Trader Joe’s SWEET POTATO GNOCCHI w. butter & sage


These are called SWEET POTATO GNOCCHI with sage and butter (frozen section). That sounded interesting to me so I decided to check them out. Results? Well they were tasty but frankly different than what we were expecting from the name. First off there turned out to be quite a bit of sauce in relation to the gnocchi than expected (kind of swimming in it) and the flavor of the sauce while nice, dominated over any subtle sweet potato flavor to the point that three of us tasting them all had the same comment : we couldn’t tell these gnocchi were “sweet potato” as opposed to regular gnocchi, other than these were slightly orange in color. The first 3 ingredients are listed as: sweet potato, wheat flour, potato. So there is regular potato. We didn’t think they were bad but they didn’t stand out as “Sweet Potato Gnocchi”. All 3 of us trying them for the first time said while kind of tasty it was probably something we would not buy again. Rather I could make the regular gnocchi I like at TJ’s and get them a bit crispy on the outside and then add some butter, sage and cheese. These were about $3.39. So giving them a “meh” as both plus and minus opinions on them.

Trader Joe’s PAPPARDELLE egg noodle pasta (RECIPE)


“Pappardelle is a hearty noodle with many uses. Traditionally this hearty noodle is served with high-flavor chunky sauces made from game or pork… We like it with a robust Bolognese. It’s perfect for soaking up the flavorful juices of a pot roast and an ideal noodle for soups…”

Trader Joe’s Pappardelle noodles are good, hearty Italian egg noodles. These are especially perfect with robust chunky sauces, like a ragu Bolognese. A bag is $1.99 (8 oz). Here’s what I learned from making these a few times. To bring out the best of these noodles I suggest you don’t just cook them and put them on a plate and top with sauce. If you are just serving these with butter and cheese that’s OK to do. But if you are serving with a sauce (Bolognese maybe?) these will taste best if you finish cooking them in the sauce for a minute or two at the very end. Meaning pull them out of the water at about 4 or 5 minutes, drain (but not too thoroughly) and finish cooking them with 1/2 your sauce till they are al dente (save a little of the cooking water, which you can add to get the sauce consistency you want). Again grab them after about 4 minutes of boiling, throw them into a pan with about 1/2 cup of sauce per portion, cook and toss gently for a minute or two, until the noodles are cooked to your liking. The noodles will absorb the sauce and all the flavors, and make for a very hearty dish (see my dish, served with some asparagus as a side). Top with a bit more of your (reserved) sauce and a little grating of Parmesan.

Pappardelle with Bolognese sauce is made for each other so that’s definitely a combo you should think of for these noodles. If not a homemade ragu Bolognese you can easily use Trader Joe’s TURKEY BOLOGNESE “just sauce”. I can’t say it’s great, but it’s decent if you don’t want to make your own (see my easy turkey ragu bolognese recipe below)

RECIPEFAST & EASY TURKEY BOLOGNESE: Brown up a pound of ground turkey (optionally you can use ground beef, or mix of 1/2 pound each ground beef and pork, or Impossible meat for that matter). Sauté on high heat in a tablespoon of EVOO. Once the meat is browned nicely add 4 cloves of crushed fresh garlic, 1/2 a chopped onion (optional: a grated carrot) and turn down to medium heat. Add a spoon of wine, balsamico or just water to deglaze the bottom of the pan scraping up any bits. Saute on low covered for about 3 minutes then add a can of ROASTED TOMATOES (with or without chiles). Rinse out the the can 1/4 to 1/2 way full with milk. Add that in. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Italian herbs. Simmer on low for 20 minutes. Serve the sauce with a hearty noodle like Pappardelle.

Trader Joe’s ORGANIC BUCATINI PASTA


(update; the product has been M.I.A. for awhile)

Trader Joe’s Organic Bucatini Pasta

Trader Joe’s new imported Organic BUCATINI has pretty much become my favorite pasta that Trader Joe’s has. This is a high quality organic artisanal pasta in a shape called bucatini, which is a long pasta like spaghetti but with a little hole (buca) in the middle.

The hole really helps this pasta to absorb sauce way more than spaghetti does (twice as much). Bucatini can be really a good match also with hearty sauces such as a Bolognese sauce or ragu. This pasta is excellent obviously for most Italian pasta dishes, and a few even specify this shape, (recipe idea links below).

In the picture is a simple pasta dish I made with this bucatini pasta and just a basic marinara tomato sauce. Even with just marinara and cheese it made a delicious pasta.

