When we heard that Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis had started selling a limited-edition "Dinner Box" on her website, we have to be honest: We were not all that moved. Another celebrity chef putting her "favorite" hard-to-find artisan products in a cute package with a recipe didn't really seem noteworthy. Still, we have a weakness for the celeb chef's cheesy pasta bakes, and the goods (sourced from Buon Italia in New York City's Chelsea Market) did seem like legitimately good buys.
But were they good enough to warrant the $30 price tag, plus $9 shipping? We did a little digging to see what makes these items special, and how much it would cost to buy them separately (if we even could).
Turns out the box is a really good deal. Here's what you get and how much it would cost you to buy it elsewhere.
1. Dried Sicilian Oregano
The stuff we buy in jars is usually a blend of different varieties, offering a baseline of flavor. But just as earthy Mexican oregano is so worth using in Mexican recipes, the extremely aromatic Sicilian variety is definitely worth adding to your Italian food.
What it costs: $10.50 at Market Hall Foods
2. Tutto Calabria Crushed Calabrian Chili Peppers
Calabrian chiles have warm heat as well as a rich savoriness that's good on just about everything. This is definitely one of those condiments you want to keep around. We've occasionally spotted it at gourmet markets and it's readily available online.
What it costs: $12 for a 10-ounce jar at Brooklyn Larder
3. I Sapori Di Corbara Tomatoes
Some say these are the best tomatoes in the world — even more exalted than true San Marzanos and even more limited in production. The Corbarino tomato is a tiny variety that grows at the foot of the Lattari mountains in Campania in volcanic soil with no irrigation. The only moisture they get comes from occasional rain. The result is intensely flavored, hand-picked tomatoes that are low in acid and naturally sweet.
What it costs: $18 for 2 jars at Sweet Imports
4. Setaro Pasta
This is Giada's favorite pasta — "the only kind I cook with at home" — and she's not alone. Chefs from Del Posto and even Per Se in New York swear by it. Made in small batches by third-generation pasta makers, it's purportedly dried at low heat, which allows it to retain more of its grain flavor. The "Nodi Marini" shape that comes in the kit is apparently made special for Miss G.
What it costs: $10 for spaghetti at Pennsylvania Macaroni Co.
So what's the verdict? The ingredients would cost you more than $50, excluding shipping. Given you'd have to order them all separately, that could add up. But even if shipping were free, Giada's kit is still a good deal, or rather it was a good deal. It's actually sold out!
But don't worry: Giada has plans to add more options. And when she does, we'll be ready.