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Dr. Gourmet's Food Reviews

Lean Cuisine

Cauli'bowls Fettuccine with Meat Sauce and Spaghetti with Meatballs

Dr. Gourmet reviews the gluten-free Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese from evol Foods

About a year ago we reviewed two lasagnas from Cali'flour Foods: their pasta is made with cauliflower. On the one hand, the flavors of the dishes overall were good, but the "pasta"? Not really pasta at all.

This week we have a dish from Lean Cuisine that also includes pasta made with cauliflower - and this time the pasta can't hide under the sauce quite the way the so-called "pasta" in a lasagna can hide.

This is a Fettuccini with Meat Sauce, and the numbers are fair: 260 calories, 660 milligrams of sodium, and an impressive 9 grams of fiber. I can certainly believe that the pasta is made with cauliflower, with that much fiber!

the gluten-free Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese from evol Foods, after cooking

That's the good news.

Unfortunately, the cauliflower pasta suffers from the same issue as other pastas made from something other than wheat: it breaks up when stirred. It could be worse: we've seen rice pasta shatter into something closer to polenta, while this does at least hold its shape somewhat.

Yet the texture of the pasta is just... "gloppy," said one panelist. When hot the pasta is pretty overcooked and mushy, but as it cools the pasta sticks together in gluey chunks.

To add insult to injury, the sauce on this dish is hard to describe. Yes, there is ground beef/pork chunks here, and the tomato sauce isn't candy-sweet, it's just odd. We debated what was so off about the sauce until a panelist noted that the product contains burgundy wine - and the light dawned. It tastes like there's too much wine in the sauce and it hasn't quite cooked out the sweetish flavor of alcohol.

Not something we can recommend, although we will try other products with cauliflower pasta - perhaps someone will get it right. We have to wonder, however, why anyone would make cauliflower into pasta when you could either serve the sauce over cauliflower - or more shockingly, use spaghetti squash instead of pasta.

Next we turned to a dish we last reviewed back in 2013: Spaghetti with Meatballs. At the time it had 270 calories, 580mg sodium, and 3 grams of fiber - now it's 280 calories, 660mg sodium, and the same 3 grams of fiber.

Dr. Gourmet reviews the Truffle Parmesan Mac & Cheese from evol Foods

This came out of the microwave and gave the whole panel a distinct feeling of deja vu.

Overcooked pasta that breaks up upon stirring. Check.

the Truffle Parmesan Mac & Cheese from evol Foods, after cooking

Far too much thin sauce rather too much like unsweetened tomato soup. And that's oddly bland (despite the sodium level). Check.

Incredibly overprocessed meatballs with a hint of pork flavor but the texture of wet cardboard. Check.

Did we just review this?

Yes - and no.

About three weeks ago we reviewed a Spaghetti and Meatballs dish from Healthy Choice. While that dish had less sodium and slightly more fiber than today's dish, what we reviewed today from Lean Cuisine is basically the same dish as the Healthy Choice - but with less plastic packaging.

We'll be avoiding spaghetti and meatballs for a while, no matter who makes it. Yuck.

Read all our reviews of Lean Cuisine products »

Posted: October 22, 2021