TJ’s Italian Style Meatballs


Trader Griotto’s Flame Broiled Italian Style Fully Cooked Meatballs (freezer)

Were these TJ’s cooked meatballs anywhere as good as if my made my own homemade meatballs – which in all modesty are pretty good? Of course not, nor would I expect them to taste like home cooking. Never the less these meatballs were actually pretty tasty, and we enjoyed them for dinner so it might be worth your giving them a try.

The dish I made with these all beef meatballs turned out quite tasty. I made my own sauce, a really quick & easy tomato sauce (big tablespoon of tomato paste, olive oil, garlic, onion, can of diced tomatoes, pecorino cheese and fresh basil). I put the meatballs in the sauce and simmered them for 30 minutes to get them imbued with the flavor of the sauce. They turned out well except, my one small complaint about them, a slightly rubbery texture. Honestly though it may be my fault. I don’t know if this was due to my method of defrosting them (or lack thereof in this case). I confess I rushed it. I didn’t thaw them in the fridge as I would normally have done and always recommend. This was kind of a last minute dinner idea and I thought maybe I could just put the frozen meatballs into the sauce and slowly warm them and defrost them in the sauce. So I am wondering if perhaps this is why they were slightly rubbery. Anyway I served the meatballs with the sauce and some of that fantastic Country Loaf bread I had found at TJ and we did kind of a “meatball sub” thing with them. It was actually delicious. A few night’s later, I made Ziti with the leftover meatballs & sauce which was quite tasty. So my take is these are pretty good and worth giving a try, either with your own sauce or your favorite TJ sauce. I do suggest doing a proper defrost (put in fridge night before) which I promise myself I will do next time. Also I will brown the thawed meatballs even more first before cooking them in sauce in good olive oil. I recommend one definitely simmer them in a sauce for a 1/2 hour to absorb flavors. These ITALIAN MEATBALLS were about $4.50 for a 1 lb bag when I got them.

Despite all these options they list I think the best one would be the thaw in fridge (1/2 day?)

FAST EASY TOMATO SAUCE and MEATBALLS: Take 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and cook it in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add sliced garlic and diced onion and cook 5 minutes stirring occasionally till translucent. Add a can (or two) of Diced Tomato, rinsing out the can with a little water (or wine) to get everything. Simmer on low 30-40 minutes, with the thawed meatballs. Add Italian Seasonings. Optionally add capers, and some Bomba. When serving, add grated Parm, Asiago or Grana and if you have some fresh basil, lovely. Serve with either pasta or bread for a meatball hero.

TJ’s Rosemary Sfoliette Italian Crackers


Trader Joe’s ROSEMARY SFOGLIETTE, Thin and Crunchy, Italian Rosemary Crackers

Not too fancy, a bit even on the plain side which is sometimes just what you want in a cracker to set up whatever topping you are putting on the cracker. I really like these. Product of Italy. Delicate rosemary flavor. Top these with TJ’s Rosemary Ham and a slice of Rosemary Asiago cheese and I don’t know about you but that puts me in heaven. A bargain too at $1.69 a package.

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/070151

“Our Italian supplier makes thin, hexagonal biscuits using wheat and rice flours, along with a combination of olive and sunflower oils. The crackers are seasoned with dried rosemary & sea salt and baked until they possess the ideal crunch. They’re thin and crisp, but not overly fragile. And they present the wonderful aroma and flavors of rosemary and olive oil. As you could imagine, Rosemary Sfogliette make great snack crackers—with or without cheese. They’re also a formidable companion for your favorite bowl of soup!”

TJ’s Cacio E Pepe Pasta Sauce


“A creamy, cheesy pasta sauce made wth Pecorino Romano and Black Pepper”

Trader Joe’s Cacio e Pepe pasta sauce has been getting a lot of buzz since they released it, so I had to give it a try. You know what? It is pretty good. I made a fettucine cacio e pepe with it which turned out to be quite tasty. Making a cacio e pepe (“cheese and pepper”) pasta dish with this could not be easier, basically cook your pasta, open the jar and combine things. The sauce right out of the jar is really thick. A few spoons go a long way, meaning obviously you would not use this whole jar to make say 2 or even 4 portions of pasta. The Nutrition label suggests a jar makes 7 servings. My suggestion is basically use a nice huge heaping 2 tablespoons of sauce per portion of pasta, which you will thin a bit with some of the pasta cooking water later to get a consistency you like to coat the pasta.

