17 Italian Foods At Trader Joe's, Ranked

If you're looking to make an easy, delicious Italian dinner at home, Trader Joe's is a good place to turn. All we need is pasta and sauce, really, but let's add some fresh bread on the side, some vibrant pesto to dip it in, and some gourmet cheese that might just steal the show. Trying to add some meat? Turn to TJ's Italian-style meatballs. Looking to avoid meat altogether? Swap that Bolognese sauce for vegan pesto. So busy that even boiling water is making you cringe? Trader Joe's frozen foods have you covered. The store has plenty of Italian items to satisfy your every need, craving, and dietary concern. 

But as we all know, some Trader Joe's products are worth the hype and others are underwhelming. When shopping the picturesque, Instagram-worthy aisles, you might throw caution to the wind and over-excited, tossing everything that catches your eye into an overflowing cart. Then, when you actually get home and start trying everything, you realize that you should have done a bit of research beforehand

Luckily, we've done the work for you. Though the store has too many Italian options for even our dedicated team to try, we amassed a solid collection to taste, test, and rank. Read on to discover which Trader Joe's Italian foods are worth your time, energy, and dollars. 

17. Cacio E Pepe Pasta Sauce

We had high hopes for this product, but we regret to inform you that you're better off choosing a different pasta sauce, or better yet, making your own cacio e pepe (it's easy!). The sauce is basically your average jarred alfredo with a lot of black pepper. It's creamy, sure, but also bland and far too cloying. It tasted like it could be on a kid's meal if it weren't for all the pepper. We suppose that if you love alfredo more than any tomato-based sauce, and want that cacio e pepe influence without breaking out a recipe, you could try it out. But it's not for us, unfortunately.

 If you continue reading, you will soon encounter the Cacio e Pepe Ravioli. You will read about how nice it is to find a flavorful pasta that's also vegetarian. Now, if you're anything like us, you'll probably think that it's a no-brainer to pair the Cacio e Pepe Ravioli with this ready-to-go Cacio E Pepe Pasta Sauce. But be careful, because this sauce actually isn't vegetarian — it contains animal rennet.

16. Tiramisu Torte

We simply had to pick up one decadent Italian dessert to enjoy after all these pastas, right? The Tiramisu Torte, tucked away in the freezer section, really caught our eye. Tiramisu is a classic Italian dessert whose flavor combination — coffee, chocolate, and sweet cheese — is about as Italian as it gets. Traditional tiramisu is delicious but can be a hefty project to put together, so a frozen torte seemed like a convenient solution. 

Following the package directions, we let it thaw while tasting everything else, but probably more due to our own oversight than Trader Joe's, it melted a bit, stuck to the box, and just became a big old mess. The texture was pudding-like, sitting unsteadily on a base of chocolate sponge cake that tasted, well, a little too spongey. In spite of these design flaws, the tiramisu-flavored creamy goo tasted great. It was very light, actually not decadent at all, but we got all the notes of cocoa, espresso, and a cheesecakey tang. We probably won't buy this again, but it certainly inspired us to bake our own tiramisu and try every other tiramisu-flavored product on the market. Still, if you need an Italian-themed dessert in a flash that isn't gelato, this Tiramisu Torte will do.

15. Gnocchi Alla Romana

The Gnocchi Alla Romana is a hard-to-define frozen Italian appetizer or side dish. They are semolina nuggets — dumplings, pretty much — flavored with a mix of cheeses and herbs, plus a dash of nutmeg for a little extra flavor boost. When we baked them, we were slightly disappointed. The fluffy insides got a bit wet and mushy, and the flavors didn't make it all the way through. If we'd baked these from scratch all by ourselves, we'd think it was a great first effort. 

As for the flavor, Trader Joe's left little to be desired except for the glaringly obvious error of there not being enough of it. Otherwise, the tang and the spunk of aromatics are all there. We particularly loved the dash of sage, which adds a comforting, homey savor. As far as store-bought and frozen bread-based appetizers go, they're fine to try, but we wouldn't exactly serve them as part of a company-worthy meal.

14. French Onion Focaccia Bread

We know what you're probably thinking: French Onion isn't Italian. How did this sneak its way in here? Well, focaccia bread is definitely and traditionally Italian, and what does Trader Joe's do best? Riff on the classics. We were excited to see how this decadent flavor profile complimented or took away from the bread we all know and love.

