Healthy Choice Tomato Basil Penne

March 16, 2009

tomato-basil-penneSince I’m always on the lookout for new things to try, I tend to notice boxes with bright red “new!” flags on them more than those without.  In the case of Healthy Choice Tomato Basil Penne, it was also the modernized packaging.  I have to admit that I was a little disappointed when I saw that the streamlined green and white box was not, in fact, an entirely new brand of frozen dinners (but Healthy is now spelled Hea!thy, which I guess will entice us to buy it).  At any rate, I couldn’t pass this one up.  For a long time I’ve been skeptical about Healthy Choice’s ability to deliver a decent-tasting meal, but ever since trying their Cafe Steamers Chicken Marghertia (delicious by the way, review to come) my opinion of the brand has improved substantially.  Not to mention the fact that this frozen meal claims to be “all-natural”.

So what is this new line by Healthy Choice?  They describe the all-natural meals as high in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins A and C, low in saturated fat and cholesterol and free of preservatives and artificial flavors.  Ever since reading the article in Women’s Health about the truth behind the ingredient list in frozen dinners, I’m always on the lookout for items that are preservative-free.  The other items in the line are Portabella Marsala Pasta, Portabella Spinach Parmesan, Pumpkin Squash Ravioli, Sweet Asian Potstickers and Mediterannean Pasta.  I figured if they could get the Tomato Basil Penne right, the other ones would be worth a try.

In their words: “Wholesome nine-grain penne pasta topped with tomatoes, onions, sweet basil, and mozzarella cheese is prepared with 100% extra virgin olive oil for a great-tasting meal with just 280 calories and 7 grams of fiber”.

I must admit, reality came pretty close!  I nuked the dinner according to their directions and in under 7 minutes it was nice and steamy and ready to eat.  The first thing I noticed was the portion size.  Despite being only 280 calories, this seemed like a well-sized meal.  Unlike Lean Cuisine’s rabbit-sized Cheese Ravioli, this pasta looked like it might fill me up.  Tasting revealed to be a pleasure.  While the penne is clearly whole-wheat (and I always prefer regular pasta), the flavor actually added to the dish instead of detracting from it.  While I couldn’t really taste much cheese, the basil added a nice note and the sauce was plentiful and tomato-y.  I even detected a hint of a brown sugar giving the meal a hint of sweetness.  Even though there was 600 mg of salt in the dinner (a large amount, although less than a lot of frozen meals), I still needed to add a little more.  Mrs. Dash’s salt-free tomato basil seasoning would’ve done the trick, too.  While it wasn’t the absolute best frozen pasta dish I’ve ever had, it’s still one that will be going on my weekly shopping list!

Stars: 4/5

Nutrition Facts: Serving size: 1 Meal.  280 Calories.  60 Calories from fat.  6g Fat.  2.5g Saturated Fat.  0g Trans Fat.  15mg Cholesterol.  600mg Sodium.  39g Carbohydrates.  7g Dietary Fiber.  6g Sugar.  13g Protein.  2% Vitamin C.  10% Vitamin A.  10% Iron.  20% Calcium. 5 WW Points.

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