TIP: I suggest making this with one of TJ’s excellent Artisan Pasta varieties (spaghetti , fettuccine, radiatore…) Of course shaped pastas, like ziti, are wonderful as well with this type of creamy sauce. You could even do a pan fried Gnocchi.

Cook your pasta, slightly less than al dente, then drain it (saving a 1/2 cup water). Finish your al dente pasta in a pan with a little saved pasta water and a nice grind of black pepper, and add the cacio e pepe sauce, mixing it up a nicely with tongs to coat the pasta, adding a few tablespoons of pasta water as needed, get it to your desired consistency and turn off the heat. Serve immediately.

Naturally they are saving a bit on some ingredients, for example this contains sunflower oil not olive oil. Don’t worry you will fix it up so when you plate it. When you serve, grate a nice hit of fresh Pecorino on top, a bit of freshly ground pepper, and if you like a drizzle of your best EVOO. I even put a wee bit of chopped arugula for color (a Roman would protest any addition to the 2 ingredients). If you wanted to put some grated Parmigiano or Grana, they could be delicious additions but again I would not tell your Roman friend about it.

NOTE: be sure to have a block of Pecorino cheese to grate on top as well as fresh ground black or rainbow peppercorns. These fresh items to finish really make this dish.

It says once the jar is opened, refrigerate it and use it up within 3 days. I didn’t want to have it again so soon, so I figured I would just put the jar in the freezer. The following week I did an overnight defrost in the fridge and that seemed to work fine. Naturally you can do other things with this sauce besides using it on pasta. You could use some on vegetables (brussel sprouts, potatoes?) and even mix some into scrambled eggs….?

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/070650

Having said this I am all for making a real Cacio e Pepe from scratch once in a while. Cacio E Pepe is basically two ingredients (Pecorino cheese and Black Pepper) and that’s where the magic happens getting it to emulsify (and not become gloppy). You may have to make it a few times to get the hang of it but once you do, you will really get a great deal of pleasure from making it yourself no doubt. I liked this guy’s take on making it (tip don’t use very hot water to mix with the grated cheese to make the emulsion though and don’t let the cheese boil, just get it warmed up so it doesn’t break) TIP: A few teaspoons of a corn starch slurry makes this foolproof BTW. In fact the Trader Joe Cacio e Pepe sauce incorporates corn starch.

A 14.5 oz jar of TJ’s Cacio e Pepe sauce costs $3.50.

If you get into Cacio E Pepe and want to try to make the sauce yourself yourself, watch these two pro’s, absorb some of their ideas and I bet you will end up with a terrific authentic Cacio e Pepe.

TJ’s Organic Fire Roasted Tomatoes with Green Chiles


We start with vine ripened tomatoes, then we fire roast them to a subtle smokiness before adding organic green chiles… They’re ready to use in salsas, sauces, soups and stews….”

Ingredients: Organic fire roasted tomatoes, organic tomato juice, organic green chili peppers, organic vinegar, sea salt, citric acid, calcium chloride”

These excellent organic diced tomatoes are a great pantry item, and in fact I always keep a few cans in mine as they are such a useful ingredient. They are indeed “fire roasted”, you can even see little bits of char and smell a little smokiness. You can use this as-is on tacos and quesadillas as a simple salsa, or make a slightly improved one quickly in seconds just by just adding a few things (ie, chopped onions, garlic, cilantro). Use this as an ingredient in sauces, stews or soup as you would any canned tomatoes, but these will be tastier than plain ones. These make the base of terrific rices dishes, say cooking some Mexican rice or what have you, mixed in for some of the stock or water. And its great for lots of other cuisines too… I made a delicious Italian Ariabiatta / Puttanesca style pasta with a can of this, olive oil, a spoon of tomato paste, lots of garlic, capers, olives, a spoon of Bomba and some grated Pecorino over the finished pasta (or try this with Gnocchi). It only took about 5 minutes to come together and the finished pasta dish with Gnocchi was delicious. We devoured it.

$1.69 for a 14.5 oz can. There is a plain only tomato version too for $1.49 if you don’t want any green chiles.

GREAT PANTRY ITEM

TJ’s POTATO GNOCCHI (& recipe ideas)


TJ’s Pasta Emporium Gnocchi. Made in Italy. “Autentico Italiano”. Shelf stable package.

