Taste of Home
As a home cook, I love to make everything I possibly can from scratch—sweets, stock, even fresh jams and jellies. However, as much as I love laboring over a batch of cinnamon rolls, I know there are some foods that I don’t have time to tackle. For me, that’s always pasta, especially filled pastas like ravioli and tortellini.
That’s when it’s time to turn to the supermarket for answers (and for the main ingredient for this tasty tortellini salad). Now, I’m the first to admit—I normally grab a package from the brand I know best in the refrigerated section, but I’ve always wondered about the other brands and the frozen and even dried tortellini options. A taste test was certainly in order to help me determine if my go-to was the best or if other options were better suited to pair with homemade pesto.
For this taste test, I assembled a panel to try six different brands of cheese-filled tortellini. We tried Barilla (dried), Buitoni (in the refrigerated section), Perfect Pasta (frozen), Priano from Aldi (refrigerated), Rana (also refrigerated) and Trader Giotto’s from Trader Joe’s (another refrigerated option. Let’s see how they did!
Best Little Something Extra: Trader Giotto’s Cheese Tortellini
Our first notable tortellini in this test came from Trader Joe’s. This option was filled with ricotta, Romano and parmesan cheeses. However, what we really loved most was how well seasoned these tortellini were. It wasn’t just standard cheese, salt and pepper. This pasta’s filling also boasted perfectly balanced seasonings like garlic, basil and white pepper.
This all being said, we could use just a bit more filling inside this tasty pasta (but we always like more cheese—like in our macaroni and cheese taste test). However, that wouldn’t stop us from picking up a package. In fact, these were the prettiest pasta was tried, making them great for fresh pasta salads where the tortellini really stand out.
Best to Stock in Your Pantry: Barilla Collezione Tortellini
In our second place spot is Barilla (one of those great food brands that you always reach for but don’t quite know how to pronounce). Unlike most of our other contenders in this test, Barilla’s tortellini are dried—you’ll find them right along the spaghetti and penne in the pasta aisle. I know it’s hard to believe, but these little dried pastas really did beat out a handful of fresh competitors.
What testers noticed first was the great pasta taste and texture—exceptionally tender. Then we paid a bit more attention to the cheese filling. The ratio to pasta was just about right (we’ll save exactly right for our top spot). Inside the cheese—a combination of ricotta, Emmentaler and Grana Padano (very similar to parmesan cheese), gave us a perfectly salted rich bite. Wrapped up in a small package—these were are most petite pastas—we thought these tortellini wold be perfect for adding to soups.
However, the testing crew identified one major criticism of this option: a few tortellini in our batch were grainy. These not-as-rich pasta pockets were disappointing but there were very few. Overall, we really enjoyed these small tortellini. And we especially liked that this dried option gave us the option to keep a package or two on hand in the cupboard since they keep for much longer than their refrigerated counterparts.
Best in Show: Rana Cheese Lovers Tortelloni
Topping out our test with an impressive score was Rana, one of our refrigerated case options. In this test, Rana came in head and shoulders above its competitors for one reason: flavor.
Marked as “cheese lovers,” this tortellini, well tortelloni if you want to be specific (the only difference is size), delivered with an amazing cheesy taste. These pockets of pasta were absolutely stuffed with ricotta, mascarpone, Parmigiano Reggiano, mozzarella and Pecorino Romano. My testing panel all made notes about how rich and smooth the filling was. However, the filling wasn’t just rich and buttery—the parmesan and pecorino cheeses both added that perfect touch of saltiness that made us really pay attention. Combined in perfect proportion to the pasta, this tortellini really hit all the marks for us. As one tester remarked, “this really has a flavor that could stand up to a variety of sauces and not get lost.”
And if the flavor of this pasta wasn’t enough, it’s worth noting that Rana products are made without preservatives, artificial colors, artificial flavors, powdered eggs, hydrogenated fats, gums or GMO ingredients. It makes me feel much better about buying pre-packaged products if I know that everything inside is the real deal.
In the end, my crew of testers and I were all pretty shocked by the results! A dried cheese-filled pasta made us go back for seconds? A brand we’d never tried before took the top spot?
My biggest piece of advice would be not to count out products just because they are unfamiliar or seem like they might not measure up. You just might be pleasantly surprised with how good they can be!