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Michael Angelo's Italian-Style Pies

Chicken & Spring Vegetables and Potato Gnocchi & Cheese

Last month we reviewed two varieties, Chicken Sausage & Spinach and Beef & Vegetable Gnocchi, from Michael Angelo's new product line: Italian-Style Pies. Despite their disappointingly small size compared to the packaging, both were good and we recommend them for when you have 35-40 minutes to bake something and can put together a vegetable or salad to round out the meal.

This week is a little different. We have the other two varieties from this line: Chicken & Spring Vegetables and Potato Gnocchi & Cheese.

Michael Angelo's Chicken & Spring Vegetables Italian PieOnce again we baked the two "pies" in a 350°F oven for 35-40 minutes (35 was plenty). Like the two we reviewed last month, the Chicken & Spring Vegetables has the same thick and somewhat chewy whole wheat garlic crust on top. In a bright and flavorful tomato sauce inside is diced carrots, peas and chunks of asparagus. While the carrots and peas remain fairly crisp, the asparagus doesn't fare so well, being almost mush. Not too surprising, really - asparagus is too easily overcooked even when you're cooking it alone.

What surprised me was the chicken: these generously-sized chunks are nice and juicy and there's a fair amount of it, which accounts for the 15 grams of protein in this dish. The sodium is higher than I'd like it to be, at 590mg, but it doesn't overwhelm the dish. All in all, 230 calories and 5 grams of fiber that would make a good dinner with a side salad.

Michael Angelo's Potato Gnocchi & CheeseThe Potato Gnocchi & Cheese doesn't fare so well, however. I can't fault it on the flavor: the Basil Parmesan Cream Sauce (as they describe it on the package) is exactly that - a thick, creamy sauce full of parmesan cheese with good notes of garlic and basil. And I mean THICK. The gnocchi, however, unlike the gnocchi in the other varieties from this line, are chewy. Really chewy. Far more chewy than gnocchi should ever be. Combine really chewy gnocchi with a thick cream sauce and you have a gooey, gloppy mess (that your children would probably love - but that doesn't mean you should give it to them).

That gooey mess comes with breadcrumbs on top to give it some texture, which is probably where most of the 3 grams of fiber come from. Along with those scant 3 grams of fiber is 320 calories (that's 90 more than the Chicken & Spring Vegetables in the same size meal), 10 grams of fat, and 640 milligrams of sodium. By the numbers this might be an OK meal, but face it: there isn't a vegetable in sight and the protein comes from an excess of dairy products. I just can't recommend this, unless you're a runner or cyclist who needs to carb up for a long run or ride. (Then have two, if you can stomach the goo.)

For those who aren't endurance athletes, you're much better off with any of the other three varieties. Better numbers AND better food.

Reviewed: March 25, 2011