Trader Joe’s Frozen Pasta—Best TJ’s Frozen Pastas


The frozen food section in Trader Joe’s is my safe space. Though the steps to prepare their globe-trotting frozen meals vary in rigor, most are to just add heat and water—a simple set of instructions, and one of the reasons why this is my favorite TJ’s aisle.

While you may know about Trader Joe’s frozen dumpling selection, or have read us wax poetic about their cheeses and dips, their frozen pasta offering is surprisingly impressive. I should know; I’ve eaten through every TJ’s frozen pasta I could find.

The frozen, bagged pastas are filled with a mixture of thin pieces of frozen sauce and par-cooked pasta. Though these pastas can be prepared in the microwave, my preferred method is dumping the contents of the bag into a skillet, adding a few tablespoons of water , and letting everything simmer until the pasta is cooked through and the sauce has thickened. Though the bags technically contain three servings, I think that they are a perfect dinner for two. From unexpectedly complex Cacio e Pepe to utterly confusing Inside-out Gnocchi, here are the best frozen pastas from Trader Joe’s.

Stand Outs:

Photo by Lucy Simon

Gnocchi alla Sorrentina

Trader Giotto’s (Joe’s Italian brother, I can only assume) take on this Southern Italian baked gnocchi dish is truly impressive. The skillet-ready potato gnocchi might be the ideal pasta type for the freezer-to-pan preparation Trader Joe’s calls for. Salty and acidic tomato sauce, streaked with melted mozzarella, coats the little pillows as they cook. It’s nearly impossible to overcook this bouncy, chewy pasta.

Photo by Lucy Simon

Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe

The certifiable It Girl of the past few years, cacio e pepe is traditionally made with just cheese, pepper, and pasta. Since its rise in popularity a few years ago, the iconic Roman dish has been an inspiration for many recipe riffs (like biscuits, pizza,and ramen). Trader Joe’s version comes with nests of spaghetti that unfurl in the skillet and a bright, peppery, cheesy sauce that (I can’t believe I’m saying this) rivals restaurant-quality.

Honorable Mentions:

Photo by Lucy Simon

Penne Arrabbiata

Though I am not penne’s biggest fan, the shape worked surprisingly well in this preparation—it stayed nice and al dente without sticking together. The sauce has good tomato flavor but could use a bit more heat to be the arrabbiata of my dreams.

Photo by Lucy Simon

Gnocchi al Gorgonzola

Like in the stand-out Sorrentina, the texture of the gnocchi is chewy and delightful. I would certainly make this pasta again, but perhaps with the addition of some extra gorgonzola (and maybe a little salt, too) to bump up the funky blue cheese flavor.

Photo by Lucy Simon

Mushroom Ravioli with Mushroom Truffle Sauce

I love a good mushroom sauce and this ravioli dish is everything you want it to be—plus, a truffle pasta sauce for $4?! The ravioli are on the large size, taken down in about two bites.

Photo by Lucy Simon

Linguine with Clam Sauce

Nests of linguine come together with a garlicky, parsley-flecked sauce made with chopped clams and broth. Though flavorful and a fun divergence from the tomato- and cream-forward offerings, the linguine fell apart in the skillet.

No Thanks:

Photo by Trader Joe’s

Cheese Filled Fiochetti with Pink Sauce

Fiochetti are small, cheese-filled pouches made of thin pasta dough. While a super satisfying shape to eat, the downfall of this pasta is the pink sauce. It had some tang, but an overwhelming amount of sweetness. Perhaps some more flavor in the bland, ricotta-esque filling might balance it out.

Photo by Lucy Simon

Outside-In Stuffed Gnocchi

I was intrigued when I added this to my grocery cart, but my reaction at home was: “Who thought this was a good idea?” Coming from the overachieving gnocchi dishes, I had real high hopes for this outside-in variation. Though the package boasted crispy gnocchi oozing with bubbly sauce, these potato gnocchi turned out to be gummy balls and the sauce was mostly flavorless.

Have you tried any frozen pastas from Trader Joes? What’s your favorite?

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