No Colander Needed: Barilla Microwavable Meals Hit the Al Dente Mark

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This is another fabulous guest post by food blogger Shari Brooks of My Judy the Foodie. Now, I feel I need to preface this post with a little editorial – in the 8 years I have known Shari I don’t think she’s ever eaten pasta in front of me. She’s just not a carbo-loading kind of girl. So, if she says she enjoyed these meals, I believe her! And, as a pescetarian, I love all their veggie options, but the psycho anti-chemical girl in me needs to say that when I turn to a frozen meal, I NEVER microwave in the plastic container!

This week I had the pleasure of attending a private luncheon at Scott Conant’s gorgeous culinary suite in Soho, hosted by the celebrated pasta brand, Barilla. We dined with Barilla’s renowned Executive Chef Lorenzo Boni, and sampled the company’s latest product innovation: Barilla microwaveable meals – available nationally this month!

Barilla is a family owned brand that has been around for 135 years. That’s reason enough to embrace their continued mission to offer high quality pasta that preserves the culture and tradition of Italy. Their latest product line, a variety of 5 different microwaveable pasta meals, continues to deliver the Italian taste and quality people have come to expect from Barilla – Italy’s #1 brand of pasta – in a single serve offering.

Made from the same 100% natural ingredients as Barilla dry pasta and jarred sauces, the microwaveable meals are shelf stable, portable and ready in just 60 seconds. This product is the perfect remedy for people with a hectic lifestyle. Whether you’re at work and can’t figure out what to eat, and don’t have time to eat, or, you’re harried, trying to put together a last-minute dinner for the family, these microwaveable pastas are a practical solution.

Do pre-packaged microwaveable meals scare you? Don’t fret, we also had the opportunity to listen to Anna Rosales, a professionally trained chef, instructor and registered dietitian for Barilla America. She enthusiastically provided an overview of the nutritional values to these meals:

Each 9 oz. package contains 1 serving of pasta and sauce and:
• All meals are 320 calories or less.
• There are no artificial colors or added preservatives.
• All meals provide between 9g and 11g of protein.
• The pasta in the microwaveable meals is an excellent* source of fiber.
• The sauce in the microwaveable meals are a good or excellent* source of vitamin A.
• The whole grain varieties are a good* source of iron.

Sounds pretty good, right? See for yourself. If you read the pasta containers, you’ll notice that all the ingredients are natural and it actually reads like a recipe. You should be able to recognize all of the ingredients listed – a huge feat in today’s increasingly complex world of food labeling.

What’s even more surprising is the revolutionary packaging of the Barilla microwaveable meals maintains the product’s taste, texture and freshness for a shelf life of 12 months at room temperature. The pasta and sauce are stored in separate trays, allowing consumers to customize their meal experiences.

At lunch, we were able to choose from one of the five available varieties:
• Mezze Penne with Tomato & Basil Sauce
• Mezze Penne with Traditional Marinara Sauce
• Mezze Penne with Spicy Marinara Sauce (I chose this!)
• Whole Grain Fusilli with Vegetable Marinara Sauce
• Whole Grain Mezze Penne with Tomato & Basil Sauce

And, within just a few minutes (it should’ve been only 60 seconds but they did have to accommodate all 35 people at once) we were served our very own past entrée in the packaging.
My serving was perfectly al dente and surprisingly, extremely tasty. In fact, if it had been plated, I’d have no way of knowing it was fresh from the stove top!

It’s genius that the Barilla brothers have developed a new way to discover the best of Italian cooking without cooking at all.

Whether you throw some containers in your bag on the way out the door, keep a supply in your desk drawer or, stock your pantry shelves, how can you say no to a meal that can be conveniently available anytime anywhere?

For more information, or to locate a grocery store near year, go to http://www.BarillaUS.com.

Disclaimer: I was not compensated to write this post. However, I was treated to a very fine lunch featuring the new Barilla product. I also received some nice Barilla-branded baubles as well as samples of the 5 microwaveable varieties. All opinions expressed (as always) are my own.

Day 28 – Tuscania Where Else Can We Eat?

purgatorio1With only a couple of days left we realized that there are still some restaurants that the owner’s of our villa recommended.  I don’t know if I mentioned the amazing book that they left us filled with notes on towns worth visiting, cards from the best restaurants all over, maps of cities and parking tips and directions all over Umbria, Tuscany and Lazio.  This book has been our bible while we’ve been here.  It’s given us ideas, helped us plan itineraries and always shown us the best places to eat!  (They also left an incredible array of tour books, history books and cooking magazines.  Everything we could need to research and prepare for our various journeys this past month)

So, with bible in hand we decided to pick out a restaurant on the other side of Lake Bolsena that we hadn’t yet explored.  We chose a restaurant called Purgatorio and plugged in the non-address into the GPS as best we could since there was no real street or number being right on the lake – somewhere.   The drive around the western edge of Lake Bolsena was very different than the Eastern side.  We worked our way through lush vegetation, tall grasses and tilled fields as well as vineyards and waving olive trees.   We finally arrived at the restaurant perched off a dirt road not 20 feet from the water’s edge.  If this was purgatory than all those sinners out there should be relieved. Continue reading

Day 19 – Tuscania and a Day of Rest (with incredible views)

view from miralago

view from miralago

After exhausting ourselves in Rome and getting home very late we slept in on Sunday and decided to have a relaxing local day by Lake Bolsena.  We called ahead to make a reservation at Da Paolino al Miralago restaurant in Montefiascone a city perched high above the lake on verdant cliffs.  We have learned our lesson about not calling ahead in Italy.

