Vino de Milo Portobello Shiraz doesn’t offer perfect pour of pasta sauce

Vino de Milo Portobello Shiraz Pasta Sauce
Vino de Milo Portobello Shiraz Pasta Sauce

Product: Vino de Milo Portobello Shiraz Pasta Sauce – $5.99+

As is evident by this blog, I am a sucker for new products that are not only gluten-free, but also vegetarian.  And one of my favorite things to test is pasta sauces.  Why?  Well, growing up my favorite thing to eat was pasta.  It didn’t matter what kind of pasta dish it was…I just loved pasta.  Even more, I loved to cover it in sauce.  Yum yum!

When the gluten-free thing had to happen, I thought pasta would never be the same.  In fact, it was months before I even attempted to make any sort of gluten-free pasta dish.  And…sadly…it didn’t quite live up to the stuff I used to have and consume by the plateful.

But, as time went on, I discovered different types of gluten-free pastas, different brands…and the same held true for sauces as well.  I’ve tried a lot of really good sauces and I’ve tried others that were decent enough…but…I’d probably never purchase again.

While out at Whole Foods one day, an end-cap full of pasta sauces I had never seen before caught my attention.  All of them were clearly marked gluten-free…and I knew that I had to take one home with me and try it.  So, my roommate and I looked over the various selections being offered and finally decided that the best one would be to go with the Portobello Shiraz, a pasta sauce made from diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, fresh onions, fire-roasted portobello mushrooms, fresh garlic, fresh herbs, extra-virgin olive oil, crushed red pepper…and Shiraz wine.

No ingredient on there sounded unappetizing and there were no chemicals or added preservatives.  Even better.

So, it came home with us and we began working our way through some of the other sauces in the pantry.  Last night, however, was Vino de Milo’s night to top off some fresh (yes…you read that right, FRESH) gluten-free pasta.  I sauteed up some mushrooms and some yellow onion, added the fresh pasta noodles and poured two servings of the sauce over the noodles in the pan to warm it.  And then…when it was ready, I dished it up.  A small shake of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano topped it off and I served a bowl to my roommate and kept the other for myself.

I was already in a happy place due to the fresh gluten-free pasta (which was superb!)  The addition of a new pasta sauce had me eager to dig in and have a taste.  Before I even settled in though, my roommate had taken a taste and declared the pasta to be fantastic…the sauce…not so much.

My heart sank.  But I went and settled in with my own bowl to make that call for myself.

Sadly…she was absolutely right.  It wasn’t that this sauce is bad.  It’s not.  It’s just that I have tasted others that have been so much better than this one.  The wine, while a common and usually delicious addition to any tomato-based sauce…just didn’t seem to fit in this one.  Trust me, my own homemade marinara uses wine…and I love that one.  Perhaps it was the type of wine used.  The Shiraz is normally a slightly spicy wine, but here it just sort of made everything taste like…it had a touch of vinegar on it.  It just wasn’t a good fit.  It wasn’t bad…it just tasted all wrong.  But…we are going to finish off the jar regardless.

I don’t know if I would be willing to try other options for sauces by Vino de Milo after this one.  While I love a good spicy kick to any sauce, this just didn’t deliver for me.  Thankfully, the pasta and the vegetables were there to lend a hand to the dish.  And I also didn’t drown the pasta in sauce (I kept to the serving size!).

Nutritionally speaking, Vino de Milo’s Portobello Shiraz is a healthy choice when it comes to sauces for pasta.  A serving (1/2 cup) is only 40 calories.  Love that.  It is also completely fat free and low in sodium (330 mg) and sugars.  So, it is a rather healthy choice when it comes to sauces.  I  mean, it is a marinara, it shouldn’t be loaded with a lot of unnecessary calorie-loaded and fat-laden things.  So, there is the good.  I just wished it tasted better.

If I find myself looking for another sauce to give a try, I might try a different variety of Vino de Milo pasta sauces.  But the Portobello Shiraz was definitely not the way to get started on this brand.

