by Marianne Plunkert
Overall rating: 1.5 of 5.0
Meal Description and Cooking Instructions
I was pleased when I pulled back the film on the plastic tray containing what would be my final dinner entrée for Week 2 of the eDiets meal program. The complete title on the packaging read, “Penne Pasta with Beef, Sauce & Mozzarella Cheese with Green Peas,” and lo and behold, the mozzarella cheese was actually visible in this pasta dish. (You may have read some of my reviews of other meals in which I complain that I could neither see nor taste the cheese that was so prominently mentioned in the title.)
The meal came in a 2-compartment plastic container, with about ½ cup of the penne pasta dish in one section and about ¾ cup of peas in the other. The heating instructions called for a microwave time of 1 ½ to 2 minutes. I nuked my meal for an extra 15 seconds, which turned out to be the appropriate amount of time, given the lower wattage of my microwave oven.
I was instructed to supplement the entrée with items from the fruit and dairy (nonfat or low fat) food groups. I plucked a juicy plum from my fruit basket and added it and a 1-ounce wedge of low-fat cheddar cheese to my plate.
Penne Pasta with Beef
My General Impressions
The meal was very visually attractive with its myriad of colors—blush-colored pasta, bright green peas, red plum, and golden cheese wedges. Unfortunately, it turned out to be unpalatable, and I left half the main course uneaten on my plate.
But first let me note the good elements of the meal. The pasta was properly cooked to provide the right texture—al dente. The peas also had a decent texture. They tasted like frozen peas taste when they are cooked according to the instructions on the package.
And as I mentioned earlier, I could actually see the mozzarella cheese in this pasta dish. There wasn’t much in the way of beef in the sauce, however. It wouldn’t have mattered. The sauce had such a sharp, vinegary bite to it that I found the penne pasta portion of this meal inedible.
If I were to have been able to finish it, the entrée would have provided me with 260 total calories, 45 of which are from fat. It contains 14 grams of protein and 38 grams of total carbs. It has a healthy 5 grams of dietary fiber, but it also contains 10 grams of sugars.
It is nutrient-rich, supplying 50% of the daily average Vitamin A requirement, 30% of Vitamin C, and 15% of the recommended daily intake of both calcium and iron.
My plum and low-fat cheddar cheese provided me with servings from the fruit and dairy food groups. The side of peas was enough to account for 1 serving of vegetables. There wasn’t enough beef to meet the requirement for 1 serving of protein, even if I had finished the entire meal. The pasta would have equaled a serving from the starch category of the food pyramid.
The pasta sauce ruined this meal. I can only justify giving it a 1.5 rating (on a scale of 1 to 5) because the textures of both the pasta itself and the peas were decent. I couldn’t taste anything beyond the vinegar, so I can’t really comment on how fresh the cheese and meat sauce might have been.
It’s hard for me to give it points for its visual appeal when its appearance turned out to be so deceptive.