Even before I could remember, my mother would buy this one type of pasta made by Buitoni which was originally called “Cheese and Basil” and I think it was in the Mezzelune shape.
It had a wonderful filling (colored a nice herbal green) of what I think was mostly mozzarella and ricotta cheese with lots of basil and some other herbs for flavoring. Sure, it was nothing special, but I loved it and ate it often. When I was a little kid, I was terribly, unforgivably picky, and having this reasonably healthy food that I would eat reliably was doubtless a life-saver for my poor nutritionist mother.
I didn’t learn English until after I was 4 and so I called this food “Sopita de Ayer” which “yesterday’s soup.” (the term for soup in Spanish has a broader meaning at times) This was because there was always leftovers, and I would just ask for what I had the day before. Within my family it became known as that, even after I stopped leaving leftovers.
Over the years, I followed it through a variety of iterations, seeing it move from Mezzelune to Ravioli to Tortellini, and change in name to Cheese and Herb and then Mozzarella and Herb, the last name it had. I remember the sad year when they came out with a “New and Improved Taste!” that I hated, and how happy I was when either they changed it back or my taste buds changed and I started to like it again. I remember going to stay in Germany with my parents and discovering “Ricotta e Basilikum Sacchettini” (or something like that) and my delight at how much I enjoyed it.
As I got older and started to cook for myself, I fine-tuned and streamlined the recipe: Boil the pasta, prepare some raw tomato sauce that I might put fresh basil in if we had any, cut up some ham and onion, strain the pasta, quickly sautee the onion and ham with just a little bit of olive oil or canola, add the tomato sauce, add some Knorr Chicken bouillon, stir it all up until the sauce starts to bubble, then add the pasta back in, stir and serve. This is what it took to make me happy.
It even gave me happy memories when I wasn’t a kid anymore. When I was 17 and I spent my first Valentine’s Day with my first girlfriend, I cooked her this. Results were pretty much as good as a 17 year old boy can hope for.
Unfortunately, it seems I was the only one who liked this stuff enough to buy it, because when I went to study abroad in China a couple of years ago it was discontinued. They have things now like “Ricotta and Spinach” and stuff like that, but no simple ricotta/mozzarella and basil pastas that I’ve been able to find, and I miss it like crazy. A while ago I stopped in a Whole Foods and found to my amazement a product by Nuovo called “Mozzarella and Herb Tortellini” and it had basil in the ingredients, but I don’t know, it didn’t have enough basil or something, it just didn’t taste right.
I emailed Buitoni and asked if they could send me the recipe so I could make it from scratch but this was obviously fruitless.
In the past we’ve had these types of threads lead to someone suggesting a substitute product, and I really hope that someone can help me, but it’s also fine to just lament my lost comfort food of youth. I still remember how it tastes and the happy memories of eating it.