So I am sitting on my sofa, working on an article for this very blog, when there is a knock at the door. Once I get the dog settled down, who had been startled from his nap, and open the door, there stood the FedEx man holding a very large box. Odd, I was not expecting any packages. I sliced open the tape and inside was a Styrofoam container. Removing the lid to the container revealed the most generous supply of gluten free products that any company has sent to date. Amazingly enough, it was from Conte’s Pasta, who I had only emailed the evening before. Wow! I pulled one item after another out of the box, increasingly shocked by just how much they were kind enough to send. Several weeks later, we have had the opportunity to sample everything they delivered. Lucky us.
Conte’s Pasta is not a strictly gluten free company, but they do have dedicated lines for the gluten free products they sell. They have several gluten free options, and we were able to try most of them. Here is a rundown of what we tried:
- Margherita Pizza with Roasted Garlic and Olive Oil (frozen pizza)
- Cheese Ravioli
- Cheese Stuffed Shells
- Spinach and Cheese Ravioli
- Potato and Onion Pierogies
- Potato, Onion, and Cheese Pierogies
- Cheese Lasagna (microwave meal)
- Stuffed Shells with Marinara Sauce (microwave meal)
- Pizza Crusts
Impressive list, huh? My son, who is the Celiac in the family, was most excited about the stuffed pasta dishes, because this would be the first time he had been able to eat ravioli since being diagnosed with Celiac Disease nearly eight years ago. With that in mind, the first thing I want to discuss is the pasta itself.
Conte’s Pasta is a riced based pasta, as many gluten free pastas are. If you look at the ingredients lists of some of their products online, you will notice Domata Living Flour listed as the gluten free flour that is used. I was unaware of this particular company until now, but certainly hope to try out some of their flour for myself. As for rice pasta in general, it has tended to be a hit and miss experience in my house. Some of them are extremely finicky about how long they are cooked. A few seconds too short, and the pasta is like rubber, a few seconds too long, and you have mush. Others are extremely gritty, even after being rinsed thoroughly in cold water. There are definitely some good rice pastas out there however, and Conte’s Pasta has definitely produced one of the better ones.
The most impressive aspect of this particular pasta is its versatility. Conte’s Pasta has gluten free products where the pasta is boiled, but also convenience meals that are microwavable. In both cases, the gluten free pasta turns out extremely well. This is especially surprising in the microwave meals, as even pasta made from wheat flour has a tendency to become tough in the microwave. In fact, tender is an excellent word to describe the gluten free pasta from Conte’s. We even overcooked the first batch of cheese ravioli to the point where the stuffing burst from the pasta. However, the pasta was still wonderfully tender without being mushy from the overcooking. Outstanding!
Of course, none of that matters if the pasta doesn’t taste good. But do you really think I would have given you such a tease just to tell you it tastes like the underside of a shoe? Not a chance. This gluten free pasta does not disappoint in the flavor department at all. At no point, in any dish, were we unhappy with the pasta. You can’t give it any more recommendation than that.
It’s not all pasta, though. We received ready to use pizza crusts, as well as a frozen pizza. Over the years, we have only had the opportunity to try three or four gluten free frozen pizzas. To be completely honest, they have been terrible, and I expected more of the same from this one. Turns out I was wrong. There have been two main issues with the pizzas we have tried in the past, doughy crust, and an overabundance of sauce. Slightly crisp, but not crunchy, this crust turned out pretty good. It definitely did not come across as doughy or moist. Best of all, there was more flavor than just generic pizza sauce. A good dose of garlic and tomato, without being overpowering, is the best way to describe it. This is the first gluten free frozen pizza that my family would be willing to have again.
When it comes to the gluten free pizza crusts from Conte’s Pasta, it really depends on your crust preference. My wife and I like either a good, thick pan crust, or a very thin and crispy crust. My son on the other hand, prefers his crust somewhere in between. Somewhere in between is definitely the category for this gluten free crust. It tastes fine, but texture is extremely important in a pizza crust, and it just so happens that Conte’s Pasta crust is not to the liking of me and my wife. We just couldn’t get it as crisp as we would like. It didn’t last five minutes in front of my son, though, and he declared it an outstanding crust.
There are two final points I would like to make regarding Conte’s Pasta. The first is quality. Obviously, I have already discussed the quality of their gluten free pasta, but the quality of all their ingredients really comes through in the food. Whether it is the cheese, the sauce, the potatoes, or the spinach, it all comes across as high quality food. When you open one of their products, you feel as if some effort went into it. As sad as it sounds, you can’t always say that about the food you buy, gluten free or not.
Convenience is the other aspect I want to discuss. You lose a lot of things when you go completely gluten free. One of those things is convenience. It’s late. You’re tired. You have spent the last two hours driving home from a junior high football game. Your Celiac son is hungry and you would love to just throw something in the microwave. It’s not always that easy when you are gluten free. People who don’t live a gluten free lifestyle do not realize just how convenient it is, in my opinion. One of the greatest things about the products from Conte’s Pasta, was how handy they were: four microwavable meals, two frozen pizzas, and even the bags of pastas only take six to eight minutes of boiling. It has been extremely helpful to have these products around the last few weeks. And for that we are very grateful.
In case you haven’t noticed, we were thrilled with Conte’s Pasta. Be sure to follow them on Twitter and Facebook. Also be sure to get hold of some of their gluten free products and enjoy them for yourself. When you have, let us know what you think in the comments below.
I received an email from Judy Sabella, the VPO of Conte’s Pasta, to clarify a couple of things in my review. As of 2010, Conte’s Pasta has had a dedicated gluten free facility, and not just dedicated lines. Awesome! Additionally, even though their website shows Domata Flour as an ingredient, this hasn’t been true for over a year. They now blend all of their own flours onsite. They hope to update the site to reflect those changes at some point.