Trader Joe’s ORGANIC POLENTA


Trader Joe’s ORGANIC POLENTA; cooked; ready to heat and serve. Gluten Free.

Ingredients: Water, Organic Corn Meal, Salt

Just in case you are not familiar with Polenta, it’s simple – and delicious. Polenta is just cooked coarsely ground corn meal. This Organic version from Trader Joe’s comes in a tube pre-cooked and ready to slice into 1/2″ slices which you grill up into crispy fried polenta. Delicious, and pretty cheap. This is why polenta has been a staple of Italian “cucina povera” for centuries, very similar of course to “grits” here. Polenta is inexpensive, healthy, gluten free, and vegetarian.

TJ’s tube of cooked polenta is convenient, shelf stable, and only $1.99. One tube can easily make a dinner for two people. We love it as an alternative to pasta. I like to pan fry it and recommend that as the best way to serve it. The package also says you can bake it. Please don’t even think about microwaving as it also says on the package; to tasted good, it has to be crispy, as crispy as possible. If cooked till crispy fried polenta gets a really nice chewy “meaty” texture.

As shown in the first picture is how I made the polenta into dinner recently. I sautéed the slices in olive oil plus a little butter to help it brown better, for maybe 10 minutes a side – note, this is double the recommended time of 4-5 minutes on the package. Trust me, you want this very crispy, golden brown and delicious. I flipped the first side over and put a bit of mozzarella on top of the slices, which melted as the other side cooked. When it was ready to serve, I plated it and spooned over tomato sauce, in this case TJ’s Roasted Garlic Marinara sauce which is quite good by the way. I grated some extra cheese, Asiago all over. This made for a delicious Italian dinner along with a little salad and crusty bread. Dinner for two for about $4 bucks.

I always like to keep one of these shelf stable packages of TJ’s polenta in the pantry as it can make an easy, fast dinner for those times when you have “nothing” to eat in the house. A tube of this and a jar of sauce and you have dinner in 10 minutes. Not to mention Polenta’s perfect for Meatless Monday’s. Would I but this again? Yes I buy this regularly, its an excellent cheap TJ product and a great staple to have in your pantry.

https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/fried-polenta-5535085

PS DIY PAN FRIED GRITS – might be worth the little extra effort (cook the grits, let cool, cut into slices) not to mention even cheaper

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.

RANT: TUSCANO MARINARA SAUCE (discontinued) + Marinara RECIPE


“Trader Giotto’s” Low Fat Tuscan Marinara

RANT

Ode to yet another discontinued Trader Joe’s product, a classic rant about an excellent TJ product, which they discontinued! Some people thought this was the best marinara sauce on the market. Many were bumbed to learn TJ’s Discontinued their favorite tomato sauce! So why am I writing about this now? Well the other day I happened to be clearing out my pantry and found I had a can of this Marinara way in the back. I opened it and tasted it and was pretty shocked to see how good it was. This marinara is, or should we say was, a terrific sauce. For one thing it’s not super smooth, it’s full of chunks of tomatoes like a homemade sauce you had put together. The current glass jars of Marinara sauce that Trader Joe’s replaced this with are smooth. I made a pasta dish using this Marinara and the dish turned out really well. I made a pizza with it a few days later which also turned out great. So yes, it’s a crime TJ’s got rid of this great and very useful sauce. Mind boggling. So just posting this Rant and sorry you won’t be able to find this really great product anymore . At least TJ’s still sells the 28 oz cans of crushed or diced tomatoes which will make you a great sauce with little effor. I always have cans of tomatoes in the pantry as well as tomato paste (can and/or tube) So if you are inclined to make your own sauce, which is not hard and I think is worth the little effort it takes. Here’s an EASY HOMEMADE MARINARA RECIPE from NatashasKitchen, link below.

TIP (1) IMO adding a tablespoon of tomato paste at the start will make it even better (2) My mom taught me useful advice: Just double up the recipe when you cook some things because for the same amount of effort you will have another meal. You can also freeze the extra batch.

