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Dr. Gourmet's Food Reviews

Amy's Bowls

Vegetable Penne & Marinara and Pesto Tortellini

Amy's Vegetable Penne & Marinara reviewed by Dr. GourmetOver the years we've enjoyed the vast majority of our frozen meals from Amy's. For quite a while it seemed we'd reviewed everything they produced that fit our requirements for salt levels, so it was nice to see a "NEW!" gracing an Amy's package. That new item is from their Bowls line - a Vegetable Penne & Marinara - and we picked up another Bowl that we'd previously avoided because of its higher sodium content: their Pesto Tortellini.

The Vegetable Penne dish (260 calories, 370mg sodium, 5g fiber) has a lot going for it: there are big chunks of broccoli and easily a quarter-cup of peas to go with the penne. The broccoli is nice and crunchy, "About what you'd get if you blanched it," said one of our panelists (who's participated in our Culinary Medicine modules). The penne pasta, while not whole wheat, is cooked nearly perfectly. Even the peas are lightly crunchy and taste almost fresh. But there was still something less than stellar about it. "The sauce is just a little... bland," offered another panelist.

This meal has only 370 milligrams of sodium. Could that not be enough? Two gentle turns with the salt grinder, another trip around the table for tasting, and sure enough, the sauce suddenly was more vibrant. Even so, the panel gave the meal a thumb's up. Good as it stands, and especially so for those on a low sodium diet. Taste it first, then if you feel as we did that it needs a little salt, add just a pinch to make the marinara's flavors pop.

Amy's Pesto Tortellini reviewed by Dr. GourmetThere was little chance our next item, the Pesto Tortellini (440 calories, 680 mg sodium, 3g fiber), needed salt, however: with 680 milligrams on board already, it's right at the top of what we'll accept for tasting. That level of sodium isn't too surprising, however, with parmesan, cheddar, and romano cheese appearing in the ingredient list - although the two forms of added salt right at the end of the list might well be superfluous.

This is a deceptively simple dish of cheese tortellini with a pesto sauce. The tortellini might be a little chewier than I'd like, but they're nice little pillows well filled with ricotta. The sauce is a fairly good pesto with the right basil and vinegary notes along with even more cheese for that savory mouthfeel. As just pasta and sauce, this really needs a salad to round it out, but if you take it for lunch and have a piece of fruit for a snack later you'll be very satisfied. Our panelists said it was "very filling," and at 440 calories, it should be, even though it has only 3 grams of fiber compared to the Vegetable Penne & Marinara's 5 grams.

Two more positive reviews for Amy's. Keep up the good work!

First posted: April 17, 2015