HANCOCK — Lou Del Conte, the chef behind a line of artisanal pasta sauces inspired from his former Mount Desert Island restaurants, has launched salad dressings to make dinner time even easier.
There are two dressings to start and more dressings to follow. One of the two available, Pecorino Romano Oregano Vinaigrette, had been the house dressing at Del Conte’s former restaurants, Little Luigi’s in Bar Harbor and Bella Mare in Southwest Harbor. With more people cooking at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, It’s safe to say that Del Conte has been busy.
“Our company is starting to grow big time,” Del Conte said. “We’re in stores from the East Coast to the Midwest.”
The pasta sauces, which include Spicy ala Vodka Sauce, Sambuca Simmering Sauce, Country-Style Marinara and Caribbeano Simmering Sauce, were so popular that salad dressings were a logical next step.
The self-taught chef tested the dressings at farmers markets in Bar Harbor and Northeast Harbor before he began producing them wholesale. Del Conte has a co-packer in Maine.
“When I saw how fast the salad dressings were moving, I thought this is a natural progression,” Del Conte said.
And now the salad dressings are about to really move. Hannaford Supermarkets informed Del Conte last week that it wants the dressings in 130 stores as soon as possible.
Salad dressings can make dinner preparation simple and quick. And of course, they aren’t just for dressing your greens anymore.
Del Conte likes to use the Pecorino Romano Oregano Vinaigrette as a marinade for chicken. The company also makes Wild Blueberry Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette, which the chef uses to marinade fish, like salmon and shrimp. Just a tablespoon of dressing is enough to marinade 12 ounces of fish or chicken.
“We try to make it very easy,” Del Conte said.
The Sambuca Simmering Sauce is described as having a licorice flavor just enough to make the sauce sweet with a bit of spice to give it a kick. The Country-Style Marinara is made with red barbera wine from Bar Harbor Cellars and fresh plum tomatoes. The Spicy ala Vodka Sauce is “spicy rich and hearty with lots of flavor. The sauce is made with Barton vodka from Maine, pecorino Romano cheese and “a bit of heat,” he said. Spiced rum,
citrus and coconut milk and Hood cream comprise the Caribbeano sauce.
You can find the sauces and salad dressings at local supermarkets and shops that carry fine food as well as online at luigidelcontesauces.com.
Del Conte and his wife, Coleene, launched the sauce line in 2014. The chef said they want everyone to have restaurant-quality, healthy, good-tasting, affordable products in their pantries.
Incidentally, Del Conte is a self-taught chef. He said his mother was good at making restaurant reservations, but his grandmother, whom he calls “Nonna,” was an excellent cook and wouldn’t let him linger in the kitchen unless he was eating.
Chef’s note: Lou Del Conte shared the following recipe that calls for his marinara sauce. He says the combined prep and cooking is only 30 minutes. He adds the dish is “a healthy quick and easy alternative. Nonna would be proud.”
Pasta Primavera Marinara
1 zucchini diced
1 peeled eggplant diced
1 summer squash diced
1 btl Luigi Del Conte Country Style Marinara Sauce
1 tsp olive oil
1 pound angel hair pasta
In a sauté pan add olive oil, zucchini, eggplant, summer squash and cook on medium heat for about 7 minutes. Cook pasta by instructions on box. Add Luigi Del Conte Country Style Marinara Sauce to the sauté vegetables and heat until sauce is hot about 7 minutes. In a large bowl add pasta, pour sauce and veggies over pasta.
Baked Salmon with Wild Blueberry Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette
Recipe Courtesy of Chef Lou Del Conte
12 ounces of salmon
1 Tbsp of Del Conte Wild Blueberry Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette
Greens for serving
Marinade salmon in a tablespoon of Wild Blueberry Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette for 20 minutes. Bake at 350 in an ovenproof pan or skillet for 20 minutes. Serve over a bed of lettuce greens drizzled with the vinaigrette. Add a handful of quartered strawberries and whatever salad toppings you’d like. Finish with a sprinkle of crumbled feta cheese or goat cheese.