Friday, April 8, 2011

Foodie Friday: Caesar's Pasta Vegetable Lasagna & Spinach Gnocchi

As I mentioned last Friday, Caesar's Pasta sent me a lovely shipment of free samples.  So far, I'm enjoying them, so I'm happy to share with you what I think.

After my positive experience with the Stuffed Shells and in need of another quick meal on Monday, I heated up the Organic Vegetable Lasagna for a brunch.

Important to note:  The lasagna is organic, but not gluten-free.  The package lists that it does contain wheat.  Also listed as allergens are the milk products and the eggs.

The cooking time, like with the shells, was right on target.  It was hot all the way through without any burnt edges.  A very small portion of the center of the lasagna was a little hard, but I've found that in any frozen lasagna I've had.  (It's not come up on this blog, but I have eaten a fair amount of frozen dinners in my life for various reasons, despite my normal love of cooking.)

Flavorwise, I actually liked this better than the shells.  The extra vegetables lent more flavor to the sauce.  There also seemed to be a fair portion of veggies, too.  Lots of spinach, then some broccoli and mushrooms.  None of the veggies were "mushy," even the spinach.  There was a definite texture to each that I could feel and chew in my mouth.  I would have liked more mushrooms, but that's a minor complaint.  Like the shells, the pasta, itself, was the right al dente texture.

Details: 400 calories, 130 from fat (a pretty good breakdown!) Sodium was at 450, again right around the average for frozen meals.  All the ingredients were labeled as organic, which is an added benefit, and there were no funky preservatives or ingredients that I couldn't pronounce listed, either.  Allergy information was also clearly listed.

For my gluten-free friends, I had the Caesar's gluten & wheat free Spinach Gnocchi tonight.

My first comment is that it cooked faster than any gnocchi that I've ever cooked, but - kudos to packaging again! - I was warned of this in the instructions.  I planned the rest of dinner accordingly so that the pasta was the last thing for me to do.  (Dinner was sherry-mushroom chicken thighs, with the pasta thrown into the sherry-mushroom sauce after the chicken was cooked and plated.)  So, everything was ready when I tossed the package of gnocchi into the boiling water.  Within two minutes the little potato pastas were floating to the top of the pan.  I strained them, mixed them with the sauce, and plated immediately. 

As far as gnocchi go, they were as good as any other high quality gnocchi I've had are.  They maintained their shape and texture cooking and tasted great with the sauce.  (They would also probably taste great in a basic garlic aioli with fresh basil, mozzarella, and tomato mix, too.)  There was that hint of heartiness from the spinach that let it stand up to the earthy mushrooms and would let it work in any stronger-flavored or cream-based sauce. 

Per the package, it serves 4.  If matched with a hearty sauce, plenty of protein, a salad, and appetizers, perhaps.  For Scott & I, we split it between the two of us and still had room for our after-dinner Caesar salad and prosciutto-fig snacks.  Calories are 170 per serving (or 340 if you use it for only two).  Calories from fat: 25/50.  Sodium was a low 50 mg, too, and I didn't add any salt to the dish besides brining the chicken.  Depending on the price (which I still haven't received information on), I'd highly recommend them, especially because they cook so quickly.

As soon as I get information on where to purchase these products and the prices, I'll be happy to share.  If any of y'all see them in your markets, please pass on the info!

In the words of the Immortal Julia Child:  Bon Apetite! 


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