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It's been a couple of years since we last tested any products from Michael Angelo's - and even then one of the items we reviewed was a revisiting of a product, their Chicken Parmesan, that we had previously reviewed in 2008.
It seems that they curate their meals well, and by that I mean that they seem to have chosen to have a limited number of products so they can focus on quality. (Who knows if that's actually what they're doing, but it looks that way.) The two Gourmet Bowls we are reviewing today represent a completely new product line for Michael Angelo's, and we were pleased to see that the two we picked off the shelf are fairly moderate in terms of sodium.
Our first item, the Meat Lasagna Bolognese, has the most sodium of the two, at 340 calories, 600 milligrams of sodium, and 2 grams of fiber.
For a moment the panel was confused: the label says "lasagna" and there are rotini pasta here. Evidently it's supposed to taste like lasagna, even though the word "lasagna" means both the layered pasta dish as well as the actual wide sheets of pasta used to make the dish.
But we can overlook questions of semantics, because this is good. Quite possibly the best pasta dish we've ever tested.
The dish has a fantastic, savory fennel scent (the sausage) and the sauce has a dark tomato and beef flavor punctuated by spicy fennel sausage bits. The rotini pasta is just right: al dente. There's just enough ricotta cheese on top to mix throughout the bowl and make everything "stroodley enough," according to a panelist. (With that term they seem to have been referring to the cheese's tendency to extrude between the dish and the utensil.)
This is truly excellent and the panel said they would be happy to receive this in a good Italian restaurant. Strongly recommended by one and all.
After that truly exceptional bowl of pasta, the panel was excited about the Chicken Cavatappi with Broccoli (290 calories, 580 mg sodium, 3g fiber).
And certainly some elements were similar: the pasta is beautifully al dente (nearly unheard-of with microwaved, frozen meals), and the broccoli are also al dente (okay, we were looking for good things to say).
The broccoli you see in that picture above? That's all the broccoli in the dish. I'd be surprised if there were a half-ounce of broccoli in the meal. Sure, it's nicely cooked, with a bit of crunch, but by no stretch of the imagination is that anything anywhere close to even a single serving of vegetables.
The little strips of chicken have obviously fake grill marks, although they are tender and flavorful enough (if a bit on the dry side), and the sauce starts out quite thin right out of the microwave, then thickens up as it cools for the recommended 2 minutes.
The problem is that the sauce is so nondescript. It's "basically tomato paste whisked into some cream," as one panelist described it, and there's not a hint of other spices, from garlic to basil to oregano.
Sure, this allows the flavor of the broccoli to come through, but there's not enough broccoli for anyone to care. There are other, better pasta dishes to have for lunch. Don't bother with this one.
Review posted: June 28, 2019