Vino de Milo Portobello Shiraz Pasta Sauce over RP's Fresh Gluten-Free Linguini and sauteed mushrooms and onions
Vino de Milo Portobello Shiraz Pasta Sauce over RP’s Fresh Gluten-Free Linguini and sauteed mushrooms and onions

RP’s Gluten-Free Linguini a fresh take on gluten-free pasta

RPs Pasta Company Gluten-Free Linguini
RPs Pasta Company Gluten-Free Linguini

Product: RP’s Pasta Company Gluten-Free Linguini – $5.99+

I had a “Pinch me, I must be dreaming!” moment a couple weeks back while I was out grocery shopping at my favorite local grocery store…Earth Fare.  If you have an Earth Fare in your town…run…do not walk…to that location and grocery shop.  This little grocery store brings me so much gluten-free goodness that I have taken to calling it Earth Joy.  I never walk out of there without seeing or purchasing something new or something that has made me happy.

And, let me tell you, living where I do, sometimes gluten-free goodies are beyond hard to come by.

Well, this moment happened when I was scoping out the cheese section and looked up to spot…gluten-free pasta in the refrigerator section.  Like…that awesome homemade fresh pasta that just takes minutes to boil.  Not that boxed rice or corn or quinoa pasta.  No, my friends.  This was like fresh noodles all vacuum sealed and just ready for some boiling water and a touch of sauce.  I was elated.

And while out and about on Saturday afternoon doing my grocery shopping, my roommate treated me to a package of this pasta.

The brand is RP’s Pasta Company.  Now, I am not familiar with this company at all.  And given that I have been doing the gluten-free thing for almost two years now, you would think I’d know of every brand out there.  But, this was not the case.  It’s a good thing I like surprises.

RP’s Pasta founder and owner Peter Robertson, was approached by a long time customer and friend who was upset because she had to stop eating wheat.  Robertson felt that everyone should be able to eat fresh pasta set out to develop a recipe of equal or greater quality of the regular RP’s fresh pasta.  It happened in 2008 and from then on out, RP’s began producing fresh gluten-free and wheat-free pasta that matched the quality of their traditional semolina pasta.

The main ingredients of the RP’s Gluten-Free Pasta are brown rice flour, potato starch and egg.  From there, they managed to work the ingredients to match the quality and texture of any high quality fresh pasta.  Along with making a good product, RP’s gluten-free pastas are produced in a dedicated wheat-free area to insure proper safety and no cross-contamination.

If that wasn’t enough to convince you…the following night, Sunday, I was ready for some pasta.

The product that I chose (because they had a few in the refrigerated section) was RP’s Gluten-Free Linguini.  It was so easy to prepare that I was able to get some vegetables sauteing, ready some gluten-free bread for toasting, prepare two salads, and get water boiling without needing an extra hand.  And, there was no real reason to have to time things around pasta that might or might not be done within the time stated on the package.  That’s the thing about fresh pasta…it literally only takes two to three minutes and you have pasta perfection.

RP’s Gluten-Free Linguini was awesome.  It was so easy to prepare too.  I just started some water boiling, pulled out the pasta and seaparted it as much as I could.  Then into the water it went for about 3 minutes.  Afte I drained it, I tossed it into the pan with my sauteing vegetables and a hit of the sauce I was using.  I stirred it around until all was mixed and coated.  Then it went into the bowls for serving.

One bite was all I needed to discover that this pasta was all I wanted from here on out (once I use up the stuff in my pantry, that is).  Nothing beats a good quality fresh pasta.  And that was what I was lacking after having to go gluten-free.  But not anymore.  I thought this pasta was beyond the quality of any of the hard shells and noodles that I’ve been having to purchase for any sort of pasta dish I want to create.  Never again.  The linguini was perfect al dente in 3 minutes.  It paired well with my vegetables and sauce.  I was beyond happy with the texture and the taste.  Honestly…the absolute best gluten-free pasta I have had in the two years I have been gluten-free.  I’m astounded and amazed and only wish I had known about this before now.

One serving of this pasta is 220 calories, which is pretty much standard for any pasta.  It has only 2 grams of fat and provides 47 carbohydrates.  The long distance runner inside me cheers for joy with that.  The sodium content is relatively low (539 mg) each serving.  And the taste and texture are unmatchable.  Trust me.  I have never been so happy eating a bowl of linguini than I was last night.  Even if the new sauce I used wasn’t good.  The noodles were the star and these really stood out and impressed.

