Monday, August 27, 2012
Unfortunately, that's not true.
My husband and I do our best to come up with tasty, good-for-you, fresh-from-the-oven dishes as often as possible, but life happens and I fully admit that we often turn to premade or just-add-water options as well.
Fortunately, there are companies that make it possible to still treat your family to something filling and yummy even though you haven't spent hours in the kitchen preparing it. Considering that I'm always interested in convenience mixed with wholesome ingredients and great taste, I was happy to take on the challenge from Michael Angelo's and their Head-to-Head Lasagna Taste Test.
A family-owned and operated company with a 30-year heritage, Michael Angelo's takes great pride in creating delicious Italian food that is made from authentic Italian recipes using only real, wholesome ingredients found in a genuine Italian kitchen.
Instead of filling their dishes — everything from Lasagna to Chicken Parmesan to Shrimp Scampi and many more — with artificial flavors, fillers and preservatives to make them taste and look better, Michael Angelo's focuses on real, quality ingredients that result in a difference that you can't miss.
While I was happy to be introduced to Michael Angelo's and their long list of products, I was disappointed to find that their store finder only listed two locations within 25 miles of our house where we could make a purchase. With strict instructions to find a large, 32oz Lasagna from Michael Angelo's as well as one of their competitors, I had my husband stop by after work... only to find out that the store only offered the individual portions.
As our second store location listed was quite a distance away, I decided that we could still put Michael Angelo's Vegetable Lasagna up against Stouffer's Farmer's Harvest Vegetable Lasagna... just on a smaller scale.
Round 1: Ingredients & Nutritionals
While both Michael Angelo's and Stouffer's ingredient list included mainly real foods (that I could recognize and pronounce), there were a few that caught my eye on the Stouffer's box that I wasn't happy to see. Modified cornstarch? Xanthan gum? Are those really necessary? If I was making homemade lasagna, those wouldn't be items that I would reach for in my cupboard.
In terms of nutritionals, Michael Angelo's had less calories, total fat and included more protein, however, it did have more sodium than Stouffer's. Nevertheless, I would have to declare Michael Angelo's the winner of round 1.
Round 2: Aroma & Appearance
Right out of the box, it wasn't hard to see that there was a difference between these two meals. While Michael Angelo's dish was brimming with chunks of cheese and real vegetables, all that could be seen in Stouffer's was a layer of cheesy bread crumb topping.
After each lasagna was prepared according to the microwave directions on the box, I took a moment to enjoy the look and smell of each one.
While Michael Angelo's still made it easy to distinguish the cheese, sauce and vegetables, it also had a fresh, deep smell that reminded me of an Italian restaurant. Even before it was out of the microwave, Big Sister E was wandering through the kitchen asking, Mmmm. What's that smell?
Stouffer's lasagna did emerge from the microwave with a pleasant smell as well, however, it was more of a you've-baked-something scent rather than a I'm-going-to-sneak-a-bite-of-this-the-second-it's-cool-enough aroma.
I still wasn't able to see any noodles or vegetables and, as much as I like cheese sauce, I was a bit hesitant at how the container seemed to really be doused in it.
Michael Angelo's was easily the winner of round 2 as well.
Round 3: Texture & Taste
While the first two rounds were important, I knew that it all came down to the texture and taste. If the noodles were overcooked and indistinguishable or the overall flavor just wasn't something we enjoyed, there would be no point in keeping either of these in our freezer.
I was surprised by my first bite of Michael Angelo's lasagna, as I had expected it to taste... well, like I had just microwaved frozen lasagna. But instead I found that the noodles were cooked just right, the sauce was savory and delicious, there was just the right amount of cheese filling, and the vegetables were cooked without being overdone and mushy. Delicious!
I still had high hopes for the Stouffer's lasagna to do well in the taste department, as again, I'm typically a fan of most anything smothered in cheese.
But... it just didn't work for me. The noodles were a little too soft, therefore blending into the cheese, which was just as overpowering as it had appeared. The vegetables were cut so small that I couldn't really tell them apart and each bite just seemed a little too much on the oozing, gooey, not-like-Mom-would-have-made-it side.
Michael Angelo's took home round 3, easily shown by the way that the container was empty nearly immediately.
While I went into this taste test assuming that neither lasagna would be a standout winner, Michael Angelo's clearly took the blue ribbon in our house. Everything about it just looked, smelled and tasted like it was much more homemade — when they say that they have been perfecting their lasagna recipe for 30 years with the use of real, quality ingredients, they really mean it!
Big Sister E and Little Sister B surprised me by wanting to try each of the dishes (typically they don't like any sort of pasta with sauce) and solidified my results when each of them asked for more of "the red one" but didn't want even a second bite of "the white one." Whenever a dish receives two thumbs up from both my 5- and 3-year-old, it's just about the highest praise around!
Find out more about Michael Angelo's variety of products, high standards and family history by visiting MichaelAngelos.com and connecting with them on Facebook and Twitter.
Other than the gift card that I was sent from Michael Angelo's so that I could purchase lasagna from them and one of their competitors, I was not provided with anything or enticed to do this review in any way. This review is solely my honest opinion of both of these products.)