From the Freezer: Tony's Macaroni & Cheese
It's unofficial pasta-on-pizza week here on Slice. We kicked it off by temping the feelings towards carb on carb pies, and found that a lot of pizza eaters have a soft spot, or at least an openness to the double carb style. But there are haters. And for those we needed a more compelling argument, so we brought out the heavyweight—Rigatoni Pizza from Mulberry Pizza in LA. (When I say heavyweight, I mean Iron Mike Tyson. And when I say Iron Mike Tyson I mean he is credited with being the creative genius behind this particular pie.) I'm here to dance you to the other end of the spectrum. While pasta on pizza can be great, as you suspected, it can also be oh so bad.
I hear there are great mac n cheese pizzas at Ian's in WI. I have yet to try the Ian's version, or any other for that matter, mostly because they've been out of reach. Then I saw a Tony's frozen version very much in reach during a trip to the freezer aisle.
If I were a mind in the Tony's test kitchen I would be thinking, "what does a pasta on pizza fan expect?" It's not going to be flavor, because let's face it, pasta undressed offers no flavor explosion. And if tomato sauce is not part of the equation, that goes double. The main attraction is the satisfying chew. But if that's too challenging, then go big picture and settle for textural contrast. Ok, that happened. But it wasn't pretty. Let me explain:
See those noodles that appear in white relief? Those ones aren't good. In fact, they suck. They're hard and crunchy and freezer burned. This is the number one plague that faces this pie. To their credit, the 3/4 of the noodles that side-stepped the freezer burn weren't bad. And I imagine even getting 3/4 of the noodles to be chewy and tender after being flash frozen, and spending who knows how long in the freezer aisle, and another leg of who knows how long in a home freezer, is a feat of food science to be commended.
Plague number two: flavor. I did not delude myself about this going in. I knew the pizza would be bland at best. And it was just that, largely completely void of flavor. The crust was so neutral, it was frustrating. In the end, I decided it had the faint taste of the way school cafeteria toast smells—think electric mixed with white bread. The cheese did have a slight tang, but this was a case where the creamy consistency was more attention-grabbing than the flavor. There was something else to the flavor, though it took more than a slice to figure it out. When the light bulb went off, it illuminated the Elmer's paste flavor detector in my brain (which sadly exists). I've been off the glue for some time now, and luckily the Tony's reminder won't be casting me into a relapse.
Save your money and don't be lured in by this pie. There are better pasta on pizza options out there. Try making your own at home with spaghetti, or rigatoni, or hell, SpaghettiOs pizza. And if you are forced to eat this, here's a pro tip: do as i did and reach for some Frank's hot sauce. It's really the only way.