Fresh + Frozen = Buitoni Pasta Party

Back in June, Foodbuzz put the call out for folks to create a party menu based on Buitoni Frozen Meals for Two. Honestly, I cringed a little bit at the thought of frozen pasta — it had been a while since I had some — but I submitted my proposal anyway.

I chose to do “Fresh + Frozen”, fresh vegetables paired with frozen pasta as salads or side dishes.  Surprisingly, Foodbuzz selected my proposal and I received 10 shiny coupons in the mail to purchase my pasta.  Now all I had to do was get my party scheduled, stock my kitchen, and get the party started!

The golden tickets! Coupons for Buitoni Frozen Meals for Two.

Knowing Butoni’s other products but not being familiar with their frozen line, I decided to hit the market blind. I was thinking that cooking this meal would be like an episode of the Food Network show, “Chopped”.  I would open my basket to see what I had and then whip up something phenomenal.  Yikes!

I picked up a variety of fresh veggies to give me lots of options on the “Fresh” side: white peaches, baby squash, red peppers, sweet corn, zucchini, egg plant, and a variety of tomatoes.  Farmers market shopping in the summer is heaven!  I rounded things out with a big box of organic mixed greens.

Veggies on my counter waiting to be chopped and skewed!

At the grocery store, I checked out the entrees in the freezer section.  My local Ralph’s only had a few varieties so I grabbed those and then jetted to Albertson’s where I found the same ones plus a few more. I ended up with five entrees that I knew would pair nicely with my fresh veggies in one way or another.  I left one free agent — a meat lasagna — to sample with all of the sides.

With veggies on deck, and pasta in hand, it was time to get cooking.  Check out the pairings I came up with!

Chicken & Mushroom Ravioli with Three Tomato Salad

Braised Beef & Sausage Ravioli with Fried Sweet Corn and Red Peppers

Shrimp & Lobster Ravioli with Steamed Baby Squash

Grilled Chicken & Spinach Cannelloni with Spring Mix, White Peaches, and White Balsamic Dressing

Four Cheese & Spinach Ravioli with Grilled Veggie (and Chicken) Skewers

In my original proposal, I proposed fresh vegetable side dishes that could be made in the time that it took to cook the pasta.  Of course I made that assumption without knowing how fast these pastas cook!  For the raviolis, they’re ready to plate within 5 minutes from being added to boiling water.  For the cannelloni and lasagna, baking time is upwards of an hour but the microwave option gets these dishes to the table in about 20 minutes.

With that knowledge, I started prepping my skewers first; I knew they would be the long pole in the tent.  Lots of slicing, dicing, and skewering was involved to get them ready for the grill!

Prepping the Skewers with red peppers, yellow peppers, eggplant, zucchini, and chicken.

Chicken and veggie skewers on the grill.

The other dishes were quick and easy, just as I had hoped.  I purposely opted for salads and sides that were simple yet elegant so I could focus on cooking the pasta and grilling the skewers.

Its getting hot in here!

At the height of cooking, things did get a little hectic.  The microwave was whirring and beeping, flames were coming from the grill, and steam was coming from several bubbling pots and pans on the stove.  I kept a cool head, though, and everything came together nicely and just in time.  Which was good because hungry guests were showing up to eat!

We're hungry and we're here to eat some pasta!

I put each pasta out with its paired side dish and the box the pasta came in.  I wanted folks to be able to be able to read the caloric contents, cooking directions, and other information as they fixed their plates.  Although everyone was hungry, they waited for a few moments, giving me the chance to do my foodie work and take a few snapshots.

Southern Italian Style Meat Lasagna next to the box with all the info!

After I explained the pairings and everyone fixed their plates, we settled in for some great conversation and good times.  I put together some pics of each dish and the reactions they produced from me and my tasters.  The names have been omitted to protect the guilty.  Enjoy!

Chicken & Mushroom Ravioli with Three Tomato Salad

Chicken & Mushroom Ravioli with Three Tomato Salad: Heirloom, Roma, and Green tomotoes with salt, pepper, and celery seed.

This sauce is great!  It came with the pasta!?

