Perfect Pasta Meat Ravioli Review

Perfect Pasta Ravioli ReviewAny time I pick up a product to purchase and the first two words on the ingredient list are not “mechanically separated,”  I figure I’m way ahead of the game.  It was the ingredient list that attracted me to the meat ravioli product of Perfect Pasta, a suburban Chicago manufacturer.

Note the ingredients: Durum wheat flour, beef, egg, whole milk ricotta, water, Romano, onions,celery, crarots, salt, bread crumbs,  fresh garlic, parsley, fresh sage, fresh rosemaqry, black pepper, granulated garlic.

Isn’t that perfect?  Sounds like some grandma’s recipe.

Perfect Pasta has been cranking out various noodle recipes of all ilks for consumers and commercial users for several decades.  They focus on one segment of the industry and do it well.

So many pre-made, frozen ravioli have no taste and worse texture, but this product is a gem.  Not only can you see the various ingredients (picture below), you can actually taste them!

Highly recommended.

If Google maps is correct (and it isn’t, on occasion), below you will a pic of Perfect Pasta’s plant, USDA inspected establishment # 19829.  Use the company’s locator to find an outlet near you.

Perfect Pasta Ravioli Review


Perfect Pasta Ravioli Review








Perfect Pasta Meat Ravioli Review

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Reggios Pizza Review

Reggios Microwave Pizza ReviewI’m reluctant to try almost any freezer pizza that says it can be microwaved.  Just never works out, in my opinion.  But Reggio’s is one of my favorite frozen brands, and the individual sized were on an endcap and on sale, so I thought I’d give one a whirl.   I’ve tried the size before, but in  a conventional oven, as I am likely to do, given the option.  The results were satisfactory.

Two things that food producers have so far failed to master, one is microwavable pizza, the other is “crispness” on deep fried products.  The Reggio’s pie includes one of those “specialized” baking surfaces (within the box)  which is supposed to amp up the crisp factor.  In the base of this product, you remove from the box and the cello, and slide the frozen pizza back into the box for its minute or so in the nuke-a-torium.

I wasn’t very happy with the result.  While the familiar taste of a Reggio’s pie was there, and the interior portion was adequate, the crust rim was rock hard, and part of the pie was left in the box.  It doesn’t appear there is any easy way to get the pie out of the ‘cooking chamber box’ intact.

As with most products that give you the option of conventional oven or microwave, despite the time needed and energy consumption, I always recommend using your oven.  In the case of this pizza, the upside results would have been two fold:  1) even crust baking, and  2) better appearance.

Reggios Microwave Pizza Review

Baked, and out of the box


Reggios Microwave Pizza Review

What Was Left in the Box

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Mike Ditkas Italian Beef Review

Mike Ditka Italian Beef ReviewMike Ditka, ex professional football player, ex NFL coach, has been on a licensing spree lately; in addition to his restaurants, Ditka is now rivaling Donald Trump (including questionable hair) for an expanding product line:  wine, steaks, cigars, and now Chicago style foods.

I don’t know shit about football; the closest I ever came to the sport was working a grade school carnival with Mike Singletary and Walter Payton, also former Chicago Bears;  our kids all attended the same school.  Oh, and I went to the annual NFL game in London one year, for work purposes.

In any case,  Ditka’s “Chicago foods” are a recent addition to his line up.   Ditka has two different sausage varieties, a hot beef polish, and a tomato/cheese chicken.  It’s not likely I’d ever try the poultry one, just not my thing, but I did try the polish when it was launched, and liked it.  It’s a big one, too, a third pound,and requires a substantial bun for cradling.

Ditka has now joined the several Italian Beef kits sold in Chicago grocers; after all, it is the official sandwich of Chicagoans.  All come with beef and seasonings frozen in a block or tub of au jus, and merely require gentle heating before strategically placing the meat in your choice of roll and dressing it as you are so inclined.

Here’s the important part.  I’ve often heard from people how they are disappointed in the frozen Italian beef, and almost universally, upon questioning, I have found out that often the source of their disappointment is that they did not follow the instructions on the package.  For this product to turn out like anything resembling the restaurant version, two things must occur:  1) you have to thoroughly and completely THAW the product before heating, in the frig or on the counter top, and 2) GENTLE heating is all that required.  Bring it to a boil and you’ll hate the result.  So, repeat after me:  THAW. GENTLE.  Ok, we’re good to go.

Ditka’s ingredients are pretty straight forward,  the beef portion contains seasonings, oregano and flavorings.  The gravy ingredient list is a little lengthier, and does contain a number of different salts as well as MSG, if you’re a pussy about that kind of stuff.  In the pic below of the unprepared product, you’ll note the red color, I’m not sure where that comes from.

The package is 2.25 pounds for five servings, and costs around $9, which is right around the same price point as its competitors.

Heated it for awhile, and ready to consume, I chose a short French roll, for its durability, as an Italian beef can get messy. There’s three ways to order Italian beef in Chicago, dry, wet, or dipped.  Dry means they tong the beef out of the au jus and let most of it run off the meat before placing it in the bun.  Wet means no dripping, and perhaps a little gravy ladled on the sandwich.  Dipped?  Beef in the roll, no drip, and dipping the entire sandwich in the au jus.  Soggy and delicious.  It’s an acquired taste.

