Whether you're a cubicle jockey, a work-from-home telecommuter, or a full-time traveling digital nomad—all of which Sonia and I have been—pre-packaged, refrigerated lunches like this one come in very handy most days. "Lemon basil pasta salad" sounds like a refreshing meal for these 90+ degree summer afternoons. Let's see what's going on here, shall we?
What's working: the overall taste is fresh and lemony. We found decent quality greens in our bowl, pristine bowtie pasta, shredded asiago cheese, and a significant amount of basil flavor. There's even a lemon wedge, ready for squeezing. The pre-applied dressing isn't overbearing or intrusive and adds just enough zing to make it interesting.
What's not working: I'd replace half of the pasta with more spinach. That's not something I'd expect from myself normally—craving vegetables over carbs. I guess I'd just rather see this flavor as, you know, a "salad," rather than a "pasta salad." There are plenty of traditional salad options at TJ's if you're with me on that one. I'm just pointing out that this offering is very much about the pasta, despite there being some roughage here, too. There are some peas floating around in the mixture. They don't add a whole lot, if you ask me. They weren't bad, though, either. I'd just rather see some romaine lettuce or more spinach in a dish like this one, personally. Also, when I mixed the salad elements around, I managed to spill some of them onto the counter. It's partly because I'm completely inept when it comes to stirring solid foods around in a small bowl, but it's also partly because the container isn't very rigid and the elements are packed full to the brim.
Looking at the ingredients, I'm surprised there wasn't more oomph to the overall flavor. Cayenne pepper, chili pepper, chopped garlic, and dijon mustard are generally going to render something with a tad more kick. I wouldn't mind tasting a significantly spicier version of this salad, but it's nothing to complain about as is. I think a spicy rendition might overpower the lemon and basil, and that would be a different flavor entirely.
$4.49 seems a tad steep for what you're getting here. It would be enough for one person for one sitting. In our case, Sonia and I shared it and supplemented with other snacks for our mid-day meal. Do note: there's no little plastic fork included here, so if you're going for a car-lunch, make sure you have a utensil on hand (and probably some napkins). All in all, not a bad choice for a light lunch. Double three and a halfs.
Bottom line: 7 out of 10.