One of the perks of being a food writer is, well, food!
After I did my article on gluten-free dining in the Worcester area, I was contacted by Caesar's Pasta, a company that specializes in gluten free pasta dinners. Their food sounded interesting, so I was happy to find out more about them.
Yesterday started with a special delivery of dry ice protecting a lovely box of frozen dinners!
As I was on my own for dinner tonight (H-of-A and I had to be in two different locations at much of the same time), I opened the first of the set to try: Stuffed Shells with Cheese in Marinara Sauce.
Now, for disclosure's sake, yep, these were free samples. There was no agreement that I would review them, just that I'd be interested in finding out more. That said, I'm a reviewer and I get a lot of stuff free. I'll tell you whether I like it or not (just ask my editor), and I did like these so far.
As far as frozen dinners go, they are definitely good. They have a lot of the same drawbacks of any frozen dinner, things which I have yet to see ANY exception from. The sauce was a bit bland, the cheese slightly grainy, but I'm pretty sure there are basic chemistry reasons for that, which food scientists have yet to crack. Besides that, though, the texture of the pasta was a perfect al dente, and I couldn't tell it was gluten free from the texture. Flavorwise, the shells themselves, did not taste like frozen food; they could have been any shells baked. Also, the flavor of the cheese was good, especially the Romano cheese topping it.
Some other positive points I want to make is that the cooking directions on the box are spot on. It was seven minutes in the microwave on high, then let sit for two minutes. Everything was evenly hot, and there were no burnt ends anywhere. This is important because I've tried too many frozen foods that are out of touch with their cooking times and temperatures. I also liked how, on the box, it gave what the internal temperature should be before eating.
I didn’t get a price listing and, sadly, the website is being updated, so I can't talk about the value. Portionwise, it was just right. It was 370 calories, 18g fat, and 660 mg sodium. Calorie-wise, it was lower than a lot of equal sized (and equally filling) portions, and it's about equivalent to the fat and salt content. If I were grocery shopping and I bound by my diet, I could see paying between $5.99-$7.99 for the meal. I wouldn't argue with someone who was willing to pay a little more, though.
If you see it in the freezer at a price you find reasonable, definitely give it a try.
I'll keep you posted on further adventures with my samples!