Thursday, June 16, 2011

Field Trip and Review: Al Dente Pasta

When my kids were younger, we used to take field trips to local establishments and businesses that would show us a behind-the-scenes look at their operation. My kids loved these trips, but we pretty much exhausted all that was available in our local area. Or so I thought. When an opportunity recently came up for a tour at Al Dente Pasta, I thought it would be a fun outing and a break from the kids’ studies.

Al Dente Pasta, located in Whitmore Lake, MI, is a family-owned business that has been in operation since 1981. Our tour started with owner Monique Deschaine explaining to the kids how the business got started and what they would see on the tour.  Then, we all donned our hats and hair nets and proceeded to the factory area.  The first piece of equipment we saw is used to mix the ingredients, then roll and cut the pasta dough.
if you look closely in the pic above, you can see the woman at the top constantly monitoring the ingredients for the best pasta dough.
Then the workers at the end of the machine place the cut pasta on racks to dry.  Notice how the noodles are green?  They were running spinach fettuccine the day we toured.
Once the pasta is dry, it is bagged and boxed, ready to be shipping to various locations across the U.S.
Monique brought out a tray of freshly made pasta so the kids could see what the pasta felt like before it dried.
Afterwards, Monique spent a lot of time with the kids talking business.  The kids asked various questions about Al Dente, as well as shared their visions for their own businesses.  They were all encouraged to go after their dreams.

Thanks, Monique, for a great peek into Al Dente Pasta.
And if the tour weren’t great by itself, I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to take home some pasta to review!  It is a good thing, too, because my kids were already drooling and pawing the pasta on the shelves.

I was sent home with five different kinds of pasta and Monique’s Marvelous Marinara Sauce.
Al Dente Pasta is very careful that only quality ingredients are used for the best taste and texture.  Bet yet, for all you busy moms out there, it cooks in only 3 minutes! The first night we tried the Garlic Parsley Fettuccini with the marinara sauce.
And yes, that pasta truly cooked up in only 3 minutes!  Gotta love that. Dinner was gobbled up in no time and received thumbs up all around.

Next, I tried the new Golden Egg Pappardelle.  These are very broad noodles, definitely some substance here.  I just used them as a side dish, but later thought how great they’d be in some chicken noodle soup.  I love making homemade chicken soup and the wider noodles will make it more filling. I’ll be looking for this variety next time I go to the store.

Now, if you are one to think pasta is a boring dish, you’ve never heard of Al Dente’s Squid Ink Fettuccine.  Interesting, eh?
squidInk-fet-b I wasn’t sure about consuming squid ink, but I was willing to try.  Luckily, my family was adventurous enough to try black pasta.

It didn’t have a strong taste like I thought it might, but did have a distinct flavor.  I served it with some salmon (for a little seafood theme), but wouldn’t this be fun to serve around Halloween or at an Over the Hill birthday party?

Apparently, there are some health benefits to consuming squid ink, but I thought it was just something unusual and fun to try.

So far everything we’ve tried from Al Dente has been tasty.  They have a variety of pastas to try and I love that I’m supporting a local, family-owned business.  I’ll be keeping an eye out for the Spicy Sesame Linguine at my local stores, as that sounds too tasty to pass up.  I bet it is fabulous in a summer pasta salad. If you follow Al Dente on Facebook, recipes are often shared there (as well as on the back of the packaging).

Al Dente is available nationwide in grocery stores, or you can order from the Al Dente website (check out the gift baskets!) or from online retailers, e.g. Amazon. Give Al Dente a try next time you want a healthy and quick (remember - only 3 minutes!) dinner.

Disclaimer: I was provided the product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. I have received no other compensation.


Heather @ Marine Corps Nomads said...

How fun! I didn't realize there was a pasta factory in Whitmore Lake???

I wish we could still eat regular pasta as that pasta looks really good!

Family Style School said...

How fun.

Following you from the crew.