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While we were putting together the gluten-free pizza roundup a few weeks ago I noted that we hadn't actually reviewed many pizzas. Not surprising, really - frozen pizzas tend to be really high in sodium. This has certainly been the case with Lean Cuisine pizzas in the past - only two have made it into the testing kitchen even though they were both basically flavorless.
In the grocery store the other day I spotted the pizzas we'll review today, both of which are from Lean Cuisine's new "Culinary Collection." I'd never have bothered even looking at them otherwise, but they had to be new if they were part of that collection, so I checked the boxes. Surprise, surprise: one is under 500 milligrams of sodium, and the other under 600. For a frozen pizza that's pretty amazing.
The first one tested was the Traditional Deluxe Pizza. This is billed as "sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, roasted pepper & onions with a four cheese blend." I mention this because.... it wasn't.
While the crisping tray that's included in the packaging does its job well, making the crust cut with that distinctive crunch, this is a seriously disappointing pizza. First, our tasting panel took issue with whether it was really a pizza or not, feeling that a pizza with so very little cheese - really, the total amount of cheese on this pizza might have been scraped together to cover less than 1/4 the area of the pizza - could even claim to be a pizza. (I'll admit there was a somewhat serious digression in the discussion over whether pizzas that were designed to be cheeseless could be called pizzas, but fortunately for our time constraints, the cheese lovers were able to be distracted by a promise of a trip to the Whole Foods cheese bar, and we were able to continue.)
The thin sheen of tomato sauce had a good tomato flavor, and the four slices of pepperoni and the crumbles of sausage also had good, classic flavors. Then a taster pointed out that there were no visible mushrooms on the pizza, which led to a quick review of the actual toppings versus the description. In short? Don't bother. This is diet food of the kind that made Garfield the cat point out that "diet" is "die" with a "t."
Needless to say our expectations could hardly have been lower for the Deep Dish Three Meat Pizza that we tried next. We could see the difference right away, however - this comes out of the package looking far cheesier than the Traditional Deluxe Pizza, and true enough, it is. While the crust might not actually be all that much thicker than the other pizza, it's much more like a thick crust pizza should be - chewy but not overly so.
There's the same pizza sauce on this pizza as on the Traditional pizza, but here there's far more of it, as is the case with the pepperoni and the sausage. The spiced ground beef is also evident, and although the cheese on this pizza is a reduced fat mozzarella, it's plenty stretchy and almost as gooey as one would want the cheese on your pizza to be. Overall, not a bad little pizza at all if you like your pizza with a thick, chewy crust. And the numbers are, as I mentioned, pretty good as well, with 380 calories for the whole pizza, 590 milligrams of salt and 3 grams of fiber. We'll be looking at more of the Culinary Collection pizzas to see if we can come up with some other hidden gems like this one.
Reviewed: June 8, 2012