A traditional yeasted Italian bread, you can find all sorts of focaccia recipes and variances, from cute little single-serves to pristine chef-endorsed creations. And though we didn't expect a packaged Trader Joe's product to have the same oomph as something from your own kitchen or your local Italian bakery, we hoped it would beat, for example, the flats we could pick up at Walmart. Unfortunately, we had to dock points for it being a bit too dense and doughy. The bottom third of the loaf tasted almost underbaked. But that topping! It almost makes up for any defects with silky, savory caramelized onions and cheeses that really shine when heated up. It's indulgently flavored, but if you're also looking for a perfect baseline focaccia, the foundation is a bit shaky.

13. Italian-Style Meatballs

One of our taste testers comes from an Italian family and has a mom who apparently makes the very best, most comforting, and authentically delicious homemade meatballs —the kind that you enjoy at a big Sunday dinner and need a nap after eating. She reports that these Italian-Style Meatballs from Trader Joe's, while solid, can't hold a candle to them. We agree that TJ's will do for a quick meal, pasta in a pinch, but they aren't going to wow you or make you feel like you're hanging out with an Italian grandmother. 

Prepared meatballs, especially when frozen, can become spongy in texture as opposed to meaty, robust, and tender. These lean towards spongey. The sauce is also less than ideal. Were we to eat it alone with a spoon, we'd be severely disappointed: It's bland and sweet, not fresh with the flavors of ripe tomatoes and aromatic herbs. But as a generic coating for meatballs, it's not half bad, and we've certainly eaten worse frozen ground beef. We recommend buying these if you plan to serve them slightly camouflaged by other Italian specialties, like atop creamy ricotta pasta or doused in a flurry of sharp Parmesan cheese.

12. Bolognese Style Tomato & Beef Pasta Sauce

Clearly, a lot can go wrong with jarred pasta sauce. Too bland, too salty, too sweet, too watery, too cheap-tasting, too thick ... we've seen (and tasted) it all. For that reason, we didn't expect much when heating up this Bolognese Style Tomato & Beef Pasta Sauce. In true Bolognese fashion, it incorporates beef, but it's also shelf-stable, so how good can it be? Really good, in fact. This sauce is rich, velvety, and boasts a complex flavor. 

Naturally, there are more savory, spicy notes in a Bolognese than in a traditional plain tomato sauce, so when a Bolognese is boring, it's painful. This one's not. The meat doesn't taste fresh as a daisy, but it does soak up a lot of the tomato flavor and imparts a salty umami depth to the base sauce. Most of us agreed that it doesn't really taste like it came out of a jar. If you need a convenient Bolognese to have on hand, this is one of the best we've tried that doesn't break the bank like other more artisan brands sometimes do.

11. Outside-In Stuffed Gnocchi

Trader Joe's offers a rotating collection of the quintessential Italian potato dumplings, from kale-based to smothered in a Gorgonzola sauce, but these Outside-In Stuffed Gnocchi were the ones that stuck out to us as the most innovative. Also, they let you choose your own sauce adventure (though we wouldn't recommend pairing these tomato-filled nuggets with something completely out of leftfield like soy sauce or queso.) 

Theoretically, the filling should have provided some of its own sort of sauce, because isn't the whole point that the sauce is inside the gnocchi? Well, we definitely needed some extra something on top. We didn't find enough filling in most of our bites, and what was there didn't have a ton of flavor. We also wanted more cheese flavor, so putting some high-quality cheese on top would help, like a spoonful of fresh whole-milk ricotta or imported Parmesan. We prefer regular gnocchi on the regular, but for a fun twist (literally), these would add a touch of childlike joy to an easy Italian meal.

10. Italian-Style Wedding Soup

It's only recently that we discovered what the "wedding" in the quintessential Italian wedding soup actually refers to. Spoiler alert: the "wedding" is just the perfect marriage of the soup's components. And while Trader Joe's hedges its bets by calling its product just Italian-Style (and admits that it is a product not of Italy, but Canada), it tastes just as spot-on and authentic as we could have hoped. This one settles on mini meatballs, carrots, onions, kale, and tiny pasta gems all floating in a homey chicken broth infused with herbs. 

It's ridiculously soothing and tastes like the ideal Italian spin on traditional chicken noodle soup comfort food. We'd take mini meatballs over boring chunks of white-meat chicken any day. We wouldn't go so far as to break open jars of the stuff as the first course of our weddings, but we'd easily make it a weekday lunch staple. Thanks to its richer flavor and homemade depth, we like it better than the usual suspects like Progresso or Campbell's.

