When we learned local celebrity chef and Food Network star Christian Petroni was coming out with his own meal kit delivery service, we knew we had to try it in the same way that we know we need to breath or sleep or call a sandwich with the bread cut only on one side a “wedge.” We’re Westchesterites; we need this.
Luckily, even though the Fortina@Home meal service goes live nation-wide on April 1, its currently available for local pickup, so county residents can snag one before the hoi polloi. We opted for the initial offering, with a few surprise add-ons to give our readers a peek into what wonderful recipes might be to come.
Photo by Dave Zucker
All the ingredients to make baked paccheri a la vodka and a (massive) arugula salad come pre-packaged and ready to go. The arugula is packaged carefully, along with fresh Parmesan for grating, crumbled candied pistachios, and a squirt-bottle of Fortina’s customer favorite lemon-honey dressing. The pasta is bagged alongside vacuum-sealed packs of house vodka sauce and mini veal meatballs, plus some pre-grated Parmesan and toasted breadcrumbs.
Photo by Samantha Garbarini
Home chefs familiar with the method of sous vide cooking will feel right at home, though those unfamiliar might be a bit confused. To cook your paccheri, simply dump the pasta into a pot of boiling, salted water and cook for the indicated time, or until al dente. (Since you’ll be baking it you definitely don’t want to overcook at this stage.)
Simultaneously, you’re going to pop both the bag of sauce and the bagged meatballs into a separate pot of boiling water. Yes, still bagged! As with sous vide cooking, you’re simply heating the items gradually using the water, although rather than doing so slowly over time to cook the ingredients, here we’re simply reheating the already prepared elements.
Once the pasta, sauce, and meatballs are done, pop them into an oven-safe pan or casserole dish and stir to combine. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. We almost got tripped up here, because we were expecting to top the pasta with breadcrumbs and Parmesan before placing the dish back in the oven for a couple minutes of toasting but you don’t! Since the breadcrumbs are already toasted and Parmesan has such a high melting point, there’s no need. Just pour on top and serve immediately.
As for the salad, place the arugula in a giant bowl. Douse with half the dressing, a little salt, and half a cup of pistachios, then toss. Sprinkle with the rest of the pistachios and grate fresh Parmesan over top.
Photo by Dave Zucker
Honestly, we were kind of blown away by the flavor and the ease of preparation. As food-lovers (naturally), we usually revel in learning new techniques and chopping and sautéing, but this recipe really was designed for someone who loves Fortina’s food and just wants to be able to have it fresh and at home with minimal effort: essentially, you’re reheating, assembling, and baking. No muss, minimal fuss.
As for the food itself, it was delicious. The pasta was perfectly cooked, the vodka sauce was just right, and the breadcrumbs and Parmesan added the perfect amount of crunch and bite to cut the softness and sweet tomato flavors. The arugula salad was floral and light, though as expected it didn’t keep very well overnight. (We’d opted for the $56 four-serving option of the box, but honestly we got about six plates out of it over two days!)
Photo by Dave Zucker
Oh, chef, you spoil us. Teasing some of the ideas the Fortina@Home team have been kicking around, our meal kit came with an adorable little pink box on the side that drew a fairly large commotion when we opened it, discovering freshly made cannoli shells along with cream and Nutella in vacuum-sealed piping bags! Yes, these were the first things to get polished off, and yes, we’re saving the excess cream in the fridge and shut up no you can’t have any.
Based on serving size, your mileage may vary, but no matter how you slice it you’re not paying more for an entrée and a salad in the kit than you would in the restaurant, and you’re gaining the ability to make it on your schedule in your own home. If you have time to stop to pick up a box one day but the time to cook the next, this is kind of your ideal scenario.
Plus, once service goes national you’ll be able to send boxes to yourselves and loved ones all over who haven’t yet heard the good word of Fortina.