Corn's used for pretty much anything and everything these days, but this is the first I've seen it used to make pasta. That seems like such a simple, yet semi-brilliant, idea, despite the slightly redundant name. Other than the packaging, there's pretty much no indication that this isn't the normal semolina fare. The penne seems perhaps a little thicker and slightly more yellow than the standard, but it'd be hard telling them apart in a police line-up. I'd also say they take a little bit longer to cook. Other than that, boil some up and put on some sauce and whatever else (pictured here with the roasted garlic marinara [meh] and meatless meatballs [see this for my general thoughts on them, it's close enough])*, and you got a plate or bowl full of a pretty tasty dinner. Sandy swore she could taste the difference - "It kinda slides in here and there, and tastes kinda-but-not-really like a corn chip," she says - but me? Nah. It looks and tastes so close to the "real thing" that it's tough for me to draw the distinction. I think that's a pretty high compliment.
There's not really anything bad I can say about the corn penne, and in fact I hope TJ's extends the line to include other pasta types. Really, I could see these taking off, and for $1.39 for a pounder, they're reasonably priced. They're that good, and who knows, maybe they're a game changer for the gluten-free crowd. That's not to say I'll rate them among the stars. Sandy, as usual, said it best. "I'd rate them higher except...well, they're not 'special' enough," she said. "Like I wish they were a little more different from normal pasta that they stood out more." That's a pretty accurate statement, and I think a pair of matching fours from the two of us fit the bill pretty well.
Bottom line: Trader Joe's Corn Penne Pasta: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons
*Let's see, for dinner I ate pasta made from corn and meatballs made from, well, something not meat. If the sauce wasn't made from tomatoes, I *do not* want to know what it was.