By Emily Paster
Many parents find pasta to be a quick and easy weeknight meal that satisfies kid and adult palates alike. I know I fall into that category. Although I rely heavily on dried pasta, I sometimes like to serve my family fresh, filled pastas such as tortellini and ravioli for variety and as a way of adding more protein to the meal. Fresh pasta must be refrigerated but that does not mean that it is less convenient than dried pasta. You can keep fresh pasta for long stretches in the freezer and therefore have it available when you want it without making a special trip to the store.
I recently was offered the opportunity to sample an Italian brand of fresh, filled pasta that has only recently become available in the United States: Giovanni Rana. Giovanni Rana is a renowned pasta master in Italy. Last year, his eponymous company launched its first American production facility just outside of Chicago in Bartlett, IL. This factory produces the company's line of thirteen different varieties of flat and filled pasta and four sauces that is distributed all over the country.
The story behind Giovanni Rana is charming: Mr. Rana began selling his handmade tortellini from the back of his motorbike in his village outside of Verona over fifty years ago. Now Giovanni Rana is a multinational corporation selling pasta and sauce all over the world. There is even a Rana restaurant and store in New York City. Mr. Rana himself is still going strong and was just in the Chicago area last month to celebrate his 76th birthday.
I was favorably impressed with the pastas I tried, which included the Ravioli Cheese Forte, Ravioli Spinaci E Ricotta, Ravioli Artichoke, Ravioli Mushroom, Ravioli Cheese Delicato, and Fettucine Paglia E Fieno. All Giovanni Rana fresh pastas cook very quickly in boiling water — three to four minutes at most — which is convenient when you are trying to feed hungry children. The pasta itself has a nice bite to it as fresh pasta should and the fillings were very flavorful and fresh-tasting. Zuzu and I both were particular fans of the mushroom ravioli, which had a creamy and surprisingly luxurious filling. It was delicious topped simply with melted butter and grated Parmesan. I also loved the mild, delicate taste of the Ravioli Cheese Delicato, which tasted to me like true comfort food.
I am not usually a fan of store-bought pasta sauce but I quite liked the Giovanni Rana Basil Pesto, which had a true basil flavor. I would consider to be a very good stand-in for when you don't have the time or inclination to make your own pesto.
One of my go-to pasta sauces is an artichoke-heart-and-tomato sauce that comes from the 1989 New Basics Cookbook. My mother must have made this sauce hundreds of times in the 90′s because it is so quick and yet satisfying. These days, I often make it for a friend who has a new baby or is dealing with an illness. I bring her family this sauce along with some fresh cheese ravioli because I know that they can chose to make them for dinner that night, or stash the whole thing in the freezer for another night if that is more convenient. When I saw that Giovanni Rana offers an artichoke heart filled ravioli, I decided to try my artichoke heart sauce with it to double up the artichoke flavor. The combination was excellent and warmed the heart of this artichoke-lover.
Artichoke Heart Pasta Sauce
Serve this sauce over cheese-filled fresh pasta such as ravioli or tortellini or Giovanni Rana Artichoke Heart Ravioli.
- 2 TB extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. each dried basil and oregano
- 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 2 6.5 oz. jars marinated artichoke hearts
- 1 28 oz. jar crushed tomatoes
- 1 tsp. sugar
- Grated Parmesan (optional)
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven.
- Add the onion and garlic and saute over medium-low heat until translucent, but not browned, about 5 minutes.
- Season the onion and garlic with salt and pepper, basil, oregano and red pepper flakes and saute for an additional 2-3 minutes until fragrant.
- Add the marinade from the artichoke hearts to the onion and garlic, reserving the artichoke hearts, and stir to combine.
- Add the crushed tomatoes and teaspoon of sugar and bring mixture to a boil.
- Turn heat down to low and simmer sauce until thickened, about fifteen minutes.
- Add reserved artichoke hearts and stir to combine. Simmer a few additional minutes until artichoke hearts are heated through.
If you are interested in trying Giovanni Rana pastas and sauce for yourself, check here to see where they are sold in our area.
Full disclosure time: I received several Giovanni Rana pastas and sauces to try free of charge for purposes of this review. I have not received any compensation for this post. As always, the opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.