9. Breaded Fried Ravioli

Trader Joe's Breaded Fried Ravioli is a frozen spin on the cult-favorite Toasted Ravioli, a dish of boozy origins that many midwesterners have a punch-drunk love affair with and will vocally advocate for. Would this over-the-top next step for basic ravioli prove as iconic as puppy chow or just as unnecessary as jello mold fruit salads? There's only one way to find out. The recommended cooking method was using an air fryer, so we popped these babies in and hoped for the best.

We decided that without sauce, they could pass as an app in the same way as mozzarella sticks do — and they basically are exactly that, only wider in circumference and narrower in height. Add some sauce and you've got a dinner that won't earn any Michelin stars for elegance but will earn you five stars for fun. Things get awfully hot when the cheese gets gooey, so be careful before you bite!

8. Vegan Kale, Cashew & Basil Pesto

Pesto can be created from a variety of ingredients but starts with a pretty standard formula. You're going to need an herb, a nut, and oil (almost always olive oil). It sounds like the perfect opportunity for a sneaky vegan product to us. Trader Joe's knows what it's doing here. The Vegan Kale, Cashew, and Basil Pesto checks all the boxes: It uses nutrient-dense kale, vitamin-rich cashews, and all the aromatics that give pesto its pizzazz. 

Neither greasy nor oily, it flows swimmingly onto a flatbread or breadstick and would coat pasta with gusto. And while we love kale when well-prepared, we also love that the basil in this pesto takes center stage as opposed to that more aggressive leafy green. We can also see ourselves using it as a spread on sandwiches instead of mustard, or mayo, particularly in the summer months.

7. Organic Italian Cascatelli Pasta

Pasta looks so simple, but as we all know, good pasta is hard to come by. In this case, the pasta doesn't look quite so simple, but that's part of what makes it so good. Choosing the right pasta for your meal comes down to two very important considerations: quality and shape. As for the first consideration, this bag of dried pasta from Trader Joe's is a bargain for quantity and quality, with the pasta a level above your generic store brand but a level below high-end or homemade alternatives. When boiled and eaten, it had a nice chew but minimal flavor, a basic blank canvas for pasta magic. 

As for the next consideration, well, there's nothing this unique shape can't do (except maybe lasagna). It has scalloped edges that give it a complexity and super fun mouthfeel. The mini indentation, meanwhile, is the perfect boat for getting whatever delicious sauce accompanies the pasta into your mouth. This dual-sided nature means that we got to taste and enjoy both the texture of the pasta itself AND the taste of the sauce. We used the Bolognese, marveling at the way the pasta delivered us tiny specks of savory beef in the ideal proportion. The innovative Cascatelli pasta suits every need.

6. Cacio E Pepe Ravioli

We always love good ravioli, so none of us had any issues with sampling two kinds from Trader Joe's. First, we encountered the ubiquitous Cacio e Pepe once again in these pasta squares. The shell is nice, not too thick and doughy, but also not so flimsy that the filling slips out. Listen closely when we say that this must be cooked properly for it to really shine. Too al dente and the filling is pasty and hard rather than gooey and vibrant, but if you let it boil too long you'll get a mushy one-note pasta that collides with its filling. If you want to have the same fantastic eating experience we had, you're going to need that cheesy filling to stand on its own feet. 

The bite of piquant black pepper does a lot of the heavy lifting to keep the pasta from being too dull because as much as we wish it weren't so, the Parmesan flavor is somewhat muted. Without the "pepe", the ravioli would mostly just taste like your average cheese-filled variety (which you can get at Trader Joe's if traditional is more your jam.) Obviously, the vegetarian aspect is one of the best selling points, but we think that pairing this pasta with some prosciutto would be a nice salty, savory, umami-filled accessory.

5. Toscano Cheese with Black Pepper

Trader Joe's seems to have an affection for cheese and pepper, huh? Most of the time, we find out fairly quickly that the products' advertised flavorings aren't as strong as they should be. In this case, however, the black pepper is crackin'. (Pun intended. Cracked black pepper — get it? Sorry.) If you dislike too much spice, or too much of this particular kind of pepper — white pepper or chili flakes have entirely different flavor profiles — you'll want to grab a different cheese. But we certainly didn't. Trader Joe's loves to dress up its standout Toscano cheese wedges with different flavorings, from cinnamon to merlot, but this might be the best treatment yet. 

