Product Review: Udi’s Gluten Free Rich & Creamy Penne & Cheese

Udi's Gluten Free Rich & Creamy Penne & Cheese
Udi’s Gluten Free Rich & Creamy Penne & Cheese

Product: Udi’s Gluten Free Rich & Creamy Penne & Cheese – $6.99+

You know…there are certain names that I commonly trust in the gluten-free food world.  And, with the exception of a couple of things (holy and small bread loaves and the original cinnamon roll recipe), one name that I have always been able to trust to serve me up something not only delicious but a close equivalent to the “real” and glutinous food is Udi’s.  After all, they were the game changer when it came to bread.  I hate really small bread slices though, so I normally don’t purchase their loaves.  I do, however, always have Udi’s Gluten Free Bagels in my freezer.  Never had a better gluten-free bagel, for sure!

So, imagine my glee when I found out that Udi’s Gluten Free was introducing some frozen meals to the market.  And while these new products usually take forever and a day to reach my area, that wasn’t the case with these.  I can find them in most of my natural food stores.  The one I have, however, I purchased out of town and returned to my freezer in a cooler.  That’s how I roll when I’m a gluten-free girl on the go!

And by on the go…I mean I drive to a lot of places that have items I don’t always see in my area.  The road is my home a lot of the time.

But when I am home…when I have a rough day or am just tired…cooking something from scratch isn’t always an option.  BAH.  That was the case tonight.  I consulted my roommate and she asked if there was anything in our crisper drawer that was in dire need of being used up.  I listed off a couple of things that we had until Thursday to use.  Since there was no real rush…she said to just grab something out of the freezer…either the gluten-free pizza or the mac and cheese.  The pizza is from my local gluten-free bakery…and we almost went that way.  But…when I said it was the pizza or splitting the mac and cheese and having it with the gluten-free and vegan garlic bread still in the freezer…she immediately wanted the mac and cheese meal because the bread was the tipping point.  HA!  She loves her bread.  And, yes, she only eats gluten-free bread.  She’s awesome like that.

So, after getting home, I tossed the gluten free and vegan garlic bread into the oven to toast.  And as that was about to finish up, I pulled out the mac and cheese meal I knew we had in the freezer.  Actually…what we had one box of the Udi’s Gluten Free Rich & Creamy Penne & Cheese in the freezer.  Close enough to mac and cheese.  I brought it back from The Raisin Rack in Columbus, Ohio, and was keeping it around for an evening such as this.  Lots to do, and not enough time to spend a long time in the kitchen.  This was easy.  This took a total of 7 minutes to cook.  I loved that.

Udi's Gluten Free Rich & Creamy Penne & Cheese (cooked)
Udi’s Gluten Free Rich & Creamy Penne & Cheese (cooked)

Simple preparation.  Remove tray from box and cut a whole in the plastic that surrounds it.  Place in the microwave for 2 minutes.  After those two minutes are up, remove the plastic and stir.  Place back in the microwave for another 2 minutes and 45 seconds.  Allow to sit for 2 minutes before serving.  I did that…then split the tray between the two of us.

I settled in to an episode of Chopped on Food Network and took my first bite.

And was highly disappointed.  While the actual dish itself is loaded with rich and creamy unnaturally orange cheese…it didn’t actually live up to its looks.  In fact, while it looked like something I could have cooked up, the first bite was just…bland.  BLAND!  Penne & Cheese should not be bland.  Gluten free should most definitely not be bland.  I was just…so let down.  While I could see the black pepper scattered through the cheese sauce, the cheese sauce really lacked flavor.  And, with most cases of microwave pasta…some of the noodles didn’t cook to soft goodness and were left sort of crunchy and crisp.  BOOOOO!!  This just left me feeling deflated because I love mac and cheese…but this was just…no good.  Not one bit.  When I eat something, I want it to taste like something.  I want seasoning.  I don’t care if it’s a frozen dish or something that comes out of a professional kitchen, it has to taste good!  Or…taste like…something.

The Udi’s Gluten Free Rich & Creamy Penne & Cheese is made from gluten free penne pasta (made from corn flour and rice flour), pasteurized milk, water, cheddar cheese, butter, cheese flavor, monterey jack cheese, rice starch, flavor, citrus fiber, kosher salt, black pepper, annatto extract, and mustard flour.

As for nutrition information, the Udi’s Gluten Free Rich & Creamy Penne & Cheese serves 1 person per container.  My roommate and I split it.  I’m sort of glad we did…

Anyway, one serving (about 1 cup) will serve up 430 calories and 13 grams of fat.  You will be consuming 90 mg cholesterol, 480 mg sodium, and 4 grams of sugar.  In addition, you will take in 3 grams of fiber and 12 grams of protein.  You’ll feel full…but you won’t feel like you actually tasted anything.

It’s too bad that this dish was so bland.  I was really let down.  Udi’s is usually so spot-on with their products, but this one just left me feeling cheated out of what should have been a delicious meal.  I think I’ll stick to my homemade mac and cheese from here on.

Half a serving of Udi's Gluten Free Rich & Creamy Penne & Cheese
Half a serving of Udi’s Gluten Free Rich & Creamy Penne & Cheese

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