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The first review we have today from Weight Watchers' Smart Ones is a revisiting of a dish from 2016, their Cheese Ravioli in a Mushroom Cream Sauce. I'll be honest: I checked to see if we had already reviewed this product while I was standing in the frozen foods aisle of the grocery store and would not have brought it in for review if I had seen it listed on our website. We have plenty of other products we initially reviewed much further in the past that are due for a revisiting that we don't need to be reviewing something from just three years ago.
Here's the problem: while the meal is titled "Cheese Ravioli in a Mushroom Cream Sauce" (230 calories, 530mg sodium, 2g fiber), which might reasonably lead you to believe that it's vegetarian, the fact is that it's not vegetarian. According to the ingredients list, in addition to the mushrooms, cheese, onions, and other ingredients that you might reasonably expect the sauce to contain, it also includes "chicken meat and juice" - which is why we have it listed under "Chicken/Turkey" and not "Vegetarian" here on our website. (Yes, we'll be cross-referencing this meal in the future.)
I suppose that's why the Smart Ones website doesn't organize its meals by protein type but by "cuisine": "Tasty American Favorites," "Savory Italian Recipes," "Flavorful Asian Inspirations," and "Delicious Mexican Flavors."
This meal is five ravioli in a sauce that's rather thinner than the panel thought it should be, although it has a "savory umami flavor" from the diced mushrooms. We thought we could detect a note of chicken in the sauce, but to be fair that's only after we noted the addition of chicken in the ingredients list. "Either way, it's really mushroomy," noted our panel.
The pasta of the ravioli is "pretty well al dente" and our panel felt they could be plumper with ricotta, but their cheesey flavor stands up to the mushroom sauce nicely. Although the sodium to calorie ratio here is pretty high, at 2.3, it doesn't taste all that salty - perhaps because the sauce is so umami with mushrooms and chicken. We noted that the sauce doesn't thicken much as it cools but still gave it a thumbs up as a respectable, if somewhat misleading frozen meal.
Weight Watchers' Smart Ones is getting into the Bowl business. I couldn't tell you which company originated the idea, but all sorts of frozen food companies, from evol Foods to Healthy Choice to Green Giant and Rick Bayless' Frontera offer frozen meals consisting of some sort of grain mixture topped with proteins and vegetables in a bowl.
The numbers on this one are OK at 330 calories, 660 milligrams of sodium (a sodium to calorie ratio of only 2.0), and 7 grams of fiber.
Our panelists' initial reaction to this dish as it came out of the microwave was, "It's white rice with some stuff in it."
That's actually pretty accurate. The vast majority of the contents of this bowl is what appears to be parboiled white rice. It's sprinkled with a few pinto beans and black beans and includes perhaps a heaping teaspoon of corn kernels, the same amount of cheese, and a scattering of diced green bell pepper and tomato.
There's a scent of cumin and chipotle and enough spice to be interesting but not concerning to anyone with an unadventurous palate.
"Unadventurous" is really the word here - on the whole this is "a bowl of mush" punctuated with the odd hits of crunch and sweetness from the few corn kernels and rather more texture from the firm pinto beans. The panel was rather nonplussed to note that the cheese had an unpleasantly grainy texture.
We could only surmise that this dish looked good on paper, which is where you should leave it: there are plenty of better bowls available. (We recommend those from Frontera Foods.)
Review posted: September 13, 2019