I don’t like mushrooms.

I like the texture of the mushrooms.  They’re not soggy.  This one goes well with the wine I brought, too.

I don’t like tomatoes.

This tomato salad is good!  What kinds of tomatoes are in here? (Answer: Heirloom, Roma, and “Green”!)

Braised Beef & Sausage Ravioli with Fried Sweet Corn and Red Peppers

Braised Beef & Sausage Ravioli with Fried Sweet Corn and Red Peppers

So easy to make! Get chopped sweet corn, diced red peppers, salt, black pepper, herbs, and olive oil. Saute in a hot skillet until the corn is tender. Done!

I wish this sauce was a little bit thicker.  Its kind of light, like a vodka sauce.

Hey, there’s no stuffing in my ravioli!  Can I have some more?

This corn is delicious!  Its so sweet I could eat it raw, right off the cob.

Shrimp & Lobster Ravioli with Steamed Baby Squash

Shrimp & Lobster Ravioli with Steamed Baby Squash

This ravioli was the best in show! Awesome sauce and texture with big chunks of lobster!

WOW! This sauce is amazing.  It really completes the dish.  Tastes like something I would get in an Italian restaurant.

I like this one.  I just got a big piece of lobster in that last bite.

(To the kids:) YES you have to eat your squash!  I only gave you one little piece.  If you want more ravioli you have to get more squash too!

Grilled Chicken & Spinach Cannelloni with Spring Mix, White Peaches, and White Balsamic Dressing

Grilled Chicken & Spinach Cannelloni with Spring Mix, White Peaches, and White Balsamic Dressing

I really liked the Alfredo sauce on this one.  It wasn’t what I was expecting from a frozen pasta.

Yeah, I liked the sauce and the texture of the filling.  I thought it was going to be mushy but it was firm.

This salad is tasty!  The peaches on top are a nice touch.

(Kid) I’m not gonna eat this one.  I like chicken but I don’t like spinach.

Four Cheese & Spinach Ravioli with Grilled Veggie (and Chicken) Skewers

Four Cheese & Spinach Ravioli with Grilled Chicken and Veggie Skewers

Wait.  Wasn’t this supposed to be veggies and pasta?

Yeah, this one was meatless so I decided to add some chicken to the skewer.  I don’t see any problems with that!

(Kid) I’m not gonna eat this one either.  Spinach.

I really like the eggplant, it soaked up the flavor of the marinade like a sponge!

The sauce on this ravioli is just OK but this marinade is delicious.  I should put some on my pasta! (LOL) Seriously: Can I have some marinade to put on my pasta? (Answer: No!)

Wrapping Up

Wow!  I had a great time sampling all of these pastas. The friends and family that I shared everything with seemed pretty satisfied too.

Thanks, Foodbuzz and Buitoni, for the support and opportunity to put on this pasta party.  It was a treat and a challenge to match each pasta with a fresh veggie side dish that was delicious and easy to make.  I’ll be serving these up again soon.


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About the Author

Michael loves grilling, rum, and has a weakness for key lime pie.

9 Responses to “Fresh + Frozen = Buitoni Pasta Party”

  1. Good times and I still managed to lose 1 lbs this week! Great write up and food!

  2. @Nicole – Wow! All that pasta and you still lost a pound!? Please tell me your work out plan! 😀

  3. Great write up Michael, I’m definitely doing Buitoni this week, I can already taste it, Shrimp and Lobster Ravioli with a side of okra corn tomatoes and pancetta…yumm

  4. @Tanisha – Sounds like a winner to me!

  5. And I was not invited to this pasta party because…? Just kidding. But if I had been, I would have been in love with the Lobster Ravioli for sure. And your Veg and Chicken Skewers look really gooood! You look like you had a lot of fun with this. Good story.

  6. Ahhh. This is awesome. Buitoni is delish. I know your creations were da bomb.

  7. Sounds like a great dinner party and lots of full bellies.

  8. Why didn’t you cook this when I was there last week?!?!?! Sounds real good!!!!

  9. Hey Momma! I should have cooked up some pasta but we already had the menu planned. I did grill some veggies though! 🙂