Pizza from scratch; made using this terrific marinara sauce

Trader Joe’s BREADED FRIED RAVIOLI


RAVE

Breaded deep fried ravioli? Doesn’t that sound a bit over the top? Still when I saw these, I was intrigued and thought I would give them a try. Well I have to say they are quite good, better than I expected them to be. First I should say we almost always try to “eat healthy”. I rarely eat fried anything. So frankly deep fried breaded ravioli is not something I normally eat or buy on a regular basis but hey this is the job, and reviews have to be done 😉

Having now tried them, I can tell you these fried ravioli are actually pretty yummy. The two of us totally enjoyed eating these, as a rare treat. I could see these as something you could serve once in a blue moon in small portions, say 4 or 5 ravioli, as a side or as an appetizer? They might be even be a tasty and easy treat to serve up as an hors d’oeuvre for company. One recommended method to make these is to Pan Fry them which is what I did. I used less than a tablespoon of olive oil, where as the directions say, oil a 1/4 inch deep. I don’t think you need more than a tablespoon or two of oil in a non-stick or cast iron pan. TJ’s says they are good done in an air fryer too. Once the ravioli looked crispy and golden brown, I drained them on a paper towel. The breaded ravioli were delicious, a little crispy on the outside and when you bite into them, full of soft melted cheese inside (5 kinds of cheese). Naturally these will be perfect with a bit of your favorite tomato sauce (fresh basil if you have), and they were delicious when I served them with some sauce and a sprinkle of Parmesan. So give these a try if they sound good to you. A package (1 lb) is $3.99. They can be found in the frozen section…. Trader Joe’s says…

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/breaded-fried-ravioli-066183

“Each Breaded Fried Ravioli starts as a stately square of semolina pasta, filled with a mouth-watering mix of five kinds of cheese: creamy ricotta, mild Monterey Jack, rich mozzarella, savory Asiago, and piquant Parmesan. These Ravioli are then battered and deep fried to perfection, then flash frozen for you to finish the job at home. Once prepared (we find an air fryer to be particularly suited for the job), they’re everything a cheesy appetizer should be: warm, gooey, and phenomenally cheesy, with a crispy, savory exterior—a little like a breaded mozzarella stick, taken to the next level.”

Trader Joe’s PESTO ROSSO (Red Tomato Pesto)


PESTO ROSSO – “Red, tomato-based pesto sauce, rich umami flavor, including Parmesan and cashew nuts”.

Trader Joe’s PESTO ROSSO, is interesting. Rosso is Italian for “red”. Here one usually thinks of pesto as the green Pesto Genovese made from basil leaves, (pine) nuts, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil. Pesto Rosso is a red version made from tomatoes, (cashew) nuts, and Parmesan, which is a Sicilian or Southern Italian kind of pesto (paste). I got a jar to check out and made a pasta dish with this. The dish turned out quite tasty. TJ’s Pesto Rosso is pretty good, however just like the other jarred TJ green pesto it will better if you fix it up a little. Some fresh garlic, maybe some chopped up TJ’s Sun-Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil, and naturally a generous amount of freshly grated cheese (Parmesan, Pecorino, Rosemary Asiago or Canestrato Pepato. Extra Virgin olive oil at the end is a must, as they made this with bland cheap sunflower oil to keep costs down.

USAGE: Cook your pasta two minutes less than al dente, drain it (saving 1/2 cup pasta water – a super secret ingredient*). Add the pasta to a pan with the Pesto Rosso and finish cooking the pasta adding a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water as needed. Cook about another two minutes until the pasta becomes al dente and nicely coated with sauce. I added some fresh garlic. I also added a tablespoon of Tomato Paste (optional) to intensify the tomato and umami flavors even more. When ready, plate it up and drizzle with good EVOO and a nice sprinkle of freshly grated cheese on top. Fresh or dried basil on top would be nice if you have it.

Now one can use the Pesto Rosso in other ways besides pasta. You can spread it on fresh or lightly toasted bread or a baguette for a kind of bruschetta, again with maybe a few additions (a little olive oil, fresh black pepper and some Black Garlic…. or a little on some crackers topped with a slice of Rosemary Asiago cheese. Pizza or French Bread Pizza? Definitely. So get creative.

TJ’s Pesto Rosso is worth checking out, and I love they they have another convenient fast pantry item for those times when “there’s nothing to eat in the house”. The 6.7 oz jar is $2.49. You can get some more ideas about Pesto Rosso from the link below plus even a recipe to make some yourself! BTW The jar indicates it makes about 7 portions so use that as a guide. Don’t use a whole jar to make 2 (or even 4 portions). I’d say 2 heaping tablespoons per portion/person. A few tablespoons of some *reserved pasta water when you finish your pasta in the pan will get this to coat and absorb into the pasta.

TRADER JOE’S says

Our Pesto Genovese has long been a customer favorite. While this style of pesto comes from Genoa our Trader Joe’s Pesto Rosso brings the tradition of red, Sicilian pesto to our grocery shelves.

