14 Trader Joe's Frozen Pastas, Ranked

We love all things Trader Joe's and we don't care who knows it. The grocery chain is well-known for its iconic snacks, deliriously delicious baked goods, and fairly-priced produce. But perhaps what fans enjoy most about the store is Trader Joe's fantastic frozen foods. When you're low on energy or time or just looking for something easy, there's nothing better than an elementary meal that can go straight from the freezer to the stove (or oven) to your belly in a flash.

Trader Joe's has a vast array of freezer-dwelling selections from appetizers to seafood entrees. However, we're focusing on TJ's famous frozen pastas. From fettuccine to fiochetti and every gnocchi in between, how do these icy Italian entrees hold up to the heat? Do the delicate noodles and decadent sauces simply make for a quick, low-effort dinner, or do they elevate to something more? We tried a bunch of the store's frozen pasta and ranked them for your convenient cooking pleasure.

14. Cacio e Pepe Gnocchi

Cacio e pepe is one of the four main Roman pasta dishes, along with amatriciana, alla Gricia, and carbonara. It's normally prepared with longer pasta cuts like bucatini or spaghetti (and we'll certainly get to that), but the decision by Trader Joe's to offer it with the dumpling-like pasta is an interesting one, especially given how many frozen gnocchi flavors the grocery chain offers.

Unfortunately, cacio e pepe didn't translate well to little pillow form. The gnocchi came out with an extremely mushy texture, which took away focus from the sauce. Maybe this came down to us adding too much water, but the soft texture was difficult to get past. This dish smelled enough like traditional cacio e pepe with a strong, noticeable pecorino aroma, but the actual cheesy flavor didn't follow. There wasn't much pepper here, either. You're better off getting some easy-to-prepare gnocchi and grabbing a jar of Trader Joe's actual cacio e pepe sauce because that stuff isn't half bad (even if every pasta maker in Rome would cringe at the thought). But we can't say the same about this gnocchi.

13. Gnocchi alla Sorrentina

Another regional gnocchi variety, another relative disappointment. That might actually be a strong word, though, because Gnocchi alla Sorrentina wasn't horrible. The tomato sauce and the gnocchi are is fine, but there's nothing here to really make this pop. Maybe that's what made this pasta so underwhelming — we love gnocchi, we love tomato sauce, and we love mozzarella, but the combination of all three made for a less-than-satisfying final result.

We can think of a couple of ideas to make this option a bit better — namely, adding freshly grated Parmesan to help thicken the sauce. Heck, even butter would help in that regard, and would also give this option a little more panache. Fresh herbs, like shredded basil, wouldn't hurt either. It's just a bit too plain as is, and while we wouldn't have a massive problem serving or eating this for dinner, it could definitely use a bit more oomph.

12. Ricotta & Spinach filled Ravioli

Ravioli is a pasta that holds up extremely well to freezing, so we high hopes for this one. The Trader Joe's Ricotta & Spinach filled Ravioli, though, is the definition of nothing special. The sauce is fairly pedestrian, which isn't totally surprising for a frozen tomato sauce, but we hoped for a little more basil to come through. The ravioli themselves were one-note, too, as there wasn't enough ricotta for that taste to make any kind of impact in this dish. Spinach also makes an appearance in name only, as that got lost in the subpar sauce as well.

Obviously we're rating and reviewing frozen pastas here, but we're willing to go out on a limb and say you could do this one better yourself with roughly the same amount of effort. Any frozen ricotta-filled pasta would do, and a simple jar of tomato passata with a few torn basil leaves will probably produce more depth than this sauce, anyway.

11. Fettucine Alfredo

Store-bought alfredo always kind of freaks us out (especially if the sauce is jarred), so we weren't totally sure about this stuff before we made it. Trader Joe's has multiple frozen options with long noodles (and several we quite like), but fettuccine was a bit more annoying because the frozen noodle pucks were bigger and a bit more difficult to break apart. That becomes frustrating when you're trying to cook this stuff in a timely fashion, but we pressed on.

There's not a ton of alfredo scent coming from this sauce, and frankly, it doesn't look very appetizing, either. The noodles cooked well enough once we actually got them separated, but the overall taste is perfectly meh — not exactly offensive, but not a pasta we'll be eager to reach for again. It's not terribly far off from Parmesan Pasta Roni, but at least here the noodles aren't cut into pieces. Add your own extra Parmesan or even a little splash of heavy cream if you want this to feel closer to the real thing.

