Newman's Own Skillet Meal a Saucy Take on Fettuccini

Newman's Own Chicken Fettuccini Alfredo...where do I start?

This was an item that caught my eye at the grocery store several weeks ago, one that I tossed into the cart almost as an afterthought. It's the kind of item I might heat up when I'm on my own for dinner, and don't want to dirty so much as a cutting board. The package promises that the contents are ready in ten minutes on the stovetop, and the directions indicate one need not add a single other ingredient after you toss everything into a skillet and apply heat. Not even a bit of water or broth!

Sick of both food and cooking after Thanksgiving festivities, I ripped open the Newman's Own bag and dropped everything into a pan -- our Le Creuset Dutch oven, rather than a skillet -- and my suspicions were immediately aroused. Behold...

Wouldn't you be concerned if this is what came out of your freezer?

Still, I have a lot of faith in Paul Newman. His salad dressings are really yummy and his frozen pizzas are solid, if not outstanding. His spaghetti sauces are woeful, on the other hand, but most store-bought ones are.

The directions call for heating the initial mass of frozen food that comes out of the bag for four minutes on high heat. The immediate result was a bit of scorching at the bottom of the pan, though a sauce did quickly begin to emerge. I dropped the heat to medium-high and covered, stirring occasionally for another seven minutes. I found the amount of sauce that resulted rather shocking, considering no liquid was added, and was reasonably impressed with the way the pasta softened and unraveled into recognizable strands.

The best word I can use to describe this dish is "weird." As my husband pointed out, the cheese sauce was more like gravy than Alfredo; while satisfyingly creamy, it wasn't particularly cheesy.

The pasta is substantial -- very chewy and very starchy, though not unpleasantly so, and the heaviness of the cream sauce gives the pasta some context. With a "true" Alfredo sauce I would have welcomed a more traditional fettuccini but then, I don't hit the frozen food section for "traditional" pasta.

Compared to most other frozen foods, this one isn't a big old salty bomb, but that's pretty much the only thing that I can think of to recommend this over something else. It's not cheesy, the pasta is just okay, and the whole thing is just kind of there. I didn't finish mine -- not because it was particularly horrible, but because the leftover refried beans in the fridge were a lot better.

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