What do you get, how much was it and how easy to prepare?
Restaurant dining is sadly not an option right now. So when many of our favourite chefs and restaurants - who had never previously offered delivery - began to do so, with some getting really creative in the face of lockdown, we were intrigued.
One of the most popular features on Manchester Confidential has always been our honest, unannounced and impartial restaurant reviews. Our readers come to us for the lowdown, confident that we know our stuff and will tell it straight. Without restaurants, we've not been able to write restaurant reviews. But it’s what we do.
So we’re launching a new series, giving you the scoop on some of the many delivery options that have sprung up. We’ll buy it, eat it - cook it if we have to - and let you know how it was. We’re not going to be scoring these ‘reviews’ - it doesn’t seem right - but we’ll let you know what you can expect and where's worth spending your money.
What? - The Pasta Factory meal kits and deli
Italian quartet Elisa Cavigliasso, Alberto Umoret, Paolo Gaudino and Enrico Princi opened The Pasta Factory on Shude Hill five years ago. They missed the little delis and shops all over Italy that sold fresh pasta to cook at home so they decided to create something that provided this for their fellow Italians and to introduce it to the rest of Manchester.
If you can’t be arsed bubbling a ragu away on the stove for half a day it’s a great alternative
But The Pasta Factory wasn’t just a deli selling everything you needed to make your own dishes, it was a lovely little restaurant too with knowledgable and enthusiastic staff, good wine and a warm atmosphere. Luckily, in lockdown, their now famous pasta parcels can be delivered to your place ready to scoff. But did you know they also deliver meal kits and everything from 00 flour and yeast to vegan and traditional cheeses? I resisted the smoked salmon ravioli for another day and got stuck into some make-at-home dishes.
What do you get and how much does it cost?
There are four meal kits - that serve two - available: three vegetarian and vegan ones priced at £13 or a ‘meat lovers’ one for £14. The deli section has dried and sometimes colourful (beetroot bucatini anyone?) pasta starting at £3.50 as well as toppings, sauces, jars and bottles of things like olive oil, balsamic vinegar and fig jam ranging from £1 up. I ordered the meat lovers kit which included 300g of fresh pasta, sauce and Parmesan for two. I decided to add on some extra stuff to my order too: a packet of ‘long pasta’ - chunky nests of wholemeal bucatini, a tub of grated parmesan and some guanciale - thick slices of cured pig cheek with tons of black pepper that arrive wrapped in greaseproof paper and foil. The plan was to make a carbonara the next day for lunch. I couldn’t resist adding a ready-made dessert too - a wodge of torta made with ricotta and lemons and drizzled with a silky homemade salted caramel sauce. It came to £33.34 with delivery and service fees.
What do you have to do and how difficult is it?
For quick and easy food, you can’t really beat the meal kit. It’s as simple as filling a pan with water and switching on the hob. Once your water is boiling, the pasta takes less than two minutes to cook - or more specifically according to the instructions ‘80-100 seconds’. If you’re not a fan of cooking or can’t be arsed bubbling a ragu away on the stove for half a day it’s a great alternative. I made a carbonara for lunch a few days later which involved a bit more effort but really not much of a stretch. While your pasta is cooking, beat a couple of eggs or egg yolks and mix with the ready grated Parmesan. Snip the guanciale into rough cubes and sizzle in a hot frying pan with a knob of melted butter and a bashed garlic clove - discarding it when it’s lightly browned. Mix the drained pasta (it takes six minutes) into the crisped meat in the frying pan with a splash of reserved cooking water then - off the heat - stir in the egg and cheese mixture to create a silky sauce. A good grating of black pepper and a whisper of nutmeg and you’re done.
Is it any cop?
The pork sausage ragu in the meal kit could have been a bit more generous for two but it coated the pasta well enough and was bulked up by a generous pot of Parmesan. The meal kit pasta was tangibly fresh and unlike anything you’d get from the corner shop. It felt like a treat rather than a store cupboard meal. The dried pasta we used for our carbonara didn’t invoke that uniform, factory-sleek, pressed table cloth style Italian meal but something more rustic, country style like a hearty lunch a Tuscan mama would serve up. We hoovered it up like we hadn’t eaten for days when in fact that’s all we seem to do.
The Pasta Factory, 77 Shudehill, Manchester M4 4AN
Value for money
£14 (plus delivery charge) for a meal box for two is cheap and cheerful, you could get enough for several meals for less than £40 by adding a few deli items.
Packaging and delivery
Minimal plastic, the usual Uber Eats 'contactless' delivery arrived in under 30 mins.
Your kids could probably do it.
Quality and quantity
I'd have liked a bit more ragu but otherwise portions are spot on