I hate to admit it (and usually I don’t) but the pasta I most crave comes frozen in a little red box and pops into a microwave. I know when my cooking has been bested and Stouffer’s Vegetable Lasagna is the best white lasagna on the planet even if it does come frozen in a box.
I’m generally considered a pretty good cook and Italian pasta dishes are my specialty. My pasta is always properly boiled to the perfect al dente texture. I mince fresh garlic and make a chiffonade of fresh basil. I make all my pasta from scratch except for my favorite vegetable lasagna.
The pasta used by Stouffer’s is listed in the ingredients as “blanched lasagna” so the starch frozen into those microwavable containers is just barely cooked and never boiled to the texture of a gummy bear. Whether it’s baked in a conventional oven or nuked in a microwave, Stouffer’s Vegetble Lasagna is always al dente and that’s a rare state for frozen pasta. There’s a notice on the front of the box announcing there are “no preservatives” so the chopped bits of carrot, broccoli and spinach look like garden food and never taste like something stored in formaldehyde.
The crispy, golden bread crumb topping is a nice touch but the best part of Stouffer’s Vegetable Lasagna is the smooth as silk, delicately seasoned bechamel sauce . Perfect bechamel sauce is a supreme feat for any cook. How Stouffer got that perfect sauce frozen into that little red box defies reason. It’s not only superior to the bechamel sauce I used to slave over for my made-from- scratch vegetable lasagna, it’s better than most good restaurants can come up with and it’s a lot cheaper.
I know that I’m not the only one who feels this way. There has to be at least one other Stouffer’s Vegetable Lasagna hoarder in my neck of the woods. I’ve noticed that every time my grocery store has a big sale on Stouffer’s frozen foods, the shelf holding the Stouffer’s Vegetable Lasagna is always the first shelf to run out. If I don’t get to the store before 9:00 AM on the first day of the sale, there is an empty space and I’m left in the lurch. This is the one frozen item I like to stock up on.
There is a lot of room in my freezer to accomodate my favorite. Like most decent cooks, I usually abhor frozen dinners and wouldn’t dream of spending money for them. The only frozen entrees allowed in the freezer compartment of my refrigerator are the piled up boxes of Stouffer’s Vegetable Lasagna. These little cardboard encased meals come in very handy. They are my quick dinner fall backs and there can never be too many of them.
The price is yet another positive here. Stouffer’s Vegetable Lasagna comes in two sizes. There is an individual 10 7/8 ounce size and a larger 2 lb 6 ounce family size. The small one person size costs about $3.59 retail. The family size, which serves four, is a real bargain at $7.99 retail. Since Stouffer’s frozen entrees are often on sale, even these prices can usually be beat. The last time I stocked up, I paid $1.79 for the individual servings and $5.99 for the family size servings. At those prices, I was the one who cleared off the sale shelf.
If there is a down side, it’s the same as for any rich entree, there are some calories involved. One serving averages 390 calories and in spite of some skim milk and cheese, a fair share are from fat (160 calories) although there is no trans fat. That’s 200 calories less than the 590 calories of a Big Mac but about 100 calories more than the 290 calories in a Stouffer’s Lean Cuisine frozen pasta entree. This is not quite weight loss fare but it won’t blow a diet for the entire week either. On the bright side, a serving of Stouffer’s Vegetable Lasagna needs no more than a small side salad with vinegarette dressing and a glass of wine to qualify as a fine dining experience.
In addition to being a superior bargain, the family size serving of Stouffer’s Vegetable Lasagna can be removed from its black plastic microwave container and fitted perfectly into a nice square casserole pan. After switching containers, I usually bake the pasta in a conventional oven, grate some fresh Parmiagana Reggiano over the top, run it through the broiler to melt the cheese and claim the dish as my own. Every good cook knows that when another’s recipe is perfect, it’s necessary to make one insignifiant change to claim it for your own. Hence, the grated Italian cheese. The dish doesn’t really need any more cheese. That’s just the minor tweak that allows me to shamelessly pass off Stouffer’s Vegetable Lasagna as my signature pasta dish.