Cooking tip: This says cook for 8-10 minutes. I would suggest pulling it from the water under al dente – say around the 7 minute mark THEN FINISHING it in a pan with sauce for a minute or two so it can absorb the sauce and flavor a bit. So pull the slightly undercooked pasta, toss it into a pan with maybe 1/2 the sauce you are serving it with, and finish cooking the pasta with the sauce adding 1-2 tablespoons of the cooking water as needed. (watch Vincenzo do this in the video below) Always save a 1/2 cup of your pasta cooking water. Starchy pasta cooking water is the magic “secret” ingredient to cooking pasta the way Italians do. Finish cooking the pasta for a minute or two until it’s al dente or to your desired degree of done-ness. Plate it up and serve with a bit of extra sauce on top. Garnish with a little grated cheese and chopped parsley. The Bucantini swells up a bit with the sauce giving it a delicious texture and taste. You can even try this Bucantini pasta to make Asian noodle dishes! No really. It works pretty well as an Asian noodle in a pinch.

TJ’s Organic Bucatini pasta is selling for $1.49 for a 1 lb. package. Ingredients: Organic Durum Semolina. PRODUCT OF ITALY. Here’s a few recipe ideas for bucatini too….

https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/a34922698/bucatini-pasta-recipe/

https://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/bucatini-pecorino-and-coarse-pepper

https://www.bonappetit.com/story/bucatini-best-long-pasta

Trader Joe’s EGGPLANT GARLIC SPREAD


“A traditional Bulgarian recipe that pairs well with pita or flatbread. Use as a dip or as a spread on sandwiches, toast or crackers”.

Ingredients: Eggplant, red peppers, water, sunflower oil, tomato paste, sugar, sea salt, dried garlic….

This spread, which is made in Bulgaria, is absolutely delicious. I tried this (vegetarian) spread as a dip served with some warm flatbread – a combo made in heaven. I can easily see this used in other ways besides being just a dip or spread. You could serve this on top, or on the side of say grilled chicken or fish. Or pasta. Add a few spoons to your pasta dish (or gnocchi or polenta) along with lots of garlic and olive oil. Inside an omelet? Sure. Now as yummy as it is, personally I would like more garlic. I have a feeling if your (Bulgarian) grandma made this spread it might actually have enough garlic in it to kill vampires. My late Jewish grandma (Romanian by birth) made a delicious roasted eggplant spread that had a ton – and I mean a ton – of garlic in it and it was fantastic. So just to see if more garlic would be a good addition with this spread, I mashed up a few cloves of garlic, mixed it in and let it sit for an hour to develop. OMG, it was now even better, if you love garlic of course. So I suggest doing this and adding a slug of good olive oil too. If you do this, the spread tastes homemade! However even just out of the jar, this spread is delicious, kind of an “Eggplant Caviar”. This spread is something I can easily see putting out for guests who suddenly showed up, along with some crackers, which would take all of 2 minutes of work, and would look impressive and have them asking you “yum, this dip is delicious; did you make it?”. If you put a few cloves of garlic in it, I would tell them with a straight face, yes I did. Its $2.69 for a 12 oz jar. Serve with warm pita or naan, or flatbread or toast or crackers…..

I would buy this again.

TJ’s “When Life Gives You Lemons Make ICE CREAM”


Trader Joe’s new ice cream, “When Life Gives You Lemons Make ICE CREAM”, Lemon Ice Cream with a Lemon Swirl and Shortbread Cookie Bits is da bomb. This stuff seems to be flying off the shelves at the moment.

This new Trader Joe’s ice cream flavor is very original, unusual, and delicious. Sweet but a little tart. We used to get lemon ices as kids in the summertime which are really good. But this is lemon ICE CREAM, not ices so it tastes that much more amazing – plus it’s not “just lemon ice cream” it’s a kind of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream invention built on a Lemon Theme with yellow swirls in the ice cream which have even more sweet lemon flavors and then to top it all off, they put in these little pieces of buttery shortbread, so it has a bit of texture to it which make it now even more amazing. Now I would not even say I’m a huge fan of lemon ice cream, however when I first tasted this concoction I did a “wow is this good” double take – ‘cuz it is really really good plus it seems very original and unusual, again in one of those really good but simple Ben & Jerry’s ice cream concoctions. I went back to get it again. I go to the ice cream case and was so dissapointed. SOLD OUT! Not just that, only this flavor was sold out, there are a ton of ice creams on both sides of where this should be. So I am assuming word is out on this ice cream and everyone wants to try it, and for good reason, it’s a really terrific TJ’s product. It’s not cheap at $3.49 for a pint. However a pint of Ben & Jerry’s or Hagendaz or the like goes for way more than this. This WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS ice cream invention is a real treat which I think in the summer time it will seem even more heavenly, on a hot day.

