The sandwich bar at Murray's Cheese is always packed at lunch hours, which is why I often turn to the refrigerated section of this West Village gem. Here you'll find pre-packed containers of soup at a reasonable $4.50 for 15-ounce containers. Smokey Tomato is excellent in both hot and cold weather, with sweet kick of paprika and enough cream to almost make you feel guilty. Bring on the grilled cheese sandwich and you have a complete meal! But in a pinch, the fresh baguettes sold near the register make a fine soup accompaniment. They also do a classic Chicken Noodle soup, hearty with trofie pasta, the thin and tapered twists tangled with cuts of carrots and celery and an abundance of herbs, dill being the most prominent.
In addition to soups you'll find pasta dishes in foil containers. I'm a sucker for their Mac & Cheese ($5.99), an over-the-top decadent meal. I'm sure this portion is meant for two to share, but I've easily finished the whole container on my lunch break. It's difficult to stop after the first forkful. At the base, the macaroni is coupled with a velvety mornay sauce—essentially bechamel with tons of cheese. For the top layer, a combination of three cheeses: cave-aged Gruyere, Grafton Cheddar, and Grana Padano. For something a touch lighter, try the Lasagna ($7.99), where fresh ricotta, mozzarella, and mascarpone cheese are spread between layers of lasagna sheets, with housemade tomato sauce and spiced ground beef. It's meaty and satisfying without the potential cheese overkill of the Mac & Cheese and may certainly be considered a more fully balanced meal. Instructions suggest warming Lasagna and Mac & Cheese in the oven, but when working from the office, I've had great results with spooning it into bowls and simply microwaving. You lose out the wonderful crisp crust on the mac & cheese, but that's the sacrifice for lunchtime convenience.