The yin and yang of creamy, buttery cheese plus eye-opening black pepper made us keep coming back for more. It's a great cheese for a charcuterie board because it would play off any meat like salami, prosciutto, or even smoked salmon with equal aplomb. Last but not least, the nice melting quality means it would be a playful ingredient in a spunky grilled cheese. 

4. Italian Bigonda Cheese with Herbs

This intriguing little wedge of Italian Bigonda Cheese with Herbs is a study in restraint. If you're not careful to savor it, you might miss its best qualities. This is not a cheese to haul out of the back corner of your fridge at midnight and devour without thinking — choose a cutting sharp cheddar for that instead. We suspect some people might characterize it as "meh." One or two of our taste testers shrugged and said it was just fine. 

It's a middling cheese, somewhere between hard and soft, with no challenging tang or funk and a mild flavor. But the flavor that's there is beautifully delicate thanks to an ethereal blend of backyard herbs like parsley and thyme, steeped in unusual aromatics like laurel leaf, fennel seed, and caraway seed powder. We had to look closely at the label to determine just what actually made it taste like a golden-hour walk in an Italian grove, but we still don't know which precise element sealed the deal. Maybe it's better left a mystery. 

3. Bruschetta Sauce

This tub looks a little dated and dull on the outside. It didn't exactly beckon us with the best packaging and most tantalizing peek into the goodness inside. But don't judge a book by its cover — Trader Joe's Bruschetta Sauce is a mix of raw Mediterranean ingredients like tomatoes, basil, garlic, and olive oil that becomes so much more than the sum of its parts. With touches of vinegar, sugar, and spices to bring out every ounce of flavor, it seriously impressed us. Versatile, vibrant, and refreshing, we'd use it on sandwiches, in salads, and atop our favorite pasta recipes

It's honestly just lacking that x-factor of freshness that simply can't be sold in a grocery store, so we can't really fault Trader Joe's for that one. That being said, we have just the upgrade you need: our go-to recipe for homemade classic bruschetta. It only takes a few minutes to chop the minimalist ingredients and will transform a piece of toast into a work of edible art. We think it will elide extra beautifully with the fresh pasta right below. 

2. Italian Tomato and Burrata Raviolini

Well now isn't this just a downright dashing ravioli? Pardon us — raviolini. What's the difference? Nobody knows, but it even sounds a little more dashing. This pasta incorporates burrata, the most luscious, decadent of Italian cheeses. Ultimately, it was pretty much just like regular mozzarella with an extra dose of creaminess. One of us noted that it's akin to putting heavy cream in your morning cup of coffee instead of regular half and half. As for the tomato, it definitely tasted bright and zesty. The interior of the ravioli is tender and melts in your mouth; they would be perfect with a light sauce in the summertime. 

These taste pretty exquisite, and if prepared perfectly al dente, we'd definitely be happy to eat a plate of them at a restaurant. We were ready for Trader Joe's to give us something good with these, but we didn't anticipate just how nuanced and fresh they tasted. Please, by all means, serve them alongside a crisp salad with cucumber and your most gorgeous tomatoes. Oh, and add some burrata on top, because why not? Thanks to these ravioli, we now have every excuse to pull out all the stops on our next pasta night and splurge on all our favorite accouterments.

1. Everything Ciabatta Rolls

You know how sometimes you're sitting down to eat a big meal with multiple components — like steaming pasta, slow-simmered tomato sauce, hearty meatballs, fresh Parmesan cheese — and somehow the one thing that really takes the cake is ... the bread? Trader Joe's Everything Ciabatta Rolls are that kind of bread — the kind that if you got it at a restaurant you'd barely care about the rest of your meal. Seriously, these has no right to be this good. Each roll is large and pre-sliced, revealing an irresistibly fluffy, cottony crumb inside and chewy, firm edges. With none of the textural sticking points of the focaccia, we're totally sold. 

Trader Joe's sells plain ones, and we were sure that those are as perfect as these (because these are pretty darn close to the perfect ciabatta roll), but the everything bagel seasoning on top takes it to the next level. When toasted, the spices grow in flavor and coat the now-crusty exterior with the jaunty aroma of garlic, onion, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and sea salt. Butter them like toast, slather cream cheese on them like traditional bagels, dip them in olive oil bread alongside that big meal, or pile on your favorite sandwich fillings for a fantastic lunch. We'll do it all because these rolls can do it all.