Passion for Pasta: Al Dente Pasta Co.

Goodlifer: Passion for Pasta: Al Dente Pasta Co.

I have a great fondness for small-scale food producers with genuine enthusiasm about their products, but I like it even better when they the products are truly worthwhile and the producers manage to sustain that eagerness over time. When you have to produce thousands of batches of something, you’d better have faith in yourself and what you’re doing.

Al Dente Pasta Company has stood the test of time, I’m pleased to report. A passionate foodie, Monique Deschaine read about some women who had started a pasta company and instantly knew that’s what she wanted to do. She contacted chef Marcella Hazan who liked the idea and invited her to come work for her for a year and learn the trade, telling Deschaine, “If you want to make the best pasta, this is how to do it.”

Deschaine with an employee at Whole Foods in Evanston.

Deschaine with an employee at Whole Foods in Evanston.

They became very good friends, and Hazan let Deschaine use her kitchen after hours to start the business, gave her the recipe, and showed her the technique. This was in 1981 and the company has not strayed one bit during the 27 years they have been in business. In the beginning, Deschaine was chief cook and bottle washer, accountant, and tireless promoter. Over the years, the company has grown, now employing about twenty people, but Monique and her husband Dennis are still developing new foods, and still go to trade shows to demonstrate the superiority of their products. That’s unflagging enthusiasm for you, but then there’s reason to be infatuated with this pasta. Knowing that she could never compete with the big pasta companies, Deschaine focused on making the best pasta out there, using the more time-consuming process of rolling out the dough and cutting it into shape. This achieves a superior texture for which Al Dente Pasta has become known.

Freshly made pasta.

Freshly made pasta. Photo by Boris from Vienna, Creative Commons.

I was lucky, in that I stumbled onto these products years ago. Al Dente Pasta Company makes dried pastas, but this pasta is much better quality than your normal run-of-the-mill boxed stuff, and is made using only natural ingredients: durham flour, semolina and eggs. The pasta takes just 3 minutes to cook, which helps speed meal preparation (that’s always a plus these days!), and it’s delicious.

I’m partial to the Spinach Fettuccine, but if you’d like something a tad more exotic, why not try the Squid Ink or Wild Mushroom (both are fettuccine) or Spicy Sesame Linguine? If you’re counting carbs, you’ll find help here; there are several “Carba Nada” (get it?) Reduced Carb Pastas available. On the other hand, if you’re a whole grain fan, like I am, you’ll find three whole wheat blend choices, just the ticket for upping your intake of fiber and whole grains. The newest products on offer are Duets, all made with organic flour. These are clever blends of two different pastas in the same bag, so you have Farm and Field (egg and mushroom fettuccine); Land and Sea (egg and squid ink fettuccine); and Straw and Hay (egg and spinach fettuccine).

Squid ink pasta with swordfish (aka "octopus pasta").

Squid ink pasta with swordfish (aka “octopus pasta”).

Al Dente mushroom fettuccine with green garlic and mushrooms.

Al Dente mushroom fettuccine with green garlic and mushrooms.

But, you ask, what good is pasta without sauce? Relax — it’s taken care of. Monique’s Sumptuous Sauces will satisfy those longings, whether you want a marinara or an olive & caper sauce. Online ordering is available, and Al Dente Pasta Company has some lovely gift assortments. I myself have given pasta as a gift, and it’s always well-received. Visit Al Dente’s website to order, find recipes, and have a look at all of their products.

Al Dente pasta sauces.

Al Dente pasta sauces.

Top photo: quick, casual and delicious-summer pasta. Find more recipes and tips on Monique Deschanie’s blog: The Al Dente Canoodler.

About author
Stephanie Zonis was born with a spoon in her mouth — a tasting spoon, that is. She began cooking (especially baking) at a very early age, and for a short time even ran a highly illegal baking business from her long-suffering parents’ house when she was in high school. After acquiring a Master’s Degree in Foods, she eventually discovered the Internet in 1997. She’s been writing about food and developing recipes, especially where chocolate is involved, ever since. During those few moments when she’s not cooking or writing or thinking about food, Stephanie enjoys reading, walking, political discussions, and volunteering at a local no-kill cat sanctuary. She has been a member of a medieval re-creation group for longer than she’ll admit and loves absurdist humor.
3 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. How are the whole wheat pastas? I have a hard time finding a whole wheat pasta that can even compare to regular pastas.

  2. Wow! I just stumbled upon your website featuring Al Dente Pasta. Thank you so much. An article like this really helps us differentiate our company from ConAgra, which is also using the name Pasta Al Dente even though we have the registered trademark. We need to get the message out that we are not ConAgra, and I am not Marie Callendars. I love your blog.

  3. Go figure that ConAgra can get away with using a product name even though someone else hold the trademark. In my opinion, smaller businesses where the owners are actually involved, like Monique, are far more trustworthy and worth voting for with your forks.

    And, the whole wheat pastas are delicious.

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