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Two Pastas from Lean Cuisine

We've been reviewing Lean Cuisine meals for so long that I'm actually surprised when we run across one we haven't already done. This is especially true with their pasta dishes. Unfortunately, that often means mushy, overcooked pastas (their Macaroni and Cheese is a prime example), but Lean Cuisine has surprised me before. (Their Three Cheese Stuffed Rigatoni is one of their best pasta dishes.)

Lean Cuisine Chicken with Basil Cream SauceI could have sworn that we had already reviewed the Chicken with Basil Cream Sauce, but my webmaster assured me that we had no record of ever reviewing it. Too bad, because this meal is eminently forgettable.

It looks really good coming out of the box. There's a good deal of sauce and the angel hair pasta has julienned peppers in it. Very colorful, really. But after cooking for five minutes, the disappointment starts. The chicken, in two very thin slices, is cooked properly and is surprisingly un-tough. You would expect it to be overcooked, it's so thin. But the promised basil cream sauce, while creamy enough, doesn't taste much like basil. It actually has a light oregano flavor (fairly tasty, but it's not basil). But the real downer is the pasta. This is what you get when you seriously overcook pasta - it turns into mush and sticks together in tasteless clumps. The julienned peppers can't flavor this at all. Whole wheat pasta might have stood up to the overcooking a bit more and it certainly would have had more flavor. Really, it tastes like pasta straight out of the water, and not in a good way.

Lean Cuisine Five Cheese RigatoniThe Five Cheese Rigatoni, out of Lean Cuisine's Simple Favorites line, is labeled "rigatoni pasta in a sweet tomato sauce topped with a five cheese blend." Cheese lovers can rest assured that all five cheeses are well represented in this meal - it's got enough cheese in it to satisfy the most cheese-loving pasta eater. The drawback in this meal is, for once, not the pasta itself, which is a little overdone but not unbearably so. The drawback is the pasta sauce. This sauce is called "a sweet tomato sauce" and the operative word here is SWEET. The ingredients actually include both sugar and brown sugar syrup, and it shows. This sauce is tooth-achingly sweet. Too bad; with a more savory sauce this would have been a really good meal.

Two meals from Lean Cuisine that you should leave in the freezer case, both undone by what could so easily be corrected. A real shame.


Reviewed: January 14, 2011