These gnocchi are one of my favorite TJ items. Available in the dried pasta section, these packages of TJ’s POTATO GNOCCHI are a bargain at just $1.69 (1.1 lbs). Thesy are shelf stable, and can last months in your pantry (you could store them in your fridge if you like but you don’t have to). I probably usually use them within about 3 months? They have a pleasantly chewy texture, which you can accentuate even more by pan frying them (see below)

COOKING: You can simply toss these into boiling salted water for about 3 minutes and theyre ready to serve with your favorite sauce. Perhaps even better I’ve found is one can boil them for 1 minute, drain, them throw them in a non-stick or cast iron pan with 2 tablespoons of EVOO and pan fry them until they are golden brown. The crispy texture is a big plus. Actually an even easier way which I discovered and clearly others have figured out too, is you don’t have to boil them at all. You can just pan fry them, without the boiling. The chewy, crispy texture when you pan fry gnocchi is great.

PAN FRIED GNOCCHI: Just toss these gnocchi right into a pan with 1-2 tbl. of oil and pan fry them until browned on all sides, stirring occasionally. I do a variation on this. I put 2 tbls of EVOO (or even nicer, a mix of half oil and half butter) in a black cast iron (or nonstick pan). Get the oil hot on med heat until it shimmers. Toss in these gnocchi and stir till covered with the oil. COVER THE PAN with a lid. Cook covered 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. They kind of pan fry & steam at the same time for the best of both worlds. After 5 minutes or so, take off the cover and pan-fry them uncovered till Golden Brown and Delicious, maybe another 5-10 minutes. I like the texture this way, its especially chewy and a bit crispy.

What to serve with them for a sauce? Almost anything you can think of which you would do for a pasta. TJ’s jarred Pesto works quite well with these. It can be as simple as just butter and grated cheese plus some black pepper, a simple Cacio E Pepe. Or serve them with your favorite TJ tomato sauce.

In the photos below you will see I cooked them with greens (swiss chard but you can use any greens like kale, spinach, arugula…) I used lots of garlic and lots of grated Rosemary Asiago *. The gnocchi were delicious with greens. Of course any Italian cheese works Parmigiano, Pecorino, Asiago) even some Mozz cut into cubes to melt in. I had these last week with some leftover Bolognese sauce I had in the freezer and they were simply amazing with Bolognese sauce. TJ’s even has a vegan bolognese sauce.

Are these better than the frozen Kale Gnocchi? For me actually they kind of are and frankly these are half the price of the frozen gnocchi which I feel don’t have the same textural integrity when cooked this way (pan fried) though I could experiment some more. There is somewhat of a shock going from being frozen into heat that I think texturally messes up frozen gnocchi?

Anyway if you never tried these packaged Gnocchi, check them out the next time you are in the pasta section. I can’t tell you how many times when we “had nothing in the house to eat” we found we had a package of these in the pantry and had a dinner ready in under ten minutes.

*RECIPE : PAN FRIED GNOCCHI with Swiss Chard & Rosemary Asiago Cheese – Separate leaves and stems from Swiss Chard. Cook the cut stems with 3 cloves of garlic smashed until tender in olive oil. Remove greens from pan then into same pan, toss in a pack of gnocchi with a tablespoon of EVOO and 1 tbl butter. Cook covered as discussed above till browned all over. Now add back the swiss chard plus chopped up leaves. Cook and toss around in pan till leaves are cooked till your liking. Toss in some chopped parsley or arugula. Season to taste with a little salt, sprinkle of lemon juice and lots of black pepper (optionally – a spoon of BOMBA) Grate a few ounces of Asiago, Pecorino or Parmigiano over all and drizzle with good EVOO. Serve 2 as dinner or 4 as a side.

(Can substitute Kale, Arugula, Spinach or any green)

Pan fried Gnocchi with Swiss Chard and Asiago

SEARCH : Pan Fried Gnocchi Recipes – IDEAS

https://bit.ly/3hIZLHo

TJ’s ASIAGO CHEESE with Rosemary & Olive Oil


“Rosemary and Olive Oil intensify the rich nutty Asiago flavor”. Yes, it does! TJ’s Asiago with Rosemary is an excellent, very delicious cheese. I was really impressed when I tasted it. Compared to the regular Asiago that Trader Joe’s carries, which frankly is just OK, this is way more flavorful (and costs a bit more). In this version the added flavors, especially that of rosemary which the cheese is liberally coated with all over, greatly benefits and expands the cheese’s flavor. This cheese is excellent on its own, sliced thinly, and it was great on crackers. It was great with wine. Obviously this cheese will be a great match with almost any Italian dish. I grated this up, then tossed a generous amount over sautéed gnocchi and it was absolutely delicious on them. If you try this with almost any pasta dish you will like it. This is great as a second or third cheese on a Pizza. I did one with it and people scarfed it up! Rosemary Asiago would be great on a cheese plate or charcuterie plate, especially with grapes or other fruits, and some nice crackers. Wine too, naturally! TJ sells this cheese for $9/lb a decent price for a premium cheese like this. Try this, you will love it.