Our Italian supplier uses tomatoes as the foundation, with sunflower oil, Parmesan cheese, garlic, and some basil—though not as much basil as one would find in green pesto. Pine nuts, typical of Genoese pesto, are exchanged for cashews in our Pesto Rosso. Carrot purée pumps up the red-orange color, while also adding some subtle sweetness.

Pesto Rosso has a saucy, spreadable texture that is great for topping a toasted baguette, or a homemade pizza, or even a French bread easy pizza. Use some spoonfuls to enhance the flavor of your minestrone, or vegetable soup. Of course tossing some in with your favorite hot pasta is a must.

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/pesto-rosso-068135

INGREDIENTS include: Tomatoes, sunflower oil, tomato powder, Parmesan cheese, carrot, cashews, salt, basil, balsamic vinegar, garlic)

TJ’s CANESTRATO PEPATO (Sardinian Cheese with Peppercorns )


Trader Joe’s CANESTRATO PEPATO Sardinian Sheep’s Milk Cheese with Black Peppercorns

I discovered this terrific cheese not too long ago in Trader Joe’s cheese section, and it’s become one of our favorite cheeses they sell. It’s fantastic and we adore it. “Pepato” refers to the cheese being infused with whole black peppercorns, as you can see in the pic. It’s produced in Sardinia, Italy by “an award winning cheese maker” ; The combination of peppercorns and a great sheep’s milk cheese is super. Up till seeing this I don’t think I ever encountered a cheese having whole peppercorns embedded in the cheese when they make it. It’s quite an interesting sheep’s milk semi-hard cheese that is both terrific grated onto pasta or just eaten on it’s own, cut into very thin slices. served with good bread or crackers. If you put this on a cheese board you will get comments. A piece is around $4-5 (its $12/lb)

Great Stuff! You can put this on your Cacio e Pepe dishes! Or even make it from scratch with this.

UPDATE: I haven’t found this for some time unfortunately !!! Sigh…..

TJ’s Italian Style Meatballs


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

First, let us be realistic. Are these Trader Joe’s frozen meatballs anywhere as good as my own homemade ones (which in all modesty are pretty good?) Of course not. However, making meatballs is kind of a lot of work. So I wanted to try these Trader Joe’s all beef “Meatballs Italian Style” to see if they are any good. We did enjoy actually them with my own tomato sauce for a pretty easy dinner. So these might be worth giving them a try to see what you think. The dish I made with these turned out tasty. I made an easy quick sauce: olive oil, garlic, onion, tablespoon of tomato paste, can of diced tomatoes, grated pecorino cheese and basil – a recipe is below). Of course you can just use a bottle of sauce you lazy bones, that’s fine. I put the meatballs in the sauce and simmered them for 30 minutes to hopefully get them flavored with the sauce. They turned out pretty well, my main complaint being they had a slightly rubbery texture. Honestly I don’t know if they always do or it was my fault defrosting them (or not). I would usually thaw something like this in the fridge overnight as I always recommend, but this was a last minute dinner idea and I thought maybe I could just put the frozen meatballs into the sauce and slowly defrost them on low in the sauce (which the package does kind of say). Is that why they came out a bit rubbery? Next time I’ll defrost them slowly and see. Anyway I served the meatballs and sauce and some of TJ’s fantastic Country Loaf bread I had found. We did kind of a “meatball sub” with these which was actually pretty tasty. A few night’s later, I made Ziti with the leftover meatballs & sauce – also tasty. So my take is these are worth giving a try, either with your own sauce or your favorite TJ’s sauce. I do suggest doing a proper defrost (thaw in fridge night before). Also I will brown up the thawed meatballs even more in olive oil before adding to sauce. Browning meat gives lots of flavor. I recommend you simmer these in sauce for at least a 1/2 hour to absorb flavors. These ITALIAN MEATBALLS were about $4.50 for a 1 lb bag. FYI , TJ sells other versions, one made with Turkey and one Meatless, all of which you will find in the frozen section near these.

FAST EASY TOMATO SAUCE and MEATBALLS: Take 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and sauté that in a few tablespoons of olive oil for 30-60 seconds. Add a good amount of sliced garlic and a little diced onion and cook 5 minutes on low stirring occasionally till onions are translucent. Add a can (or two) of Diced Tomato, rinsing out the can with a little water (or wine) to get it all. Simmer on low 45 minutes, with the thawed and browned meatballs. Add Italian Seasoning to taste. Optionally add capers, and some Bomba. When serving, add grated Parmesan, Pecorino, Asiago or Grana and if you have some fresh basil, lovely. Serve with either pasta, gnocchi, or warm fresh Italian bread for a meatball hero.

