Anyone who knows me personally or has been following my food journey, knows that I am an Italian-American. I mean come on, my name is Maria Theresa. My grandma, Theresa Scalisi, came to New York on a boat from Italy in the 1940s. Growing up, all I knew was authentic Italian cuisine. That is what Grandma cooked every single night! There were points in my young life where I begged to have frozen pizza for dinner because I was sick of fresh pizza. Now that I am an adult, I laugh at how ridiculous that statement sounds. Grandma would have fresh fettuccine drying on a broomstick in the kitchen, while oregano was drying from the rafters in the garage. Each Sunday my whole family, extended and immediate, would gather for pasta and meatballs at Grandma’s. We would pick fresh basil from her garden to garnish the tomato sauce and then douse it with grated pecornio romano cheese, that Grandma bought by the gallon. To read more about my grandma and our traditions, click here. Also, go to the About Me page to learn about how she influenced my passion for food.
It goes without saying, a love and appreciation for Italian food has been instilled in me since birth.
So along came Nonnabox (click for website). A company that supplies its subscribers with regional Italian products shipped right to their door step.
Guido Pedrelli, the founder, states that he “started Nonna Box with this idea to promote Italian culture and traditions in the US, but through our gastronomy, which so strongly ties together our heritage, history, and, of course, pride. And who better to walk us through the culinary soul of Italy than Nonna?”
The mission of Nonnabox is for their customers to feel as if they traveled through Italy without even leaving their kitchen. The masterminds of this company scour through their Grandma’s recipes and then search for the authentic ingredients and flavors that will make these dishes come alive. Nonnabox reminded me so much of my experiences with Grandma. My ultimate dream is to visit Sicily one day, to see where Grandma was born and raised. But for now, I get to journey to Italy via my taste buds.
The First Impression
Each month, subscribers will receive 6 gourmet products from a different region in Italy. This month’s box featured products from the Puglia region. The box contained a royal blue envelope with various cards describing the region’s history, a story from Nonna, explanation of each product and three recipes utilizing some of the products.
Providing information on the featured Italian region was an outstanding attention to detail. Not only does Nonnabox want you to enjoy the products they send, they want you to appreciate and value them. Without going to Italy yourself, this can be done by providing background information on the region and its cuisine. Did you know that Puglia is the largest producer of olive oil in Italy today? Who knew? But Nonnabox did not stop there. Guido, also adds a note about his memories of Puglia and how it was dear to his heart. Another card describes Nonna Ripalta’s story, as she shares her precious recipes with us. All of this information connects the subscriber with the products and the incredible people behind them.
- Price per box: $69.95
- Arrives one time per month
- Cancel subscription anytime
- 6 artisan products from an Italian region
- Promotional codes are offered
- Create an account at Nonnabox.com (click to get started)
Each product was described in detail under the following headings: regional culinary tradition, what is it, and the Italian way (above). A photograph of the product is also displayed on the card so that the subscriber can identify which item from the box is being portrayed. The cards and photographs were high quality, with an appealing design.
I quite enjoyed “The Italian Way” section, as it explained when Italians would eat each item, how it would be traditionally prepared and what other products would typically accompany it. When sharing the items from the box with my family and friends, I felt like a Puglia connoisseur by retelling the facts that I learned.
Taralli is a Pugliese grab-and-go snack, much like chips to Americans. These dry delights are made from basic ingredients: flour, olive oil, fennel seeds and wine. They were crispy and flaky with a bold savory olive-oil bite. Much like Pringles, once I popped I couldn’t stop. My favorite part is that Taralli is traditionally served with a glass of red wine.
These meaty and sweet olives are traditionally processed within the Tavoliere area where they are grown. They paired well with a briny Bloody Mary.
Puglia is one of the largest Italian regions to produce artichokes. In fact, I learned that Italy itself is the largest artichoke producer in the world. It makes sense that this Artichoke spread, artichokes mixed with olive oil, would be in this box. It was explained that this spread pairs well with toast, can be used as a sauce or eaten”straight from the jar”. So I went ahead and took a spoonful from the jar. It tasted bland, lacking in salt and possibly some acidity to enhance the flavor. Perhaps once doctored up with some garlic and seasoning, it may taste better on a vegetable flat bread pizza. I do not, however, recommend eating it right from the jar.