RAVE

Trader Joe’s ITALIAN BOMBA, Fermented Calabrian Chili Hot Pepper Sauce


bomba1

RAVE

Since it was released Trader Joe’s Italian “Bomba” Hot Pepper Sauce has blown up on the internet as one of the best new products that Trader Joe’s has come out with. In this case the hype about “BOMBA” is completely justified! This stuff is just incredible. I could say “its the bomb” but I won’t. I will say I love this sauce, and it is simply amazing, and always have this in my fridge. You should too.

BOMBA is made primarily from crushed fermented Calabrian chiles. You know that fermentation adds complex flavor elements to many foods, and in this Bomba sauce the fermentation of Calabrian chiles adds that magical “fifth” taste, UMAMI. Now of course this Bomba hot sauce is spicy but not knock your head off spicy. It’s spicy PLUS full of flavor at the same time. I just put a small spoonful in my mouth and while I got “yes this is pretty spicy”, it didn’t want to make me want to drink a glass of milk or anything. I got something beyond “spicy”, there is a kind of funkiness and even a bit of sweetness. Simply, depending on the amount you use, you can adjust the level of spiciness to your palate. If you add even just a little bit to dishes, I am talking a quarter of a teaspoon or the tiniest dollop it will still add some flavor that may surprise you.

How to use Bomba sauce? Of course this is going to be great added to tomato sauces, say on pasta or pizza or what have you. But what about other pasta dishes? A little bit in your Carbonara? Controversial perhaps but yeah baby it was great. A spoonful mixed into your Spaghetti Aglio e Olio? For sure! And all those Gnocchi frozen and shelf stable you love?! Regular, cauliflower, kale, or what have you… OMG folks some Bomba and very nice olive oil will make your gnocchi soar.

But Bomba is for more than for “just Italian”. I put some into scrambled eggs and it was divine. A drop of it onto of my buttered toasted baguette. A small spoon mixed into avocado toast or guacamole. Add some to your next marinade. Dips and sauces? Perfect. You can mix this up with some Greek yogurt (or mayonnaise for that matter) for an instant wonderful sauce, to top some cooked Chicken Breasts, Shrimp, or Tofu as well. Or try that mix as a dip for some chips. Drizzle some with olive oil and garlic on your roasted veggies. Add a spoon of this to your soup or most any sauce to give it some jazz. I love it on cottage cheese (seriously). On my sardines on toast. Add garlic to Bomba, and of course these two go into the stratosphere. The list is endless and I promise you, you will discover uses on your own exploring that you will come up with (and if they’re good, please share some with us in the COMMENTS below).

TJ’s Bomba is truly a premium gourmet offering. Amazingly Trader Joe’s sells this for $2.99 a jar, which is frankly incredible. Oh and it’s really Italian, says “Product Of Italy”. I have found it sold out on occasion, as its a big hit at TJ. So if you like it, next time grab an extra jar to keep in the pantry like I do (but just one, leave some for the next guy!) Ingredients are: Chilies, Sunflower Oil, Olive Oil, Basil, Salt, Ascorbic Acid, Citric Acid. I generally add some very good Extra Virgin Olive Oil after I open it to “seal the top” off and help keep it fresher for longer as well. Honestly even if you are not really the “hot sauce” type I suggest you get a jar of this to try. Calabrian chili’s are not super hot; they are in the “medium” spice level. People can pop them in their mouths easily. Personally I can’t live without having a jar of Bomba in the fridge now and if you try this, you may feel exactly the same.

