Affordable, versatile, and vessels of both comfort and innovation, baked pasta dishes—think lasagne, baked ziti, and mac and cheese—are a promising solution to both product and labor shortages plaguing the restaurant industry. They are also a great way for chefs to meet the surging demand for high-quality off-premises food that doesn’t shy away from innovation.
“Pasta bakes are operationally advantageous because they are something you can prep ahead of time,” says Yury Karasilovsky, R&D and executive chef at Barilla America. “They also hold up well. You’re still going to deliver a great experience with a lasagne that sits for an hour before it’s eaten. That’s commonplace in foodservice, and pasta bakes still deliver on taste, flavor, and quality in that scenario.”
Take mac and cheese, for example. A pioneer in the pasta-bake space, mac and cheese continues to outrank other items in incidence on both children’s and adult menus. Fine-dining and quick-service restaurants alike have elevated this simple dish to the sublime by adding local seafood, signature spices, truffle oil, and garlic breadcrumbs, to name a few.
Savvy operators are giving a twist to classic pasta bakes by using a few innovative, trending ingredients and flavor profiles. For example, according to Datassential, basil pesto tops the sauce category at 57 percent menu incidence. Chefs have success pairing basil pesto with an array of center-of-the-plate ingredients, including plant-based proteins and popular proteins such as prosciutto, seafood, or grilled chicken—all things that kitchens often already have on-hand.
“In a lot of ways, pasta bakes are one of the ultimate canvasses where you can showcase trends,” Krasilovsky says. “But it’s also a place where you can cross-utilize ingredients. You can have a world of variety just with the items that you already have in your kitchen—from proteins, to sauces, to different cheeses that add interest and flair.”
Barilla recently released two new products that are helping chefs showcase trends and create great pasta bakes without sacrificing on labor. The first is Barilla Frozen, a line of pre-cooked frozen pasta. Chefs can choose from four cuts—cellentani, elbows, penne, and rigatoni—each holding its al-dente texture for 30-plus minutes for consistent in-house, takeout, or delivery options. Likewise, chefs have a choice of cooking methods, from blanching, steaming, microwaving, saucing, to impinger oven baking. Each style saves hours in prep time, lowers energy costs, and eliminates food waste.
Also ideal for holding and reheating, Barilla Lasagne Chef are oven-ready, shelf-stable lasagne sheets that fit a half hotel pan each and provide an additional canvas on which to create pasta bakes that diners will love.
“It’s super important to chefs that whatever they are serving is only the highest quality,” Krasilovsky says. “That’s something we understand at Barilla because we feel the same way—we want to ensure that guests are getting a special meal, even when it’s being delivered. These products are centered around that.”
Bake It ‘Til You Make It
Tips and tricks for pasta bakes
Go Plant-Based: Pasta bakes are a great place to meet the growing demand for plant-based proteins.
Go Frozen: Bakes can be prepped ahead of time. And with frozen pasta solutions from Barilla, each bake will be ready for the oven with minimal labor.
Cross-utilize Ingredients: “Don’t overthink it,” says Yury Krasilovsky, R&D and executive chef at Barilla America. “Focus on the items you already have so that you can do more with less.”
Comfort Plus: Pasta bakes are the ultimate comfort food. They are also a great place to showcase healthy ingredients, like kale, spinach, various roasted vegetables, and grilled chicken.
For more on Barilla’s new products, visit barillafs.com