Which is probably why I found it so disappointing.
Before I begin complaining, I should point out that TJ's offerings often vary from region to region, and even package to package in some cases. So it's always possible that we got a bad batch. So we'd love to hear your experience with this product in the comments below. Keep in mind, we're very tough graders, and we've made it our mission to be critical of all aspects of Trader Joe's usually-incredible foods.
The cheese and tomato sauce were on par with what I'd expect, though they certainly didn't go above and beyond my expectations. They tasted like run-of-the-mill mozzarella and very-recently-frozen, somewhat-watery tomato sauce. They both lacked zest. They both lacked that special something that would have set them apart from other frozen parmesan dishes.
But the eggplant was the most disappointing part of the meal. It tasted like eggplant, but it was extraordinarily chewy. I cooked the dish for exactly the amount of time called for on the instructions, and I even overcame the urge to yank it out of the microwave immediately and let it sit for 2 minutes, as prescribed. The rubberiness of the bulk of the eggplant slabs wasn't the worst part. The worst part was the skin around each piece. I understand the skin contains a lot of vitamins and minerals, but it was stringy, tough, and difficult to chew. What would have been a moderately pleasant meal turned into a rigorous set of jaw exercises.
I'm sure someone wiser than myself took the time to scour the back of the package and discovered that there are, in fact, instructions for heating in a conventional oven and got much better results, but I honestly didn't see them at first. Usually, if a non-microwave option is listed, I'll do it that way. In this case, I missed them because they're crammed right up against the microwave instructions, to the ruin of my poor eggplant parmesan lunch.
I won't be too brutal with my scoring since I could have cooked this in the oven and didn't. 2.5 stars from me. While eating the dish, Sonia said, "It makes my mouth tingle." Apparently not in a good way. She gives it 2 stars.
Bottom line: 4.5 out of 10.