Pros: Tastes great, good texture, plenty of meat and marinara
Cons: Not as good in the microwave, a little low on cheese, meat isn't that impressive
I first came upon Marie Callender's frozen dinners on a late night trip to Wal-Mart a couple years ago. After trying the turkey and stuffing one, I realized the quality was head and shoulders above all the other TV dinners I'd tried.
Recently, I was looking for something new and saw Marie Callender's Meat Lasagna. I couldn't remember if I'd tried it before and decided it was worth a shot.
After heating it up, I have to say it's much better than any other frozen lasagna I've tried. I had been eating the Lean Cuisine ones, and this isn't even in the same category -- it really doesn't taste much different than some restaurants' lasagna.
I believe the trick, as with many frozen dinners, is to put it in the oven instead of the microwave. I'm pretty sure I'd tried the Marie Callender's Lasagna before in the microwave and wasn't that impressed.
I wasn't in any big hurry this time, so I followed the oven heating instructions carefully:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
2. Cut a slit in the meal's film cover (actually, I cut several small slits).
3. Bake it on a cookie sheet for 45 minutes, then take the film cover off.
4. Bake it for 15-20 more minutes, then let it stand for a little while.
5. Check that it is cooked thoroughly -- internal temperature needs to reach 165 degrees F.
On Step 3, I only left it in the oven for 15 more minutes, maybe even less, because I was worried about burning it (and I was hungry). Next time I will go the whole 20, because the temperature felt about right, but I think a few more minutes would've made it about perfect. Unfortunately, I don't have a food thermometer, so I had to guesstimate it.
After letting it cool, I eagerly dumped it out of the little tray into a plate. It was quite a full plate of lasagna. While the box calls it "2.5 servings," it's really more like 1.5 for a normal person. I think if you had a nice salad and some bread you could make a decent meal for two out of it, but no more than that.
I thought the quality of the lasagna was excellent. It was nice and meaty, and I liked the taste of the marinara. The noodle part had an excellent consistency -- nothing was mushy or soggy or dry or anything. I was incredibly impressed. I did think they went a little light on the cheese; if you keep some form of cheese around the house, you might want to sprinkle a little on, especially if you're a cheese fan.
Overall, I thought this was a great meal. I'm not a big eater, but I downed nearly the whole thing. My only complaint is the lack of cheese. I also would've preferred a slightly higher quality meat, but I guess you can't really do that and keep the meal so affordable.
For a frozen dinner, the nutrition facts make it seem reasonably healthy; there's even a little food pyramid graphic on the front that says it contains: 15% of the daily recommended amount of grains, 10% of daily vegetables, 15% of daily milk and 10% of daily meat. However, it does contain a lot of sodium -- 960mg per serving size -- so I certainly won't be recommending it to my grandma or anything. But compared to some of the fast food I eat, it's probably not a bad choice.
Price and availability: You can find Marie Callender's dinners at most grocery stores and mass merchandise stores. They cost around $3.