Review: Pesto Sacchettini from Panera Bread
You may have heard that Panera has expanded its menu from items brought to you by the letter S (soups, salads, and sandwiches) to feature three new pasta dishes. Technically, it’s not the first foray into the pasta world for Panera. Mac and cheese has been on the menu since late 2010, but the three new “Premium Signature Pastas” — Tortellini Alfredo, Rustic Penne Bolognese, and Pesto Sacchettini — are significantly more complex. Intrigued by a new noodle, I went with the last option. All of the new pastas come with your choice of a cafe soup or salad, and bread.Panera describes the Pesto Sacchettini as “purse-like pasta filled with six cheeses: Ricotta, Parmesan, Romano, Monterey Jack, Cheddar and Mozzarella, tossed with basil pesto and sprinkled with Asiago and Parmesan cheeses.”
Sounds tasty, right? Well, it’s probably no big surprise that pasta stuffed with six different types of cheese and topped with even more cheese was pretty damn delicious.
The pasta was cooked perfectly al dente, and the cheeses inside were melty and flavorful. The predominant cheese of the six-cheese blend is the ricotta, which made the filling creamy, milky, and soft. On top, the flakes of asiago and parmesan didn’t fully melt, but the more intense flavors were a nice complement to the milder cheese filling inside the sacchettini pasta.Pesto sauce is often hit or miss. It can easily be too heavily applied or too astringent. Panera’s pesto is light on the pine nuts and garlic, and heavy on the basil and olive oil, making it taste more like a basil tinged oil than anything else. For me, it worked. A stronger sauce would detract from the flavor of the cheese, which would be counter-productive. If you’re going to eat a bowl of carbs with that much cheese, tasting the cheese is the whole point.One beef I had with the pesto sacchettini was the price structure of the small versus large sizes. The small bowl, which holds 7.25 ounces of pasta, is $8.49, while the large is just $1.50 more, but twice the size (14.5 ounces). It’s great news if you were already going to order a large, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was getting ripped off for wanting a more reasonable portion (the large, by comparison, has 930 calories and 52 grams of fat — way too much for lunch). If the small is half the size of the large, pricing it somewhere closer to half of the price only seems fair. That’s unlikely to happen, so the lesson here is just go for the larger size and split it, or plan on taking half of it home.
Pros: Tastes great, high quality, filling.
Cons: The small size seems overpriced considering the large is just $1.50 more and twice as large. The dish is fairly high in fat (no real surprise since the pasta is stuffed and topped with cheese).
Grubbing on-the-go: 5.00/10
Price: $8.49 (small), $9.99 (large)
Overall GrubGrade: 7.75/10
More Info: http://www.PaneraNutrition.com
(Small, 7.25 oz)
Total Fat: 26 g
Saturated Fat: 7 g
Trans Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 45 mg
Sodium: 780 mg
Total Carbs: 43 g
Dietary Fiber: 5 g
Sugars: 0 g
Protein: 14 g