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

Wendyl Nissen: Additives abound in not-so-natural pasta

Signature Range Spinach and Cheese Tortellini $4.75 for 300g. Photo / Wendyl Nissen
Signature Range Spinach and Cheese Tortellini $4.75 for 300g. Photo / Wendyl Nissen

I received an email from a vegetarian reader who has had a bad experience with this pasta.

"I thought this might be a vegetarian dish, as one would expect in Italy, but the dubious cheese powder is made with animal rennet. I thought it tasted like a meat pasta so phoned them up in a panic. Fool me. The filling is breadcrumb and durum wheat flour with powdered cheese.

Talk about mislabelling. It should be sold as breadcrumb pasta."

I fed this to my vegetarian children a lot when they were teenagers so I was interested to see it had animal rennet in it. But it was also very hard to find any spinach in this pasta.

Signature Range Spinach and Cheese Tortellini $4.75 for 300g

Ingredients (greatest quantity first)

Durum semolina (from wheat)
This is the main ingredient for pasta. It is usually mixed with egg and water to make the dough.

Cheese (9%) [cheddar, blue vein, parmesan (milk, salt, anticaking agent (460), preservative (200), cultures, enzymes (animal rennet), lipase)]
This is quite a lot of ingredients for cheese. Normally you would have milk, salt, cultures and enzymes, and that is it. But this cheese has the anticaking agent powdered cellulose (460), the preservative sorbic acid (200) and lipase. Vegetarians will not like seeing that animal rennet was used in the cheese.

Egg (9%)
This is a main ingredient for pasta.


Breadcrumbs [flour, (wheat, wholemeal, rye, soy, barley), yeast, salt, oats, vegetable oil, vinegar, wheat gluten, acidity regulators (263), emulsifiers (481,472e,471), raising agents (450, 500) cultured dextrose, starch (wheat), B vitamins]
A lot of ingredients for the bread also considering most bread can be made out of flour, yeast, salt and water. The acidity regulator is calcium acetate (263), the emulsifiers are sodium lactylate (481), fatty acid esters of glycerol (472e) and mono and diglycerides of fatty acids (471). You'll also get two raising agents diphosphate (450) and sodium bicarbonate (500). Cultured dextrose is a form of sugar.

Cheese powder
This is dehydrated cheese often used as a flavouring.

Olive oil



Spinach powder (0.5%)
It is disappointing for something clearly labelled as "spinach and cheese tortellini" to actually only have this much spinach, which equates to 0.97 of a gram per 194g serve - very, very little. On closer reading it does say "spinach pasta parcels with a cheese filling" but I can see why consumers might be confused.


Vegetable bouillon [flavour enhancers (627, 632), flavour]
A bouillon is technically a stock made from vegetables. This one appears to be made from two flavour enhancers which usually form a threesome with MSG, but in this product they have eliminated the MSG from the formula, which is great. Instead we have sodium inosinate (627), which is prepared from meat or fish, and disodium guanylate (631), which is commercially prepared from yeast extract or sardines and enhances flavours reducing the amount of salt needed. Asthmatics and gout sufferers are advised to avoid this product.

It also contains artificial flavours.

Garlic granules
These are the tiny bits of garlic you can taste in the filling.

Colour (141)
This is chlorophyll copper complexes with an olive food colouring, used to make the pasta look green, as there doesn't seem to have been enough spinach to do this.

My recommendations

Forget the spinach, this pasta is mostly cheese, bread, flour and some food colouring to make it green. I also have to agree with my reader that it does taste like pasta filled with breadcrumbs.

I was also disappointed to see that the cheese had additives added to it that you wouldn't usually find in a normal block of cheese we might use to fill tortellini, and also that the breadcrumbs had a number of additives you wouldn't normally find in bread.

So I'm afraid to say this is a highly processed meal of pasta, in my opinion.

I would say go and make your own but these are awfully fussy to make - believe me, I've tried.

So instead, if you want some spinach, cheese and pasta simply cook some real pasta, saute some spinach and chuck it altogether with some grated cheese and you'll get a more real meal.


• Uses food colouring to make the pasta green.

• Only 0.97g of spinach in each serve.

• Additives you wouldn't normally find in bread or cheese.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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