You should also specify whether or not you want giardiniera on it, a pickled relish of diced garden vegetables (celery, cauliflower, carrots, jalapenos, oregano, and garlic) preferred by locals.  Top or not with peppers, sweet or hot. Feeling bold? Ask for a “beef combo” and that will get you the delicious beef sandwich with a full Italian sausage nestled in the beef!

So back at home, I loaded my bun with a little too much meat, and plated it along side some home made potato chips (I was kitchen-motivated today).

Of the half dozen frozen Italian beef products I am aware of,  I’ve got to say, this is my favorite.  The gravy is very flavorful, and the beef is a quality cut.  Good job, coach.


Mike Ditka Italian Beef Review

In the tub


Mike Ditka Italian Beef Review



Mike Ditka's Italian Beef Review


Mike Ditkas Italian Beef Review

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Home Cookin ‘ – Ball Park Brand Flame Grilled Beef Patties

I’ve tested a lot of ‘heat and eat’ burger patties at home, from the frozen varieties like Fred Meyer Frozen Mini Cheeseburgers, Private Selection Angus Beef Patties, and Trader Joes Kobe Style, White Castle,  to the convenience store types like Big A Angus Charbroil, and the 7-Eleven Cheeseburger,

With the exception of the mini mart burgers, the other patties all come frozen and uncooked.   Ball Park Flame Grilled Beef Patties are frozen and fully cooked, and only have to be heated in a microwave, on a skillet or grill.

If you’re a regular reader, you know even if a product calls gives a choice of being microwaved or some other cooking method, usually I chose to heat on a stove top; tonight was an exception, and I followed the manufacturer’s instructions for microwaving:  microwave safe plate, cover patty with a paper towel, heat 60-75 seconds.

Here’s what the patty looks like right out of the resealable pouch:

Ball Park Flame Grilled Beef Patties

And in nearly less than a minute, “plated”, this burger looks like a hand-formed, quality hamburger:

Ball Park Flame Grilled Beef Patties

I was quite surprised at both the taste and texture of this product. I liked it. I’d buy them again, and you should too.

Ball Park Beef patties come in three varieties, and are packed 6 to a bag, at my store they were $7.99.

Here’s their latest TV commercial to tell you the whole story.


Pretty standard: beef, water, salt, beef stock, flavoring, oil, starch, corn syrup and lemon juice concentrate.  That last ingredient is a puzzler!



ball park beef patties

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Private Selection Angus Beef Patties

Today’s home burger test is a Private Selection (Kroger) brand frozen Angus Burger.  1/3 pound patties, 6 to a package, retail price of 5.99 today with a Fred Meyer loyalty card.   As I spewed the other day, Fred Meyer is our local outlet of the Kroger Company, where house brands are made and/or distributed by their subsidiary Inter-American Brands.

fredmeyerburger box PNGThe box (pictured) calls the burgers “100% Angus Beef Chuck Patties.”  The ingredients panel states:  “Contains Beef,” with no other additives listed than simply that.  That’s encouraging.   There was, I think a couple of choices in the same line, one box touted “Bacon and Cheese Beef Patties,” I didn’t examine the box closely, but from the photo, it looked like the bacon and cheese was mixed into the beef patty.   That’s far too much of a commitment for me.  The new Federal regulation on country of origin labeling showed me that this is a product of USA, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, and Australia.   Note that there is no “or” in that list.

Further Federal regulations shows that this product was made at USDA registered plant 425B, and Googling that reveals that “Kenosha Beef International, through its business unit, Birchwood Foods, is one of the largest US processors of raw, frozen, and pre-cooked ground beef and pork products for the quick-service restaurant industry. Birchwood Foods’ manufacturing facilities in Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin primarily serve the midwestern US, although it distributes products to restaurant and foodservice customers throughout the nation.”

Further examination tells us that Birchwood is 75 years old, and still in family hands.   That’s usually an encouraging sign for me.  Birchwood is in the contract manufacturing business, so if you have a burger idea and a few million bucks to launch it, I am sure they would be more than happy to assist you with formulation and manufacturing.

I digress.

The instructions on the box were straightforward, place patties in a pre-heated pan and cook until juices come through, flip, and cook until “done.”   Well, that’s vague.   I generally home-fry burgers in fredmeyerburger raw PNGa cast-iron skillet, lightly oiled (EVOO), and with Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning (I lived in New Orleans for five years, what can I say, our household uses Tony Chachere’s on everything (it’s really nice on cottage cheese!).   (Think of it as a jazzed-up seasoned salt).

So I cooked them as instructed, it took ten  minutes at medium heat til the “juices came through”, and then I flipped them for four minutes to keep them to a medium rare. (I failed at that part).   I didn’t weigh these before or after cooking, but they didn’t leave much in the pan, even though they suffered some diameter shrinkage.

As it was “generic” day, I loaded them onto Fred Meyer brand Sesame Buns, dressed with mustard, onion, and dill pickle, and the result was quite enjoyable.   Certainly better than any of the “Angus” fast food offerings out there.  Of course, it didn’t come with fries or a huge-ass cola, but I kept up no-name day by washing them down with “Dr. K,” Kroger’s Dr Pepper knock-off, which is good enough, at half the price.

Side dishes today?   An old episode of Perry Mason and a scratch-off ticket.   What a life I lead!  So what do you think, does it look like the picture on the box?  Yeah, me neither.

fredmeyerburger cooked PNG

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