RP's Pasta Company Gluten-Free Linguini (cooked and sauced)
RP’s Pasta Company Gluten-Free Linguini (cooked and sauced)

Mrs. Leeper’s takes a leap over the gluten-free pasta competition with Corn Vegetable Radiatore

Mrs. Leeper's Corn Vegetable Radiatore Pasta
Mrs. Leeper’s Corn Vegetable Radiatore Pasta

Product: Mrs. Leeper’s Corn Vegetable Radiatore Pasta – $3.69+

I was standing in Whole Foods last year, around the time I had to go gluten-free, just gazing at the prices on the gluten-free items and trying very hard not to break down into tears…yet again.  I was overwhelmed.  Having to change my diet so drastically so fast and not really having the means in which to fund said diet was weighing on me.

And then, this angel appeared at my side and just by looking at me could tell that I was in distress.  And she said, “I’ve been gluten-free for years…”  And she began listing off some of her favorite products for different uses…such as pizzas, breads, and yes…pasta.

At that point, I had only just started experimenting with the brown rice pastas.  While I found them to work, they didn’t reheat well and often would turn to mush or get gummy in the process.  I recalled this lady in Whole Foods telling me that one of her favorite pastas is Mrs. Leeper’s.  I had never heard of Mrs. Leeper’s before…so I made a mental note of it and went on purchasing my brown rice noodles.

Then…I discovered gluten-free corn noodles.  And I found out how much better they held up, not just in the initial cooking process, but also reheating leftovers.  I was thrilled.

And then, my local grocery store just happened to begin to stock the very pasta brand this woman told me about ages ago.  Mrs. Leeper’s.  The selection was minimal, but they did have the Mrs. Leeper’s Corn Vegetable Radiatore pasta.  So…one day while it was on sale, I picked up a bag of it and put it in my pantry.  And then proceeded to use up the other pasta noodles that came before it.  Until tonight…when with the Amish cheese I picked up in Pennsylvania…I decided to cook up my mom’s infamous macaroni & cheese (gluten-free style)!

Mrs. Leeper's Corn Vegetable Radiatore Pasta (cooked & drained)
Mrs. Leeper’s Corn Vegetable Radiatore Pasta (cooked & drained)

I had no open pasta noodles so tonight it was time for Mrs. Leeper’s to be put to the test.  I opened up the bag and measured out the 6 ounces I needed for the baked macaroni and got a pot of water on the stove to bring to a boil.  Once it got there, I poured the colorful pasta noodles into the water, gave it a stir, and let it cook for about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

It was easy to drain, and I was quite happy to see that none of the noodles stuck together or fell apart.  It was a great consistency, very colorful, and would really bring some color to my mom’s recipe.  I began to layer up the casserole dish with noodles, onions, broccoli, seasoning, and two types of Amish cheddar cheese.  Repeat.  And the entire time, I didn’t have mushy noodles to contend with.  Even after I poured the white sauce over the top and stirred it all together before putting it in the oven to bake, nothing was falling apart.  Mrs. Leeper’s Corn Vegetable Radiatore pasta was rally doing its job and holding up.

And 45 minutes later, I removed the hot, bubbling casserole dish from the oven and let it sit for a few minutes before dishing out two servings – one for myself and one for my roommate.  Despite the cooking and then the baking, Mrs. Leepers Corn Vegetable Radiatore pasta really came through in the end.  Even better…the texture of it was fantastic.  The fun colors is an added incentive, but the look of it is rather unique from other pastas on the market.  And it was a lot of fun to see the different colors through the melted cheese in the final dish.

Mrs Leeper’s brand of pasta evolved as a wheat free and gluten-free line of enticing and often colorful rice and corn products for people who seek alternatives to wheat.  Using time-honored methods, simple and pure ingredients, and care when it comes to production, Mrs. Leeper’s products have met the demands of a constantly changing marketplace by offering innovative products that focus on integrity, quality and service.

Both my roommate and I agree that Mrs. Leeper’s turned out to be a really good pasta.  We’ll see how it does on the reheat tomorrow evening with some of the leftovers, but if it is anything like the corn pasta we have had in the past…it will hold up just fine.  Definitely hope to try more pasta options from Mrs. Leeper’s in the near future.  Full of yum.  And a definite pasta win!

