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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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Trader Joe's Organic Black Bean Rotini

Foods that are supposed to be black: Well, there's not many. The seared outside of my steak. Black jelly beans (my favorite). Black olives. Black mission figs. And that's about all I can come up with. Oh, Oreos.

But foods that aren't: Much easier. The inside of my steak. Toast. Eggs. Milk. Easter ham. And the list could go on and on....

...and at some point, it would probably involve pasta. Black pasta? That's, well, unusual, and sounds like some sort of joke gone wrong.

Until now. There's Trader Joe's Organic Black Bean Rotini, made only out of black bean flour. I wasn't even aware that black bean flour was a thing, but well, I've been wrong before.

Spoiler alert: These spirally noodles taste 100% identical to black beans. I mean, perhaps a little beanier, in some ways, because there's probably some magical ratio of 10 beans to each one noodle. But there's no mistaking the taste, these are very strictly black beans in pasta form...by what kind of wizardry is that even possible? What a crazy world we live in.

If you take a look at the picture we snapped of them, you can probably imagine the texture a little bit as well. Probably the first thing I noticed is these noodles were noticeably drier than most of their somewhat distant semolina brethren.  This wasn't just on the surface, where they didn't seem to retain moistness as well as regular noodles, but also carried through in the bite, contributing to a grainier, perhaps slightly chewier mouthfeel. Which makes sense - I mean, it's beans in some sort of condensed form - and with that expectation in mind, it wasn't completely unwelcome. But I can understand it being a little offsetting for some.

Eating them straight, I didn't particularly care for them...but black beans to me are more of an accompaniment dish instead of main feature. So instead, we made them up for some taco pasta which was a great idea - the flavor played perfectly into the rest of the dish. Which brings up a good point - I'm not entirely sure I'd eat these noodles straight up with some marinara or whatever else traditional pasta flavors, just because they are too strongly beany.

Sandy and I enjoyed them and will probably pick them up again, but these legumey linguinis probably won't be our new normal. There was just a little bit too much resistance from the kiddos about these, partially because our 3.5 year old M was disappointed to find out they weren't chocolate like she so desperately hoped for. Anyways, we're both hovering around a 3, but I'll toss in some bonus pointage for novelty and innovation.


Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Black Bean Rotini: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

30 comments:

  1. Sounds super-healthy - which I would be tempted to drown in cheese and bacon (or taco meat) to get down :-) I'll stick to squid ink pasta for my black noodles, thanks.

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    1. I bought this (haven't cooked it yet) just for the health benefits--high-protein, high-fiber, low-carb. The cheese and bacon (fat, protein) are better for me than the abundant empty simple carbs in regular pasta.

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  2. Can blog readers get that taco pasta recipe.... :)

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    1. Did they add the link since you posted this comment? It's linked in the blog post...

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    2. Here's the link - was in blog from the beginning but can be easy to miss :)

      http://imanolagirl.blogspot.com/2012/04/tasty-tuesdays-lightened-up-taco-pasta.html?m=1

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  3. TJ's should crank out a chocolate pasta!!! I think this would be a fun twist on pasta salad.

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    1. Yes! M is quite the innovator herself, it seems! Ok now let's toss around some sweet sauce ideas....

      I'm thinking..something like a play on a chocolate sundae? Chocolate pasta, cherry sauce and whipped cream? Chocolate pasta, whipped cream sauce and cherry meatballs?? The possibilities are endless!

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    2. I would love a chocolate lasagna - choc noodles, ice cream instead of ricotta, smushed pb cups/Butterfingers for beef, caramel for sauce, with sprinkles on top.

      Somebody make this happen.

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    3. IMO chocolate graham crackers would have a better texture than pasta, but that's details!
      Or there's this: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/219708/ice-cream-lasagna/

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    4. Hey, if they had the chocolate-raspberry tamales (are they gone already?), why not chocolate pasta? With a raspberry/cream sauce....

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    5. I've seen chocolate pasta for sale for years. Usually at a specialty foodie-type store or small, local, specialty grocer. Especially around Valentine's Day.