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

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!”

UPDATE: Haven’t been able to find! Discontinued?

TJ’s Cacio E Pepe Pasta Sauce


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

Cacio e Pepe means “cheese and pepper” and is a classic Roman pasta. 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. The fettucine cacio e pepe dish I made with this sauce turned out really tasty. Making a dish with this could not be easier, just combine this sauce with your cooked pasta. That does not mean just dump a ladle of sauce on top of the pasta though. Americans seem to serve pasta like this, which makes Italians cringe. Italians always finish cooking pasta with the sauce together for the last minute or so to blend the flavors. As it comes right out of the jar TJ’s C&P sauce is really, really thick. A few big spoons go a long way. So would not even think of using say the whole jar to make just 2 portions – or even 4. The Nutrition label suggests this 14.5 oz jar “makes 7 servings” so you use that as a rough guide, but let’s round it out and say a jar will make about 6 portions. My basic suggestion is try maybe 2 or 3 heaping Tablespoons of sauce per portion of pasta, which you will thin later with a little pasta cooking water to get the consistency you like to coat the pasta but not drown it in sauce, Italian style. Italians never drown pasta so it’s swimming in sauce, it’s coated generously, in just the right proportions of sauce to pasta. Italians also finish cooking pasta, with some sauce and never just pour it over naked pasta. TIP: Try making this with any of TJ’s excellent Artisan Organic Pasta varieties (spaghetti, fettuccine, etc) Of course any shaped pasta such as Ziti or Farfalle will work well with this type of creamy sauce too. You could even do a pan fried Gnocchi perhaps with this sauce. TJ’s made the sauce “bulletproof” with the addition of cornstarch which prevents separation. Sure they are saving on some of the ingredients for example using sunflower oil and not olive oil. Don’t worry you will fix that when you plate it with some Good Stuff.

Be sure to have a piece of Pecorino cheese, as well as fresh black peppercorns (grinder) on hand. These few additions will help make this jarred sauce taste way better. Have a pan big enought to hold the pasta ready with your C&C sauce in it. Boil the pasta, and drain it when it’s about a minute UNDER al dente (save 3/4 cup pasta water). Finish cooking the pasta with the C+C sauce for one minute or until the pasta is cooked perfectly al dente. While you are tossing it to coat, add pasta water a few tablespoons at a time as needed, mixing it all up with tongs to incorporate pasta and sauce until you get your desired consistency fully coating pasta generously but not swimming with a lot of extra liquid. Plate it on warm dishes and quickly add a few touches. Some freshly grated Pecorino, a few grinds of black or rainbow pepper, and a drizzle of good EVOO. I topped it with a wee bit of chopped arugula for color. I know a Roman would protest that or any addition to the 2 basic cacio and pepe ingredients of cheese and pepper. If you wanted to use a little grated Parmigiano or Grana Padano, they will be delicious but again don’t tell your Roman friend who will so “only Pecorino Romano is allowed” on Cacio e Pepe! It says on the jar, that once opened, use it within 3 days. I didn’t want to have it again so soon so I figured I would simply put the jar (carefully ) in the freezer. The following week I did an overnight defrost in the fridge which worked fine keeping this sauce intact and I then made another meal with the remainder.

As far as what shape and kind of pasta to use with this sauce TJ’s has so many good ones including the ORGANIC and ARTISANAL pastas. You pretty much can’t go wrong with any of your favorite pastas.

Now you can even use this sauce for other things besides pasta. You could use it on vegetables (perhaps roasted brussel sprouts, or potatoes, or on top of asparagus?) Or with eggs, on top or even mixed into some scrambled eggs or on an omelette….

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

A 14.5 oz jar of TJ’s Cacio e Pepe sauce costs $3.49.

So while this sauce is handy I am all for making a real Cacio e Pepe from scratch once in a while. Cacio E Pepe is only two ingredients 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 and don’t let the cheese boil, just get it warmed up so it doesn’t break) A teaspoon of cornstarch slurry makes this foolproof BTW., and in fact the Trader Joe Cacio e Pepe sauce has cornstarch in it to make it bulletproof as well. 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. Buon Appetito!

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

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