
Crab & Lobster Large Round Ravioli.

*Prices and product availability are verified at publication but are subject to change. THE NIBBLE does not sell products; these items are offered by a third party with whom we have no relationship. This link to purchase is provided as a reader convenience.



Check Out These Other Top Pick Of The Week” Pasta Products:

 

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