Hello. My name's Nathan, and I love Trader Joe's. My wife Sonia does too. She's a great shopper, has excellent taste and knows good value when she comes across it. As many of you know, Trader Joe's is unsurpassed in the world of good-value grocery stores, so we spend a lot of our time and money there. Although the store fairly consistently delivers great taste with its own unique line of food products, there are definitely some big-hits, and unfortunately, there are some misses...

After doing a couple of internet searches for reviews of TJ's food items, Sonia discerned an apparent dearth of good, quality reviews for the store's offerings. So, at her suggestion, we decided to embark on a journey of systematically reviewing every Trader Joe's product, resulting in the blog you are about to read...

A couple of months into our Trader Joe's rating adventure, an old college friend, Russ, who unbeknownst to me had been following our TJ's blog, decided that I had been slacking in my blogging duties (which, of course, I was) so he decided to contribute his own original TJ's reviews to the blog, thus enhancing it, making it more complete and adding to it a flavor of his own. He and his wife Sandy are also avid TJ's fans and, as you will soon discover, he is an excellent writer and is nearly as clever, witty and humble as I am.

Seriously though, Russ: You go, boy!

So here it is: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?"

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Trader Joe's Autumnal Harvest Creamy Pasta Sauce

Very nice use of the word "autumnal" here, TJ's. Very nice indeed. Now let's see if you can work the word "vernal" into the title of one of your Spring 2016 products...

If you guys have been reading the blog for a while, you know that Sonia and I love pumpkin (especially Sonia)—and furthermore, despite a recent review or two, that Russ is a pumpkin-hater. On an upcoming podcast episode, though, he makes the very valid point that there are many delicious non-pumpkin items that appear on the shelves of "Pumpkin Joe's" this time of year. This quality product is a prime example of something that might slip through the cracks if you're wearing those pumpkin goggles too tightly.

But not to worry, there's pumpkin in it. It's not strictly a pumpkin product, though. Similar to the recently-reviewed Harvest Salsa and some other pumpkin salsas we've seen, our favorite over-sized orange gourd is blended seamlessly with tomato and butternut squash, among other things. Despite tomato puree and pumpkin puree appearing above butternut squash puree on the ingredients, I still think this tastes more like butternut squash than anything else. Flavor-wise, it's savory, subtle, and it's absolutely scrumptious. There's a beautiful mixture of spices rounding out the taste, including garlic, rosemary, cayenne pepper, and sage. It's a very mild spiciness, though.

As far as texture goes, it's not too thick, and not too thin. It's very creamy and smooth, but the creaminess doesn't get in the way of those harvest veggies, in terms of flavor. Sonia pointed out that some "creamy" sauces have too much cream or milk, and they wind up tasting like a dairy product instead of a pasta sauce, but not here. This stuff is well-balanced in every way. Sonia thinks it would make a great pizza sauce. I can see where she's coming from—if you wanted to try a do-it-yourself "Autumnal Harvest Pizza," this would be the right place to start.

But for now, I think I'll stick with pasta. We had it with some non-TJ's cheese ravioli. It worked perfectly, with the majority of the flavor coming from the pasta sauce, just slightly overshadowing the mostly-neutral tastes of the dough and the cheese blend in the ravioli. I'm really anxious to get to some pumpkin reviews, but this was a condiment I just had to tell you guys about. If you're into traditional harvest flavors, butternut squash or pumpkin soup, this is a must-try.

Four and a half stars from Sonia. Four stars from me.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.


  1. Cooked pumpkin tastes a lot like squash (ok, it *is* a squash!). Don't confuse pumpkin with pumpkin spices, which overwhelm so many TJ products this time of year.

  2. BTW, saw this and the pumpkin salsa the other day. Decided to try 1 of the 2 and went with the salsa, which is very good (and no hint of pumpkin spice!). I will be trying this soon--prefer creamy pasta sauces and this sounds like a nice balance.

  3. Why doesn't it say GLUTEN FREE when wheat is not listed as an ingredient and it doesn't say made in a place shared by wheat.....?

  4. Nonetheless, it is DELICIOUS! and out of stock at my Trader Joe's with more expected by the end of the month!

  5. Finally just scored this after a restock! It's different than I expected. Sweeter, and more dairy flavored. Served it with small rigatoni, and thin chicken breast dredged in flour. Still a good sauce, but definitely in the "rose cream sauce" category IMO. I tried adding some warm ricotta and parm to see if cheese helped, which did, sort of pushed it to the cheesey edge and things made more sense that way. Made things too rich for my blood though :)

  6. Wish it was a bit cheaper, $3.99. That seems high.

  7. Just tried the sauce. Yum. Want to try it on pizza & lasagna. Wish we had a Trader Joe's here.