Orecchiette con Rucola e Pomodoro (Orecchiette with Arugula and Tomato) was one of the three recipes sent with the Nonnabox. I fancied this recipe because it incorporated 3 of the 6 products sent in the Puglia box. While the ingredients were simplistic, the flavors were bold and pungent.
The semi-sun dried cherry tomatoes were the perfect balance of sweet and savory. Processing them within 24-hours from stem to jar, preserves their fresh succulence. The tomatoes melted in our mouths, opposed to the typical jarred sun-dried tomatoes that are chewy and tough. Seasoned to perfection, these little beauties can be (and should be) eaten straight from the jar. They are bathed in extra virgin olive oil, seasonings and spices that provide that acidic but sweet tomato flavor. I brought the jar over to my husband and said, “you have to try these!” He declined stating that he was not in the mood for tomatoes. While I was styling the plates for the final photograph (above), he sauntered over and pierced a tomato with his fork. “WOW, these are incredible”, he proclaimed while diving in for more.
Orecchiette is the “king” of pasta in Puglia. For me, it is not a type of macaroni that is found in my pantry, so I was excited to give them a try. This particular type is made from toasted wheat (di farnia arsa), flour and salt, which reminds me of the fresh pasta Grandma would make. She always mentioned that with simple ingredients like flour and eggs, her family was fed on a limited budget. Grandma and her family did not eat much meat growing up, so I love that this recipe stays true to the type of pasta dish she may have had.
Puglia has over 50 million olive trees and therefore is Italy’s highest olive oil producer. The extra virgin olive oil sent in the Puglia box is made from Coratina olives. I agree with Nonnabox when they described this product as “buttery, smooth and bold”. Just divine.
Combining these three ingredients with smashed garlic and wilted arugula, made for one unforgettable meal. Pair this dish with a glass of red wine and fresh Italian bread to sop up the tomato oil.
Although you may not have the exact products from Puglia, you can make this pasta dish with ingredients found at your local grocery store:
- 1 pound orecchiette pasta
- 3 heaping cups of arugula
- 1 jar sun-dried tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- Salt to taste
- Boil a medium pot of salted water.
- Heat EVOO on medium-low in a large pan. Then saute the garlic in the oil (2 minutes). Add salt to taste.
- Pour the whole jar of sun-dried tomatoes into the large pan and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the garlic and discard.
- When the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook for 10 minutes. Right before draining the pasta, add the arugula to the pot of boiling water (1 minute).
- Drain pasta and arugula, then add it to the large pan of sun-dried tomatoes. Toss together and serve.
The Final Say
Food delivery services have been trending for a few years now. As a Common Connoissuer, I have made it a point to experience and review many of these companies, so that others can make an educated decision as to which best serves them. Click on any of the following links to read for yourself: Home Chef, Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and Plated.
Nonnabox has similarities and differences from each of these companies. They are related in that they provide quality ingredients and recipes that incorporate some of these products. Nonna Box, though, is slightly different as well. These other services send raw ingredients to prepare meals, “while Nonna Box focuses on gourmet products traditional to the featured region of the month”. Guido explained that Nonnabox “always tries to include at least one recipe that uses at least one of the products inside the box. But given the limitations…, it’s difficult to offer more than one recipe that uses the product in the box.”
Opposed to the listed food delivery services, Nonnabox offers products that do not need to be consumed in one meal. The gourmet items are not pre-portioned for a particular amount of people, which makes sharing feasible and in my opinion, more fun.
As far as purchasing a box once a month, $69.95 may seem expensive for the average buyer. However, Nonnabox explains the rationale behind the price, stating that they deliver, “hard-to-come-by gourmet imported products,” making it, “virtually impossible to find all of these products in one place”. Therefore, “between shipping and often-higher-in-store prices,” one could, “easily spend well over the Nonna Box price.” After reading about the careful selection of high quality products, this price is certainly not unjustified. Additionally, if you are looking for a discount, Nonnabox offers promotional codes. Honestly, if $69.95/month is not a deterrent for you, it is absolutely worth the cost and I highly recommend ordering a box (or two).
Nonnabox took me on a trip to Puglia, a region in Italy I have never heard of. I felt as if I was experiencing this area through a history lesson and food tour all in one. Guido, the founder, offered incredible customer service. It is clear that he has a heart and passion for disseminating a taste for Italian culture among those living in America.
I give Nonnabox:
Try Nonnabox and let me know what you think!