Wendyl Wants To Know
Each week, Wendyl Nissen takes a packaged food item and decodes what the label tells you about its contents.

Wendyl wants to know: Mamma mia, it just isn't like real lasagne

Each week, Wendyl Nissen takes a packaged food item and decodes what the label tells you about its contents

Top Hat Lasagne Poppers. $6.25 for 500g. Photo / Wendyl Nissen
Top Hat Lasagne Poppers. $6.25 for 500g. Photo / Wendyl Nissen

I've never come across these before but I'm told that Lasagne Toppers, which are the big version of these, are very popular. I think these are supposed to be mini bite-sized bits of lasagne held together by crumbing - a snack or nibble to be cooked or microwaved from frozen and served.


Breadcrumbs - Flour (wheat, soy), water, yeast, wheat gluten, maize starch, wheat fibre, iodised salt, canola oil, emulsifier (471,481), acidity regulator (263), colour (160b).

Breadcrumbs are technically made from toasting then grinding up stale bread and last time I looked, bread didn't have colour or emulsifiers added. So this is a pre-prepared mix which I've also found used on chicken nuggets and fish fingers. The emulsifiers are mono and diglycerides of fatty acids (471) and sodium lactylate (481) which is a sodium salt. The acidity regulator is calcium acetate (263) and the colour is annatto (160b), which is a natural dye.

Meat (24%) - Beef, chicken and mutton.

Traditionally, lasagne uses beef, and perhaps more than 24 per cent of the total dish, but these little lasagne balls also feature chicken and mutton.

I'm seeing more mutton in meat products as it is very cheap and would help fill out the meat content.

Cooked pasta (16%) - Wheat flour, water. I couldn't actually see any pasta when I opened up one of these balls so I'll just have to take the manufacturer's word for it.

Vegetable oil - Not sure what oil, most likely to be canola.

Tomato paste - This will be in here for flavour.

Carrots - These will be in here for flavour.

Onion - Again, flavour.

Cheese (4%) - Milk, salt, cultures, rennet, water, milk solids, emulsifiers (450, 452), salt, preservative (200), citric acid.

Last time I looked at cheese in a processed food it had five ingredients: milk solids, salt, starter culture, enzyme (rennet) and citric acid. So the cheese used in these balls has extra emulsifiers which are disphosphates (450 and 452) and the preservative sorbic acid (200).

Soy protein - This is commonly used in processed foods to bump up the protein levels and is made from soybeans.

Wheat flour - This will be in the mix as a thickener.

Sugar - You'll get 6.7g (about 1.5 teaspoons) of sugar per 125g serve.

Salt - You'll get 575mg of sodium per serve.

Hydrolysed vegetable protein - Yeast, soy, maize, colour (150c).

This is created when soy and corn are boiled in acid and then broken down with sodium hydroxide to release the protein. This has also had yeast and colour - caramel III - added to it. It is used in foods as a flavour enhancer.

Spices - Vegetable powder (garlic, tomato, onion.)

Acidity regulator (330) - This is citric acid.

Maize starch - This is cornflour, most likely in here as a thickener.

Thickeners (401,461) - More thickeners in the form of sodium alginate (401) and methyl-cellulose (461) which is made out of wood and cotton.

Flavour enhancer (635) - This is disodium 5'-ribonucleotides, which can be a problem for people suffering from gout.

Spice extracts

Flavour - This will be artificial flavour as there is no mention of "natural".

My recommendations

This isn't really lasagne. It's not even lasagne crumbed, which is what these look like.

When you cook them and open them up, they resemble the after effects of putting lasagne in the blender, then rolling it in breadcrumbs.

It takes 44 ingredients to make these when accounting for double-ups like salt and wheat flour.

To make lasagne I would combine pasta, meat and tomato sauce and cheese so there would be no need for artificial flavour, a flavour enhancer, two thickeners, an acidity regulator, hydrolysed vegetable protein, soy protein and colour. If I then crumbed it I would grind up some old bread so there would be no need for two more emulsifiers, acidity regulator and colour.

I would like to suggest a more natural, real food alternative for these but I'm struggling. I guess if you really wanted something round and crumbed you could mash potato with a bit of cooked mince and crumb them. Or don't, and just have some crackers and cheese. At this price you could even afford some camembert.


• Lasagne blended, rolled up and crumbed.

• Takes 44 ingredients to make these balls.

• Uses beef, chicken and mutton.

Do you have a food product you would like to feature in Wendyl Wants to Know?

Email wendylwantstoknow@gmail.com with suggestions. Unfortunately Wendyl cannot correspond with readers.

- NZ Herald

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