Monday, February 4, 2013
A Frozen Champion: 3 Little Pigs Mac Cheese from Valente's
So apparently the "Times Union/Table Hopping Mac-N-Cheese Bowl" is a pretty big deal around the Capital Region. Heck, I think I even submitted a recipe for the first one if I remember correctly (needless to say, my genius went unnoticed). I won't be attending as I have heard the event gets horrifyingly crowded. I am a bit agoraphobic and the thought of being jostled and rammed with baby carriages while waiting in giant lines for little cups of mac cheese sounds fairly abhorrent.
In any event, I was walking through the Glenmont P-Chopper the other day when I spied something interesting in the freezer case right next to the Stouffer's. Here we have a frozen portion of the 2 time winner of the aforementioned mac cheese bowl, Valente's (Watervliet) "Three Little Pigs" Macaroni and Cheese. I am always game to sample local packaged foods and I was a bit interested in giving this storied "bowl" champion a whirl (even if it is in a frozen form).
The Valente's product is penne with a pecorino-romano, mascarpone, and aged provolone sauce with pancetta, prosciutto, and sopressata mixed in. There is an explanation of each ingredient as well as a strange story about pigs on the back of the box.
I was a bit apprehensive about this dish because the inclusion of all of those cured meats shouted over-salty to me off the bat and nothing about the recipe really says "macaroni and cheese" to me. But I maintained an open mind. Into the microwave she went and several minutes later this is what we have.
You get some tiny penne noodles in a thick cheese sauce along with some nondescript pink ground up meats.
As expected the Three Little Pigs was way too salty for my tastes, almost inedibly so. The salty problem was compounded with a heavy umami back from the aged cheeses. The little meat boogers didn't really do anything for me either. They were just slightly chewier bits of saltiness to accompany the mushy noodles. I don't fault the Valente's item specifically for the mushy noodles as that is a problem common to most frozen pastas. This is all to say that I thought the stuff was gross. I ate two bites.
Let us also look at the nutritional impact of the stuff. The picture does not do the smallness of the portion justice as you really only have about a cup/cup and a half of the pasta. 920 calories and 25 grams of saturated fat right there folks. I would be fine with this if the product was some sort of delicious indulgence to be enjoyed infrequently. For this small dish of gook it seamed fairly unreasonable.
I can only imagine the in-restaurant portion is much larger, probably to the tune of 2 or 3 times the volume. I don't know how you would struggle through such a large portion of rich fare such as this but I am sure people do it. That is a lot of saturated fat right there, even for a glutton like myself.
Perhaps the Three Little Pigs is much tastier in its fresh, unfrozen state (I would bet it is), but I was left nonplussed. If this is the recipe that won the Mac Cheese Bowl two years running then I remain dubious concerning the event. Actually it almost made me want to pick up some tickets because I am a great appreciator of strange, weird, or terrible recipes. I bet there are some hilariously bad concoctions, mango salsa mac cheese or something like that...
Anyhow, I always hate to rip a local product. But I really didn't enjoy this one. I admit that I only had 2 bites, so this review is a two bite review.