Sometimes you just can't make it into the kitchen to cook. Dr. Gourmet has reviewed over 800 common convenience foods, ingredients, and restaurant selections so that you know what's worth eating - and what's not. View the Index of all Dr. Gourmet's Food Reviews
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A couple of months ago we reviewed two Weight Watchers meals, Tuna Noodle Casserole and Pasta with Ricotta and Spinach, that really surprised me with how good they tasted (for convenience meals). While cooking for yourself is the best way to eat well and eat healthy, I do realize that life gets in the way sometimes and people do choose these convenience meals in lieu of cooking or making sandwiches for lunch. So it's always nice to find good, tasty options - and it's even better when it's something you can find in your own grocery store (these came from Walmart).
I was a little surprised, given the number of Fettucini Alfredo meals on the market, that we hadn't already reviewed the Fettucini Alfredo. This one includes broccoli florets, although I was a little disappointed to see how little broccoli was actually in the meal once I got it out of the box. It smells good while cooking, however, with a strong garlic-parmesan scent. Even more surprisingly, the pasta holds up fairly well to cooking and retains good bite, and the broccoli (what there is of it) retains bright flavor and good crunch.
Right out of the microwave the sauce is a little thin, so I allowed it to sit for a minute or two for the sauce to thicken. That works well and yields a thicker, creamier sauce. Unfortunately, that doesn't improve the flavor. Did I say that it smelled good? My wife remarked, after tasting the dish, "It's more Alfredo scented than Alfredo flavored." She's right. Once cooked this sauce is bland, bland bland. The numbers are good - 240 calories, 570 milligrams of sodium and 4 grams of fiber, but the flavor's just not there. Leave this one on the shelf.
Instead, reach for the Mini Rigatoni with Vodka Cream Sauce. After the downer of eating the Alfredo I wasn't expecting much, even though this also smells good while cooking. Another surprise was in store, however - this is a good vodka cream sauce, with a bright tomato flavor, lightly sweet, with strong romano cheese notes in a thick, creamy sauce. Although the pasta is overdone, it's really par for the course in convenience meals. As usual, whole wheat pasta would help improve the texture. The numbers are surprisingly good on this one, too: 290 calories, with a little more fiber at 5 grams and an astonishingly low amount of sodium at 440 milligrams. Given that the Alfredo had significantly more sodium, you'd expect it to be the more flavorful meal, but this shows that the ingredients are the source of a dish's flavor, and not just the salt.
A split decision today for Weight Watchers: flavorless, saltier Fettucini Alfredo can be left in the freezer. Instead, pick up the Mini Rigatoni with Vodka Cream Sauce. Less sodium, lots more flavor.
Reviewed: June 3, 2011