10. Linguine with Pesto & Tomatoes

Even though it is a simple, straightforward sauce, bright and fresh pesto manages to pack quite a bit of flavor. But Trader Joe's frozen variety? Not so much. This version is quite muted, and while subtlety can actually work in many frozen dishes' favor, we hoped the flavor coming from the tiny pesto shards would be a bit more herbaceous.

It can also be a little difficult to separate the chunks of linguine from frozen if you decide to pan-fry this stuff with olive oil (which we mistakenly did), so opt for water when cooking on the stove. Linguine isn't normally charred or crunchy, but that did add a bit of flavor and texture that we didn't mind. We also have to take points off for the tomatoes — they weren't horrible, but something about bringing a frozen tomato back to life tends to skeeve us out. Overall, though, this wasn't a bad pasta dish, and we could see ourselves trying it again, albeit with a few extra additions like cherry tomatoes or fresh herbs to liven the whole affair up a bit.

9. Mushroom Ravioli

Trader Joe's deserves some credit here for going full mushroom. Fungi-filled ravioli is a bold enough choice to begin with, but doubling down with mushroom truffle sauce? Did they have an over-delivery of portabellos and need to use them up? Perhaps they caught a deal from a distributor, or are maybe a bit too obsessed with "The Last of Us"?

Whatever the reason for the mushroom mania, we approve here. The ravioli aren't particularly well-stuffed, but since the flavor inside the pasta essentially mirrors the sauce coating it, a little under-filling didn't bother us at all. This dish could use a bit of cheese (let's be real, what pasta couldn't?), so sprinkling on your own Parmesan is well within the realm of reasonability here. Trader Joe's Mushroom & Company Multipurpose Umami Seasoning Blend might go with this, too, but even that might be fungi overkill. We really liked this stuff, but we realize not everyone is a mushroom fan, which is why it winds up more toward the middle of the pack.

8. Outside In Stuffed Gnocchi

Stuffed gnocchi? We just know somebody's nonna is waving a rolling pin in the air at the very thought. They shouldn't, though, because this stuff is actually decent — think the pasta version of Totino's Pizza Rolls. Okay, so that's not exactly traditional and probably won't calm down any worked-up Italian grandmothers, but Outside In Stuffed Gnocchi is a solid frozen pasta option nonetheless.

We opted to pan-fry these in olive oil, and the result was a nice, crispy exterior that served as a lovely textural introduction to the piping hot sauce and cheese inside. It still feels like something is missing with this one, which is why we recommend adding some extra sauce to the party. Heck, we wouldn't even be against treating these like actual pizza rolls and putting out a cup of marinara to dip them into. That veers a little far from pasta territory, but hey, we're already talking about stuffed gnocchi here. Kudos to Trader Joe's for pushing tradition to the limit.

7. Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Of all Trader Joe's frozen gnocchi options, its Sweet Potato Gnocchi is probably the most seasonal. We associate sweet potatoes (as well as butter and sage sauce) with the fall, but given how sweet the actual gnocchi are, you'd be hard-pressed not to crave this stuff year-round.

These turned out a little mushier than most of the other gnocchi we tried (cacio e pepe being the exception), which makes sense given they're made of different stuff. Fortunately, that didn't diminish this dish. The butter and sage sauce that coats the gnocchi melts into a quaint coating that complements the sweet pasta well but doesn't overwhelm it. We're used to this kind of sauce on butternut squash-filled ravioli, but sweet potato isn't terribly far off from that flavor profile, so it all fits. Again, these are flavors you probably have to be acquainted with or have a prior affinity for to truly love this pasta, and since sweet potato can be divisive, we can't rank it any higher than this.

6. Cheese Filled Fiocchetti with Pink Sauce

Trader Joe's mentions that "fiocchetti" is derived from the Italian word "fiocco," which literally translates to "bow," "knot," or "tuft." Indeed, this little filled pasta comes with little bows and is shaped like the little mints you might open at the end of a meal.

Cuteness aside, though, the mozzarella that fills the fiocchetti is a nice change of pace and gives these a pleasant tang. The pink sauce doesn't add a ton flavor-wise and is simply described as a "creamy sauce," but we enjoyed the color and what it brought to the overall presentation of the final dish. If this stuff tasted as good as it looked, it would be at the top of the list. While the pasta doesn't live up to its visual appeal, it tastes pretty good, so it'll have to settle for just outside the top five. Fiocchetti isn't exactly the most functional pasta cut for picking up a creamy sauce, but extra points for giving us something unique in terms of shape, filling, and color.

