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It's been six months since we last reviewed something from Weight Watchers. Although their actual track record with us isn't too bad (only 7 thumbs down in 24 entree reviews, or 71% positive), when I'm looking for items to review I regularly walk right past the Weight Watchers section at the store on my way to the much larger Lean Cuisine or Healthy Choice sections. Last week's revisiting of two dishes from Amy's prompted me to look for other items we might revisit, so this week's trip to the grocery was specifically to look for two older dishes from Weight Watchers that we'd last reviewed in 2011. I was a little surprised to discover today's offerings, however, both of which are completely new to the Dr. Gourmet tasting panel.
The panel started today's tasting with the Ravioli Florentine. ("What makes it Florentine?" asked a panelist. Answer: the spinach. The connection between spinach and the city of Florence is not clear, as spinach is consumed all over Italy.) In Weight Watcher's case this is five ravioli in a marinara sauce with julienned carrots, quarter-rounds of thinly sliced zucchini, and (of course) spinach (210 calories, 560 mg sodium, 4g fiber).
The dish is notable for its thoughtful instructions: after 2 minutes or so in the microwave, you are instructed to "Pull back film and stir until all ravioli are coated with sauce." This works well in preventing the dried-out corners we sometimes see in other ravioli meals, and the panel regarded this as a good sign that someone at Weight Watchers was actually thinking about the consumer. This has a tart, tomatoey scent that's mirrored in the sauce's bright flavor: just a touch of sweetness from the diced tomatoes and a hint of bitterness from the oregano yields a fairly well-balanced marinara. The carrots and zucchini keep a bit of crunch and are a pleasant counterpoint to the pillowy ravioli. There's enough savory cheese filling in these ravioli to balance the slight bitterness of the spinach, and the ravioli themselves aren't overdone, having a nearly al dente bite. The only thing we could find to complain about was a slight metallic aftertaste - but not only is it not strong enough to ruin the dish, some people may not notice it at all. Overall, a good, solid meal and certainly one of the better frozen ravioli dishes we've had.
The second meal we tasted was the self-explanatory Cheese Ravioli in a Mushroom Cream Sauce. This comes with the same intelligent instructions, and indeed, appears to include nearly the same five ravioli: we compared the ingredients lists on both packages, and while there are some differences in the ingredients in the ravioli, we couldn't taste any difference.
The sauce has the umami scent of parmigiano cheese, but comes out of the microwave a little thinner than we'd like. The parmigiano flavor is touched with just a hint of garlic, making it not bland, but "not in your face, either." It's smooth, creamy, and "subtle in a good way," said a panelist. Once again the ricotta filling in the ravioli adds a sweet/savory note, and the bits of onion add texture. On the whole the panel felt it was another winner.
One thing we did notice is that while the description on the back of the Ravioli Florentine box says, "Plus, this entree is vegetarian," the same statement doesn't appear on the Ravioli in Mushroom Cream Sauce. A close reading of the ingredients reveals that the sauce contains "chicken meat and juice." Vegetarians: be sure to read the ingredients carefully. This is the first time we've run across an apparently vegetarian dish that was not, in fact, vegetarian, and we hope it's the last, but you can be sure we'll be checking the nutrition information for hidden animal products in the future.
Reviewed: April 29, 2016