“ Brand: Birds Eye / Type: Pasta „
I'm not a big fan of frozen ready meals in general, as they tend to be pretty poor value as well as fairly unsatisfying. Despite that, I find myself flagging towards the end of the week, particularly on those evenings when my husband is at work and I really can't be bothered to start cooking for myself once the boys are tucked up in bed.
It was with those sorts of occasions in mind that my eye was taken by a new range of Birds Eye frozen ready meals in Morrisons. The deciding factor was that the range was on BOGOF and for £1.69 I was able to pick up two generous looking portions of 'ready to microwave' cheese ravioli which seemed pretty good value.
I've never really seen frozen microwaveable pasta based meals such as this before (other than standard fare such as lasagne and cannelloni.) The Cheese Ravioli comes packaged in quite a large packet and is a complete meal in itself, containing cheese filled ravioli and various vegetables all mixed in with a tomato and basil sauce. To be honest, it was the sound of the sound that clinched my purchase (as well as the promotion!) I can rustle up a pasta based meal in a matter of minutes just from storecupboard items but a tomato and basil sauce sounded tempting, particularly as I don't tend to use basil much in cooking myself.
A few weeks after purchase, one of those 'can't be bothered to cook' nights emerged and I discovered the ravioli lurking in the freezer. As the packages are quite large I was expecting each one to make more than one serving but there was no indication on the packaging as to how many portions it contained. I did discover that the packet was designed to be placed in the microwave unopened, essentially steaming the contents inside. As this was the case, I ended up having the entire packet to myself which turned out to be just a single serving anyway. The packet was much larger than the contents inside, presumably to allow for the expansion of the contents once steamed.
The major advantage of this pasta meal was that the whole process was very quick. For my 'E' rated microwave, this took two separate three minute blasts (with a careful shake of the piping hot bag in between) followed by a minute's standing time. In less than ten minutes, I had a complete ravioli dish with sauce and minimal washing up, except for the plate I ate it from.
The fragrance of the cooked product wasn't too inspiring though with the basil only noticeable by its complete absence. This was a disappointment as I love everything about basil, especially its distinctive aroma. The cooked dish smelled like a combination of cheap tinned ratatouille and tinned tomato soup.
Once I'd tipped the contents out of the packet, the pasta dish looked bright and colourful with lots of distinctive vegetables such as sweetcorn, finely chopped courgettes and green and red peppers. It was certainly bright but had the overall appearance of a pretty standard student standby and not dissimilar to a cheap dish that I used to rustle up on a regular basis as a student several years ago. It's certainly not a dish to serve with the intention of impressing anybody with your culinary skills!
Tastewise, the aroma had not really done the dish a disservice. I haven't eaten pasta microwaved directly from the freezer before and now I know why - it doesn't take very kindly to it! The ravioli was tough and chewy and the filling was a sparse unidentifiable mush. I wouldn't have been able to confirm that this was cheese or any other random substance. Despite following the cooking instructions to the letter, the pasta was clearly overcooked.
The accompanying sauce was a fairly bland and uninspiring tasteless affair. The vegetables had retained some texture and crunch but weren't the best of accompaniments to a chewy ravioli. The basil still decided to stay absent from the proceedings. In all, the entire dish managed to fill me up but left me feeling pretty underwhelmed. I've certainly produced similar meals within minutes using storecupboard basics myself and ended up with slightly more impressive results.
For the price I paid for two packets of this stuff (£1.69 per 320g portion) this wasn't too bad but I don't think I'll be stocking up the freezer with any more. A respectable standby alternative would be to use the long-life quick cook refrigerated ravioli/tortelllini and mix it with a decent tinned ratatouille or some pesto, passata or even philadelphia (possibly a combination of the lot!) I will probably be making some variation on one of those methods and will avoid microwaveable frozen ravioli in future!
Ingredients, nutritional information and more information about the product can be found here:
(Please note - there appears to be an additional space inserted in the word 'product' in the above link. The link will work once the space is removed.)