5. Rigatoni alla Contadina

More frozen veggies — that can't be good, right? Wrong! Rigatoni alla Contadina features a verdant trio of asparagus, broccoli, and peas, and despite our assumptions, they played beautifully in this frozen pasta. Actually, the veggies are doing most of the heavy lifting, infusing their flavor into an otherwise pedestrian pasta dish.

The creamy sauce is vaguely cheesy, but we like that it's not a full-on alfredo. We suspect it might be rather bland if not for the veggies, but it doesn't really matter when you get a fresh green crunch in pretty much every bite. Broccoli and asparagus are notoriously tough-textured, and even though you're essentially steaming the pasta and veggie fragments from frozen, the whole deal works better if you keep the noodles fairly al dente to match the chew of the greens. Texturally, there probably isn't a better pasta on our list. This one really surprised us.

4. Gnocchi al Gorgonzola

Gorgonzola is perhaps the most underrated Italian cheese, and we appreciate Trader Joe's for finally letting it shine here. We're not even gonna mince words — the flavor of these is awesome, and the gnocchi become perfectly pillowy when boiled alongside the frozen gorgonzola shards. The end result is essentially an elevated version of boxed mac and cheese with far greater depth of flavor.

Our only complaint with Gnocchi al Gorgonzola is that there was far too much sauce for the number of gnocchi in the bag. It's a good problem to have, but something we didn't account for before cooking. We wound up toasting some breadcrumbs and adding them to the mix, which added some welcome body to the dish and wound up filling it out beautifully. We understand if you don't want to go that far, of course, so make sure you have bread for dipping the leftover sauce if you're going to make a full batch. Trust us.

3. Penne Arrabbiata

Arrabiata is a traditional spicy tomato sauce that is an adventure no matter where you order it from, so we were excited to try this one. Thankfully, Trader Joe's didn't let us down. The sauce is incredibly sweet — so sweet, in fact, that it lowers your guard just long enough to make you forget about the peppery kick that comes with it on the back end. It's not too spicy, though, with just the right amount of heat to make this pasta dish pleasant from start to finish.

Our advice? Don't let this stay watery. Cook the sauce down until it's properly coating the pasta in a fairly thick layer. Per the package, you can use olive oil or water for this; we opted for the former, which created an interesting char on the penne. That's pretty antithetical to everything we know about pasta, but the extra crunch and flavor were welcome additions, and we suspect it improved our opinion of this already excellent frozen pasta dish.

2. Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe

Make no mistake — we're just as surprised as you are that this ranking both starts and nearly ends with cacio e pepe, but in a way, it's fitting. Cacio e pepe is a fickle sauce that's as simple as it gets but very tricky to perfect. Prepare it incorrectly (or with the wrong pasta), and it'll turn out clumpy, listless, and underwhelming. It's not difficult to get cacio e pepe wrong. When you do it right, though? Then you've got a comfort food worthy of royalty.

We're not out here claiming Trader Joe's Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe is anywhere near the heights of the beautiful, expertly made stuff you can get at your local trattoria. But as a frozen approximation, this stuff is pretty good. In fact, it's really good. It actually smells like cacio e pepe, especially compared to its gnocchi counterpart, and was far tastier. We missed the thick, noodle-coating consistency of true cacio e pepe, but perhaps that's because we added too much water and were a bit impatient in reducing the sauce. Taste-wise, it's pretty much there. No frozen pasta can replicate the artistry and sheer pleasure of a traditional dish, but for stuff that comes in a bag, this is pretty darn good.

1. Cauliflower Gnocchi

Is Trader Joe's Cauliflower Gnocchi the grocery chain's most famous frozen pasta? Based on an informal poll we conducted among people we know and the employee who bagged our groceries, absolutely. It's not hard to see why, either — these are tasty, versatile, and super easy to prepare. They're ready in about two or three minutes on the stovetop and just a few minutes longer if you decide to boil them. We prefer the char you get from pan frying (in case that wasn't clear already).

Even if you're not a fan of veggie or alternative pasta, the Cauliflower Gnocchi will likely get you where you need to go. Some people might take points off for the fact that it doesn't come sauced, but we actually love that. There are endless possibilities here — pair them with a tomato sauce, a cream sauce, or simply eat them plain. We added a little butter and shredded Parmesan, and they tasted divine. If you're wondering whether we (or the Trader Joe's lovers) in your life are overhyping this stuff, rest assured we (and they) are not. This stuff is for real.