Reviewer’s Note: Samples of the products discussed here were provided to me for reviewing purposes at no cost.
Not long ago Dave’s Gourmet Specialty Foods kindly sent me three samples of its gourmet pasta sauce. I received its Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce, its Organic Red Heirloom Pasta Sauce, and its Wild Mushroom Paste Sauce.
Of the three samples, I found the notion of a butternut squash sauce the most intriguing, so I chose to begin with that one. Whereas I’ve tasted pasta sauces with flavors influenced by heirloom tomatoes or mushrooms on numerous occasions, the butternut squash sauce was a wild card to me. A spoonful taken from the jar was immediately encouraging: sweet with a smooth texture and faint suggestions of onion and garlic. It pleased me that rather than tasting of tomatoes with a hint of butternut squash, the reverse was in fact true with this sauce.
Leading with the sugary taste of butternut puree, this sauce screamed veggie lasagna to me until I was compelled to submit, so I used it to create one with mozzarella and Monterey Jack cheeses, using for my veggies chopped spinach, carrots, straw mushrooms, and zucchini. The sweetness of the sauce contrasted well with the earthy mushrooms and spinach, and lent the dish a creamy dimension that was unexpected but nonetheless pleasant.
From there I moved on to the Organic Red Heirloom sauce, utilizing it with ground beef to make a simple meat sauce over penne. Again, a degree of sweetness sang throughout the sauce, though this time with more tangy undertones to balance the sugary notes. While this one didn’t depart all that much from other sauces of its kind that I’ve tried, it did make for a meal that was easily prepared and fresh-tasting with immense flavor.
The Wild Mushroom sauce ended up being the most surprising of all. It holds the distinction among these three of being the only one that compelled me to steal a second spoonful from the jar before I began cooking with it. The first flavor element that registered with me upon initial tasting was not of porcini or shiitake mushrooms, but of wine. Listing sherry wine among its ingredients, this thrilling sauce is loaded with finely minced mushrooms whose earthy taste harmonizes deliciously with the sherry. This sauce seemed like it would lend itself well to a meal featuring red meat, so I tossed a bit of fettuccine with it and enjoyed it with a New York strip steak, grilled to medium doneness. It did not disappoint. The sauce complemented both components, tasting rich and buttery on the pasta and elegant with the meat.
Dave’s Gourmet Pasta Sauces are a find; one destined for repeat appearances in the Flavorful World kitchen. Characterized by original flavor combinations that were sometimes surprising on first touching the palate but always pleasantly so, they’re a great way to save some time in the kitchen while making meals others will love.