Trader Joe’s ROASTED GARLIC MARINARA SAUCE


I tried Trader Joe’s “ROASTED GARLIC MARINARA” and found it to be quite good. It has what you might call a slow cooked taste, and its very tasty. The flavors in the sauce blend well together, the garlic and the spices well balanced. I don’t like overly homogenized smooth tomato sauces, I prefer a little chunkiness in them. This stuff has some chunkiness, all of which makes this sauce taste kind of “homemade”. I made a pasta dish using TJ’s new (really good) ORGANIC BUCATINI (great!) and the dish turned out quite good, the bucatini perfectly absorbing the sauce. OK I had added ground beef which made this into a meat sauce but even without anything extra, this marinara is very flavorful.

TJ’s ROASTED GARLIC MARINARA is $1.99 (24 oz jar) I would buy this again.

One thing though – the jar used to be 26 oz – inflation shrinkage!)

TJ’s ORGANIC ITALIAN ARTISAN GIGLI PASTA (with recipe)


Trader Joe’s Artisan Organic Italian Pasta

This shape, “Gigli” is sometimes also called “Campanelle” (tower) a twisty corkscrew shape with a frilly edge. This is one of TJ’s premium pastas that go for a bit more than the regular Organic pastas they carry. This one goes for $2.99 for a 1.1 lb bag, a premium price but its a premium pasta. This is a high quality Organic Pasta made in Italy by a premium manufacturer. You can note by the closeup of the pasta, it has that rough exterior indicating it’s bronze die cut and the lighter color indicating it’s slow dried, like the best Italian pastas you might find at a specialty Italian grocery – and which probably sell for double or more than this.

The cook time is only 5-7 minutes and I would stop it at a minute under Al Dente for finishing with a sauce (which means maybe around 4 minutes). I cooked this pasta with a sauce of sautéed fresh cherry tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and feta cheese and everyone seemed to love it. My only minor complaint is when it was cooked some of the frilly edges detached into little stringy things, which look a bit weird but again this a very minor complaint. Taste wise this is another excellent quality pasta from Trader Joe’s. This corkscrew shape will be good with any sauce especially any sauce that will get into every nook and cranny of this shape. Though I haven’t tried it yet for CACIO E PEPE, I have a feeling they would be good with each other

RECIPE – EASY CHERRY TOMATO AND FETA CHEESE PASTA

Put up a large pan of salted water to boil for the pasta. In a large sauté pan, cook about 12-16 oz of cherry tomatoes (sliced in half) in a good amount of olive oil on med-high heat until the tomatoes start to soften up, about 5-7 minutes. Throw in about 4-5 cloves of minced garlic and cook for another few minutes and at the same time, I push the tomatoes to the side and put a good amount of FETA cheese cut into cube on the other side of the pan and cook on medium heat until they start to brown a little bit. Turn off the heat. Cook the pasta; check it for about a minute under al dente and toss the drained pasta into the pan with the sauce adding about a ladle of the pasta water. Cook for one minute until al dente and mix it all together. Top with a bit of more grated cheese (Parm, Pecorino, or Asiago), some fresh ground pepper and plate it up. Enjoy!

TJ’S LINK

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/organic-italian-artisan-gigli-pasta-060942

TRADER JOE’S SAYS:

Traditional Italian pasta is made with only two ingredients, durum wheat semolina flour and water—a small amount of softer wheat flour is allowed by law, but Trader Joe’s Organic Italian Artisan Gigli Pasta is crafted with 100% organic durum wheat semolina sourced from farms in Puglia. Our supplier has been producing artisan-made pasta for more than 35 years. Most dried pasta are made in huge batches and dried quickly, from three to 12 hours. This Artisan Pasta is made in small batches, and dried at much lower temperatures for up to 24 hours, resulting in a more rustic texture that cooks to a delightfully al dente texture. Gigli, also known as Campanelle (translates to “bellflowers” or “little bells”), has a ruffled edge and hollow center, so it holds any sauce extremely well. Marinara? Carbonara? Just a bit of olive oil and shaved Parmesan? Any of these will do, deliciously.