We arrived at the restaurant, which from the road looks like a little shack at the edge of the street.  The kitchen is across the road with the other half of the restaurant.  Then we entered the small structure and saw before us an enormous panorama of Lake Bolsena and the neighboring hilltop towns and gardens.  They seated us right by the window and we watched the platters of food being served to the Italian families seated all around us.  They gave us menus that had Italian printed on one side and unfortunately English printed on the other.  I’m wary of any restaurant that has an English translation.  Nothing that was being eaten at any of the tables all around us was on that menu – nor on the Italian side either. Continue reading

Day 17 Staying Cool in Tuscania

We spent the the day in Tuscania going to the market and trying to stay cool on the hottest day so far.  I spent most of the day planning our field trip to Rome the next day when the heat was supposed to break.  I’m big on planning.  I don’t believe in just winging it when we travel, particularly with kids in tow.  My feeling is be as prepared as possible, and then hope for the best and be flexible when you’re actually at your destination.  So, with that in mind we booked a few things ahead of time.  I bought our Vatican tickets for Monday.  After a ton of research and emails I decided against getting a private tour guide for Saturday’s trip since I didn’t want to be tied down to anyone else’s schedule and figured the girls really didn’t need to be schlepped around according to a guide.  So instead we decided to go all out tourist and book tickets on the double decker red bus that goes around the city and lets you jump on and off all day long.

Now, I have to say as a New Yorker I have come to loathe these buses as they chug through the city, clog traffic and generally make me feel like I’m being perpetually viewed by tourists holding up video cameras as the bus whizzes up Broadway or Central Park West.  Continue reading

Day 16 – Pitigliano It’s So Not (Jewish) Ghetto

pitigliano

pitigliano

There is something about being outside of New York that always makes me feel more Jewish.  I don’t know exactly what that means, but when I lived in London being Jewish was actually something people asked me about.  As if it were somewhat foreign or exotic.  Neither of which I consider it to be.  In New York of course everyone is Jewish – and I don’t mean that literally as in the largest population of American Jews live in New York City, I mean that whether you are Italian, Irish, African-American, whatever, you’ve got a little bit of Jewish in you because that is just one of the dominant flavors of New York.  So eat your bagel, rent Annie Hall, take your kids to the museum on Rosh Hashanah because the schools are closed, vote for Bloomberg, watch Seinfeld, say “Oy vey” as if you heard it in the womb– you’re kind of sort of Jewish if you grew up in New York City.

Outside of New York this is a whole other thing entirely.   Its hard to believe you can be sheltered by living in New York City but this is one of those instances where it is shocking to leave the city and discover what is being discussed or believed in the rest of the country and world.  When people think about the persecution of European Jews they usually think of two major anti-Semitic events – The Spanish Inquisition and the Holocaust.  Unfortunately those two major historical events are just part of an insane timeline of legal discrimination, segregation and genocide.  I remember being 15 the first time I came to Spain with a group of teenagers and when they took us to the old Jewish quarter in Toledo one of the kids asked, “Where did the Jews go?”  Without skipping a beat the tour guide said, “They just left” As if one day all the Jews looked around this city they had lived in for hundreds of years, the stores they ran, the schools they attended, the roots they had put down and said, “The neighborhood is really changing let’s move to Boca.” Continue reading

Days 14 and 15 – The Arrival of Granny and a Day in Orvieto

My mom (Granny) flew in to stay with us for the week.  We drove an hour and a half to the Rome airport to pick her up and then an hour and a half to bring her back here to Tuscania.  Between all that driving, making lunch, her jet lag and the girls’ excitement over her being here and all of the gifts she brought the day flew by and before we knew it it was dinnertime and the day came to a close.  Unfortunately so did my internet connection.  I had to call the DSL company, called Alice, which seems so oddly personal.  Between my terrible Italian and their terrible English I managed to get a trouble ticket put through and then prayed that service would resume in less than a week.  It was not fun.

watercoloring for riposos

watercoloring for riposo

The next day we went to Orvieto.  At this point I feel like a person recounting the same story over and over again but the drive was truly spectacular.  Orvieto is in Umbria, perched high above the world on a mountaintop with its Duomo reaching into the sky and visible for miles around.

approaching orvieto

approaching orvieto

The drive from Tuscania takes you around Lake Bolsena through Montefiascone and up the winding mountains.  When you finally arrive in Orvieto you park your car at the bottom of the hill and take a 1950s era funicular up the side of the mountain.  This was a definite highlight of the day for the girls.

Continue reading

Day 13 – Viterbo and The Italian Wal-Mart

viterbo coat of arms

viterbo coat of arms

We finally decided that Sophia’s cough was going to linger no matter what we did so we figured an easy day of lunch in the old town of Viterbo followed by a pilgrimage to the Iper Coop “shopping experience” would make for a good first venture out into the world for her. (And me!)  We called ahead to the restaurant and got their machine.  Since we had no idea what they said on the machine we thought we’d take our chances and head to Viterbo either way.

Again the ride to Viterbo was just as gorgeous as usual.  The girls have become totally jaded at this point, unimpressed by waves of sunflowers and shimmering groves of olive trees. We on the other hand can still not get over that this is where we are spending the month.  As we approached Viterbo it became much more suburban looking, strips malls and looming billboards, of course this was juxtaposed against the centuries old town looming on the hills above.

We parked and climbed up the steep winding road, Continue reading