TRADER JOE’S PESTO ALLA GENOVESE


TRADER GIOTTO’S (TRADER JOE’S) PESTO ALLA GENOVESE

Mentioned in an earlier post, Trader Joe’s Pesto (basil pesto) in the glass jar makes an extremely convenient item to always have in your pantry. Whenever you get the mood for a Pasta and Pesto dish simply open a jar of this and add it to pasta (with a little pasta water) and bingo, you made dinner or a side dish to put on your table in under 15 minutes with almost no effort and for very little dough ($3-4)! Add some fresh grated Parmigiano and EVOO and improve it. If you have a little fresh basil to sprinkle on top, even better.

Now if you have ever made pesto yourself, you know it takes a bunch of expensive ingredients (like pine nuts) and some effort but it’s truly amazing as the smell when you open up your blender and that pungent aroma of basil, cheese and garlic permeates your kitchen. The smell is so heavenly it may knock you off your feet. So having said that I won’t tell you this jar of pesto is as good as if you made your own. Let’s be honest. Still, this jarred TJ’s Pesto is still quite tasty and the convenience of having it in your pantry makes up for a lot and you can (and should) Level Up this stuff with a few easy additions.

Value-wise this is a great TJ value at $2.49. Though you can tell by the fact that is says Sunflower Oil as the first ingredient and not extra virgin olive oil, they skimped on expensive ingredients. But even so this TJ jarred Pesto Genovese is decent and believe it or not, I prefer this glass jarred pesto to the “fresh” one TJ sells in the refrigerated section which costs more. In fact I was pretty surprised that I tried both and compared them and liked this one a bit more. You can, in fact should absolutely tweak this with good ingredients! Pour a nice glug of your favorite TJ EVOO plus a nice sprinkle of extra freshly grated Parmigiano and / or Pecorino cheese plus freshly ground black pepper on top of your finished dish. If you have a few sprigs of fresh basil you can tear over it, all the better. For $2.50, this is good value and really worth keeping a jar or two in your pantry as a go-to item to always have on hand. I certainly do, its made us a quick tasty pasta dish a few times when I “had nothing to eat” in the house.

GNOCCHI WITH PESTO -A NO-RECIPE RECIPE, FIVE MINUTE $3 DINNER


The other night I came home tired and hungry. I looked in the fridge and saw nothing really to eat.

I wanted something hot and delicious that would not require any time at all.

I looked in the cupboard and saw 2 things, a package of TJ GNOCCHI plus a jar of TJ PESTO ALLA GENOVESE.

Aha, dinner!

(NO-RECIPE RECIPE) FIVE MINUTE GNOCCHI with PESTO SAUCE

STEP 1 – BOIL WATER

STEP 2 – THROW IN THE GNOCCHI (ADD A PINCH OF SALT IF YOU LIKE) BOIL GNOCCHI THREE MINUTES

STEP 3 – DRAIN GNOCHI (NB: RESERVE A 1/2 CUP OF THE PASTA WATER!) TOSS THE DRAINED GNOCCHI BACK IN THE POT TO KEEP WARM

STEP 4 – ADD PESTO (I ADDED ABOUT 1/2 THE JAR). ADD A FEW TABLESPOONS OF THE SAVED PASTA WATER BIT BY BIT STIRRING GENTLY TILL YOU HAVE A SAUCE OF YOUR DESIRED CONSISTENCY. KEEP WARM WITH A TINY FLAME UNTIL READY TO PLATE

DONE

FANCIER? A drizzle of a great EVOO…. Freshly grated Parmigiano or Pecorino (or Mozz?) Fresh ground black pepper. Optional: Green it up with some chopped arugula (or parsley or baby kale). I added in some Arugula to the pot and stirred for about 45 seconds until it wilted a bit into the pesto. YUMMY! With 2 slices of toasted bread, some greens and dressing, a glass of wine…we had a full nice dinner that took almost no effort and very little time.

TIME (under 5 minutes not counting the water boiling)

COST – TJ’s Gnocchi (1 lb) costs $1.69.  A jar of the Pesto Alla Genovese costs $2.49 (so figure 1/2 jar’s $1.25) So the dish costs less than $3 with 2 nice servings as a dinner, or about 4 as a side-dish.

So its a good idea to keep these 2 handy items on hand in your pantry! The Trader Joe’s Gnocchi is in the dried pasta section, and come in a shelf stable sealed plastic package that is good for many months at room temp. The Pesto once opened lasts a few weeksin the fridge. Covering the pesto with some olive oil will help it keep a bit longer.

I also see TJ’s has another fresh PESTO they carry in the refrigerated section. Must try that one too.

pesto2

RAVE