TJ’s ARTISAN ORGANIC FUSILLI CORTI BUCATI PASTA


RAVE

This is a great new pasta Trader Joe’s recently introduced with a great shape. It’s a “Fusilli” (corkscrew) curly shaped pasta with a little hole (bucati) in the center. This shape is very good and will hold lwhatever lovely sauce or ingredients you use with it. You can tell it’s a premium quality pasta just by looking closely: the exterior is not smooth but rough indicating it was *bronze die cut, and produced by a high end artisanal Italian manufacturer (closeup below: note the rough texture). This pasta has a fast cooking time, the package says 7-8 minutes. I just cooked it and at around 6 minutes it was al dente, meaning if I’m going to finish this with the sauce in a pan the way Italians do, I would fish the pasta out at around the 5 minute mark – a minute under al dente.

closeup

I just cooked some to taste, quite simply with butter, grated cheese and pepper. It was excellent. This is indeed terrific pasta. This corkscrew hollow shape should be great with many sauces, either tomato based and I think especially with a pesto sauce (green or red)

Trader Joe’s ORGANIC FUSILLI CORTI BUCATI PASTA. Imported From Italy. Organic Durum Semolina Wheat. $1.99. Try this if you see it, it’s really good. Me, I will buy a bunch for our pantry.

* Bronze dies make better pasta as they give pasta rough edges which makes for better sauce adherence.

RECIPE: I made a Tuna Pasta dish with this fusilli. It was excellent.

COLD TUNA PASTA too. (Pasta, One or two cans tuna, drained. Capers, Lemon, Olive Oil, A little mayo, chopped parsley.)

Trader Joe’s ORGANIC PASTA (with Pasta Puttanesca Recipe)


RAVE

Trader Joe’s has some decent regular pastas (in the blue bags) which are a steal at 99 cents. However for a tiny bit more, you can have a better pasta being the ones labeled “ORGANIC PASTA” (with red lettering) which are a level up. If you haven’t checked them out yet, you should. These Organic Pastas cost $1.29. They are well worth the slightly higher price because you’re getting a higher quality Italian pasta. Almost “artisanal” as one can see by the rough texture, this pasta was manufactured using “bronze dies” which high quality pasta makers use. Bronze dies make better pasta as they give pasta rough edges which makes for better sauce adherence. Compare these pastas to the blue bags which are smoother. Cheaper pasta’s are extruded with Teflon dies which give them a smoother exterior. Bronze dies are expensive and wear out which is one reason why “good pasta” costs more.

https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-significance-of-pasta-being-branded-as-bronze-cut

Another indication of the better quality of the TJ “Organic Pasta” the pasta is it is lighter in color, indicating a slower drying time (again, makes for better pasta). TJ’s carry a number of kinds of these organic pastas: spaghetti, fettuccine, penne, radiatore…. All good. The package directions state around 10-11 minutes of cooking time. I do a minute or two less than al dente, then finish cooking the pasta in the sauce as Italians do (they never pour sauce on bare pasta). TIP: Always save some pasta water to add in tablespoons as needed.

So check out TJ’s Organic Pastas as they make terrific dishes. Not that the regular pastas in the blue bags are bad. These just a even better. By the way, TJ’s does sell special ones labeled “Artisanal Organic” pastas. Those may cost around $3 or or less.

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/organic-papperdelle-pasta-nests-069919

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/organic-italian-artisan-gigli-pasta-060942

Any of these pasta shapes would go great of course with TJ’s CACIO E PEPE sauce – or any other favorite you like. If you want a real authentic Italian sauce, I suggest trying your hand at Pasta Puttanesca. I made it last night and it was fantastic (you can get the Capers, Olives, Anchovies at TJ’s). Watch VINCENZO make it, it’s easy and delicious!

ILLY Forte Extra Bold Roast Ground Coffee


I was surprised the first time I saw the famous red ILLY logo staring at me from the coffees shelf at Trader Joe’s. Really? Trader Joe’s is now selling ILLY coffee?!? Yes it is and let’s hope it stays that way. ILLY is one of the most famous coffee brands worldwide and in Italy for 80 years on. Their red logo is instantly recognizable around the globe. The ILLY coffee company has a long history. They produce terrific coffee. I think one only finds this premium brand at some special stores and not at the supermarket. So yes I was happily surprised to find I can buy it and TJ’s now and for a decent price too ($9.99 for 8.8 oz). This is a very good coffee, a blend of 9 different Arabica origin beans in a medium dark roast in a medium fine grind. It should be good for most any coffee maker, in an espresso machine, for a Moka pot (which is what I have switched to), doing drip or pour over coffee and great if you like strong dark roasts. I use this for a Cafe Con Leche (with milk) done in a Moka pot and its perfect for that.

Here’s what ILLY says about this FORTE BLEND which was developed about 80 years ago.

https://www.illy.com/en-us/eshop/coffee/drip-coffee/ground-drip-forte-coffee-extra-bold-roast/8834ST

It’s vacuum sealed in this terrific looking metal container which even has a rubber gasket to keep air out once you open break the vacuum. Keep it in the fridge after opening and use within about two weeks when it’s at its freshest.

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