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Noodles & Company doubled down on indulgent dishes and introduced stuffed pasta last year.

With Stuffed Tortelloni, Noodles & Company finally responded to its customers’ No. 1 request

The fast-casual restaurant chain will receive its MenuMasters Award this month in Chicago

Noodles & Company has for years been beefing up its better-for-you offerings, starting in May 2018 with zucchini noodles, or “zoodles,” followed by cauliflower noodles, made with wheat cut with cauliflower, in 2019. CEO Dave Boennighausen has credited both for the fast-casual chain’s financial turnaround. 

But the chain’s signature mac ’n’ cheese dishes remain the chain’s biggest sellers, so it made sense that last year it doubled down on indulgent dishes and finally responded to its customers’ No. 1 request: stuffed pasta.

The result is three different varieties of large cheese-stuffed pasta pillows:

3-Cheese Tortelloni Rosa: Tortelloni pasta filled with a blend of ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses with onions and garlic, served in spicy tomato cream sauce with mushrooms, Roma tomatoes, spinach and Parmesan cheese.

3-Cheese Tortelloni Pesto: The same stuffed tortelloni in basil pesto cream sauce with garlic, mushrooms, tomato and Parmesan cheese.  

Roasted Garlic Cream Tortelloni: Cheese-filled tortelloni in light roasted garlic and onion cream sauce with zucchini, mushrooms and spinach, finished with MontAmoré cheese and parsley.

Boennighausen said that in test the pastas out-performed all other tests in his 17 years at the company, and once they were rolled out systemwide they resulted in a boost in same-store sales.

“We did some research with an outside firm,” Nick Graff, Noodles’ senior vice president of culinary, told NRN in a podcast at the end of last year. “We really wanted something that was unique — not just a ravioli, not a tortellini — so we went with something big. They look beautiful in the bowl and they hold on to sauce so nicely.”

Graff said it became the company’s most successful rollout in terms of guest appeal, not only bringing in lapsed customers, but also people who had never visited a Noodles & Company before.

“Sometimes you get lucky, and sometimes the research tells you what to do and it works out,” he said.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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