Mexican-style sauces

Over the past year and a half or so, we've seen quite a number of new products that Mr. Tidbit has described as "sauce-for," in a variety of flavors, to turn a main ingredient and this and that into a finished dish. Mr. Tidbit just detected the largest array: a set of 11 skillet and slow-cook sauces in 8-ounce foil pouches from Frontera, the Mexican-style products from chef Rick Bayless. Some are complete sauces — just add the meat — but at least the one Mr. Tidbit bought (Texas original taco sauce) calls for adding a chopped onion.

Halve some sauce

There's been an unusual development in that "sauce-for" category.

Just for background, the spectrum of "sauce-for" products extends from the entries from Campbell's (Skillet Sauces, in 9-ounce foil pouches, and Slow Cooker Sauces, in 11-ounce foil pouches), which call for no additions but the meat, to those from Kraft (Recipe Makers; each is two sauces — a filling or simmering sauce and a finishing sauce — totaling 14.6 to 18.2 ounces), and Progresso (Recipe Starters, which appeared in 18-ounce cans), both of which call for adding a fair list of other ingredients, including such items as cheese, vegetables and seasonings. None of these sauce products includes such ingredients as pasta, rice or tortillas.

Now Progresso has withdrawn the 18-ounce cans of Recipe Starters, and offers Recipe Starters instead in 9-ounce foil pouches. At least for the canned and pouch versions of the sauce that Mr. Tidbit bought, Creamy Parmesan Basil, the provided recipes are entirely different, although both call for several additions beyond the chicken and pasta. (In fact, although the Creamy Parmesan Basil sauce includes Parmesan cheese, the pouch recipe, for Creamy Parmesan Chicken Penne, calls for adding another ⅓ cup of Parmesan, and the can's recipe, for Creamy Chicken Alfredo, calls for another ½ cup.)

Both the 18-ounce can and its replacement, the 9-ounce pouch (of virtually identical ingredients), are said to serve four. That's not magic: The can's Alfredo recipe includes ½ cup of sauce per serving; the pouch's penne recipe includes ¼ cup of sauce per serving.

Surprise: The 9-ounce pouch carries the same price as the discontinued 18-ounce can.

Al Sicherman