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  4. Speaking of chocolate. Why TJ's could attempt a dessert lasagna?! It would be chocolate pasta layered with a smooth creme filling with ricotta and masacoprone cheese. Then it "sauced" with raspberry sauce and topped off with white chocolate shavings. It would be sold in the freezer case

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  5. I've see chocolate pasta before. But when I was a kid, my mom would pour melted butter, nestle quick powder or cocoa and icing sugar on top of pasta and mix it up. Sounds bad, but it was so delicious!!!

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    1. Nutella. Genius. pasta with cocoa powder and butter

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  6. I'll bet chili would be really good served over this pasta.

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  7. We tried the black bean pasta last night with meat red sauce and Romano cheese grated on top. The pasta by itself tastes unpleasant (and I like black beans) but it wasn't too bad with the sauce. However, as it cooled off the taste of the black bean pasta started coming thru making the meal less pleasant as we went. I'm not going to buy this product again.

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    1. Thanks for the info. Sounds to me like the best option for this is with chili on top.

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  8. We tried the black bean pasta last night with meat red sauce and Romano cheese grated on top. The pasta by itself tastes unpleasant (and I like black beans) but it wasn't too bad with the sauce. However, as it cooled off the taste of the black bean pasta started coming thru making the meal less pleasant as we went. I'm not going to buy this product again.

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  9. Get a pasta maker and you can indeed make chocolate pasta...

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  10. I made Mac and cheese with this! Used their fontina and smoked gouda to make a sauce, added in Turkey bacon, caramelized onions, green onions, mushrooms, and broccoli! I enjoyed it covered in cheese haha Oh add a bit of Sriracha too =)

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  11. We had this for dinner last night and it was a complete hit!! My 4 year old is requesting only black noodles from now on haha. I made a meat sauce with ground turkey and TJ's canned marinara, then just sprinkled fresh parmesan/romano on top. I had been searching for a cheaper option for the black bean pasta for a while now and the couple other brands I have found are $8+, where TJ's was I believe $2.99 or so

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  12. Just had this with butter, Parmesan, salt & pepper and it was good!

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  13. I don't know if I had a bad bag but these were TERRIBLE. Explore Asian has awesome one (@ $4 per 7 ounces so it is expensive). But I threw these out and I hate wasting food.

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  14. Had these last night with Blackened Chicken and an Alfredo sauce - it was superb! My mom actually was the one who picked these up and made that dish initially. Since we've come back from the holidays my husband has requested it several times. I think you really need to embrace the flavor of the black beans in this pasta alternative - a cheesy, garlic-y sauce is perfect! I'm also going to try some Cuban cream sauce at some point. Plus, the paprika, chili and cumin in the blackening rub helps to tie it all together.

    PS I bought these last night and noticed that the back of the package has a recipe for Mushroom and Pepper Alfredo, which of course uses TJ's Alfredo sauce. This buttress my opinion that you need an Alfredo or Garlic/Parmesan Cream sauce with these noodles!

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  15. I made a cold pasta salad.
    1) Cooked Black Bean Noodles
    2) Organic Red Beans
    3) Organic Garbanzo Beans
    4) Chopped Red Onions
    5) Squeezed 3 lemons
    6) Two Table Spoons Olive Oil
    7) 7 Strips of Uncured Bacon (cut into little pieces)
    9) Added Salt, Pepper, Cayenne & Red Chili Flakes
    10) Topped with Feta Cheese
    Refrigerate & top with Avocado and cooked Chicken Breast

    Healthy Lunch and Dinner!

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  16. Read your reviews after purchase but before cooking. Tossed hot cooked pasta with a jar of TJ salsa (Garlic Chipotle) and a cup of shredded sharp cheddar. Not bad. Just don't think of it as pasta.

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  18. I sautéed a head of chopped cauliflower, a large diced onion and some minced garlic in EVO. After everything was soft I added 2 cans of drained tuna and a few sprinkles of dried parsley and cooked a little longer. I cooked the black bean pasta rinsed it and tossed with EVO. Mixed the two together and we could stop eat it!

    It's definitely not the same as pasta! But it's pretty good:)

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