Paulie's Pasta Shells and Cheese (Dollar Tree)

Stock image of Paulie's Pasta Shells and Cheese, from Dollar Tree
Not too shabby for only a buck.

The last time I tried macaroni and cheese from Dollar Tree, it was about four years ago. The shells were just fine, but the cheese was even more neon than the name brand stuff, and its consistency was more similar to paste, than liquefied cheese. In case you were wondering, yes, the taste was just as bad as it looked…why do you think it’s been four years since the last time I tried it? But then I saw smiling, cartoon chef Paulie in the upper left hand corner of this box, and I knew from his convincingly drawn-on smile that he didn’t have anything to hide.

So I ponied up a dollar and bought a box. After all, not even Aldi and their perfected supply chain process can provide shells and cheese for a dollar; if Paulie could pull his off, by golly, this would be an amazing deal. Does he succeed? Well yes, but as it turns out, that rat bastard’s smile really is hiding something after all.

On the side of good: the pasta shells are just what you would expect, about the exact same size as the national brand. There is a good-sized package of “cheese” sauce, as well, which is also what you should be expecting. So far, so good, Paulie! The shells cook up nice and soft, as they should, and the cheese sauce is the perfect texture…I could swear that it’s even slightly thinner than the name brand stuff, but still a perfect consistency. The taste is almost pretty close, though if my memory serves me right, it’s not an exact knockoff. Still, there is no requirement, at least on my end, that private label knockoffs have to taste exactly the same as name brand counterparts--as long as it’s delicious, that’s fine by me. And these shells and cheese are close enough in that department to justify the dollar. Or are they…?

As it turns out, Paulie does have one trick up his sleeve after all, and it’s one that’s pretty common at Dollar Tree stores: he’s shorting us. He’s not just a chef, but a thief--this is an 8 oz. package, whereas the national brand (and Aldi’s Cheese Club version, which I believe is around $1.29) are 12 oz. Considering I ate this by myself, it worked out well, because it saved me four ounces of calories, sodium, cholesterol, and fat. But if you have a family to feed, the four ounces could legitimately make a difference.

So then how’s the value? It’s really not too bad. Subtracting a third from Aldi’s price (because Paulie offers a third less pasta in this package) takes us to $.93, but it’s wholly plausible they would just round that up to a retail price of a dollar anyway. It really all just comes down to the smaller packaging. Again, it didn’t bother me, but if you’re a mother (or father) who has their shells and cheese night down to a science, this is going to throw it off by giving you a third less than what you were expecting.

Overall: 7.5/10. The taste is pretty good, and rivals the name brand while being slightly different (I also thought the cheese sauce was slightly thinner, and had even better consistency than the national brand), but there’s a caveat attached to this; this is for an 8 oz. package. The name brand, as well as most private label brands (Aldi included), offer their shells and cheese in a 12 oz. package. So if you’re a college kid looking for a quick meal, then this should be just fine for you. But if you’re trying to feed a family, you might be getting a third less than what you were expecting, which could be a deal-breaker. I happened to eat it while my wife was away, so it didn’t bother me…had she been here, there might not have been enough to go around.


  1. I've spoiled myself by fixing my own mac and cheese that I can't even stand the boxed stuff anymore. For under $3 (less than a buck for the pasta + $2 for cheddar cheese), I can get a whole pound's worth of mac and cheese which not only fills my daughter and I the night I make it but offers me lunch for a couple days afterward. Oh and prep IMO isn't any more difficult than the boxed stuff.

    As for the green bean fries, well you can keep those. Actually that goes for anything by the Snapps appetizer line as they all seem to be crap, in my experience anyway. FarmRich may cost you a little more upfront but their appetizers are usually by far more substantial.

    1. You know, that's a brilliant idea. Just looked up a recipe for mac and cheese and it's pretty much all basic stuff that's just laying around the house. Can't believe I haven't even thought of that before!

      As for Snapps, like I said, I hate the brand too, but gotta give credit where it's due--the green bean fries are surprisingly very good. Then again, those must be impossible to screw up because Dollar Tree also has a brand of them, and they were pretty good, too.


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