Top Chef
Rocco's Got A Brand New Bag: Taste-Testing Bertolli's Skillet Meals For Two

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Rocco's Got a Brand New Bag: Taste-Testing Bertolli's Skillet Meals for Two

After dumping out the Chicken Alfredo & Fettuccine, I marveled over the perfectly cut pieces of frozen Alfredo sauce. They were about a 1/4-inch thick and looked like slices of jack cheese. (All of the segmented sauces enthralled me to a weird degree. I had to squelch an odd desire to play with them like blocks.) Unfortunately, the bag and contents smelled way too much like sour-cream-and-onion Pringles for me to have any faith that this was going to taste like anything other than salt.

I was right. The end result of this particular dish was that the nested pasta cooked up fine, but the Alfredo sauce was more like Alfredo butter, and a grainy Alfredo butter at that. I attribute that delightful texture to the "milk powder" I found listed in the contents. This Bertolli meal serves two people and packs a whopping 710 calories (over half of those calories come from fat) and a scary 1370 mg of sodium. PER SERVING! Sure, you don't know what you're getting in a restaurant, calorie-wise, and chefs do like to pack on the butter and salt for both flavor and mouth appeal, but if I'm going to consume those calories it damn well better be worth it and not leave grainy, watery white puddles on the plate that suddenly make Bourdain's comment about "Rocco's Frozen Love Juice" way too vivid for comfort. Stouffer's makes a way better Fettuccine Alfredo where you don't even have to deal with flaccid chicken pieces that manage to be both wet and too dry at the same time.

Next up was the Italian Sausage with Rigatoni. It wasn't awful, but a few slices of the faker-than-fake-tasting sausages stuck together throughout the whole cooking process -- even with the recommended stir halfway through -- and ended up being cold in the middle. Rocco would be trying to tell them something without telling them something. The red sauce had a nice fresh taste, but both my stomach and the clear orange pools on the surface of the sauce itself told me that it was unnecessarily oily.

Finally, the dubious best of the bunch: the Spicy Shrimp Fra Diavolo & Penne. Straight from the bag to the skillet, the shrimp are the blushing pink of the already cooked. Not a problem and not a surprise, since shrimp are one of the few seafood items whose quality doesn't suffer from freezing. Admittedly, a few of these little bugs definitely had that funky summer-swimming-pool taste that smacked of sodium tripolyphosphate.

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