Homemade Gluten-Free Macaroni & Cheese using Mrs. Leeper's Corn Vegetable Radiatore Pasta
Homemade Gluten-Free Macaroni & Cheese using Mrs. Leeper’s Corn Vegetable Radiatore Pasta

No go on Caesar’s Gluten-Free Potato Gnocchi

Caesar's Vegan Gluten-Free & Wheat-Free Potato Gnocchi
Caesar’s Vegan Gluten-Free & Wheat-Free Potato Gnocchi

Product: Caesar’s Vegan Gluten-Free & Wheat Free Potato Gnocchi – $4.79+

Before I had to go gluten-free, I fell in love with these amazing Italian potato dumplings known as gnocchi.  The problem being, even though made from potato, these contain flour and that puts it on the no-no list for Celiacs.  I was quite…sad, depressed, and unhappy when this happened.  It was like I was being denied something that I had only just discovered and fallen in love with.

And then, one day while walking through the Liquor Barn, of all places, with my roommate, we discovered Caesar’s Gluten-Free Potato Gnocchi in the freezer section.  Enter me doing a happy dance of joy right there.  I wanted to take it home with me that day, but I had enough products in the house at the moment to work through.

Then…a couple weeks later, while on that side of town, my roommate and I stopped in again and this time a bag came home with me.  And then…it sat in my freezer.  I can’t explain why.  It just sort of happened that way.  With the influx of fresh vegetables and fruits coming in with my CSA bin, getting to the frozen foods in the freezer or the items in my pantry got a little less common.

However, this past weekend, I was heading out of town to stop by my friend Jenn’s house and then…the following morning, the three of us were going to venture out to Hershey, Pennsylvania as I was running in the Hershey Half Marathon on Sunday.  So, I was bringing dinner to make things easy on us all on Friday night.

That evening, after arriving and settling in at her home, we got out the pot of water and got it up and boiling before pouring in the frozen potato gnocchi.  I was quite disappointed right off with the amount of pasta in the bag.  The sack said it was meant for four people, but there was barely enough to serve as an entree for the three of us.  We let that slide however, and put the small amount of gnocchi in the bag into the boiling water.  With gnocchi, the way you tell if it is done or not is that they float up to the top.  Problem number two with Caesar’s Gluten-Free Potato Gnocchi…half of them floated immediately.  How can we tell if they are done if the frozen dumplings are already floating?  We decided, instead, to just time it for the 4 minutes suggested on the package.

Caesar's Vegan Gluten-Free & Wheat Free Potato Gnocchi (cooked)
Caesar’s Vegan Gluten-Free & Wheat Free Potato Gnocchi (cooked)

While that was going, we heated up some sauce for the meal and set the table.  We checked on the gnocchi after four minutes.  Not all of them were ready, so we let it go a little longer.  Finally, we figured we were where we needed to be.  Again, kind of hard to tell when half floated right off the bat.

We drained the pan, then dished out the miniscule amount of gnocchi between the three of us.  We added the sauce…then a sprinkling of cheese and settled in at the table.

Only to be immediately disappointed.  I’m not joking.  Maybe a third of the gnocchi dumplings were perfectly cooked.  Some were gummy.  Some were still hard.  It was inconsistent.  And I was less than impressed.  This didn’t make me remember the amazing gnocchi I was able to eat before having to go gluten-free.  And that’s sad.  Because this was the first gluten-free gnocchi I was able to find.  I could make my own, of course, but it’s a lot of work and time I currently don’t have.  But…I may be headed that way.

I’ve tried Caesar’s Gluten-Free Stuffed Shells and really enjoyed them.  But these didn’t make the cut this time.  Not at all.  I was so unimpressed with the potato gnocchi.  Therefore, I don’t think I’ll be purchasing them again.

I have heard that the best gluten-free gnocchi is made by Nuovo, which I finally found at one of my local grocery stores.  But Caesar’s gluten-free gnocchi will never make it into my apartment again.  Totally not worth the money.

Caesar's Vegan Gluten-Free & Wheat-Free Potato Gnocchi with tomato sauce
Caesar’s Vegan Gluten-Free & Wheat-Free Potato Gnocchi with tomato sauce