You feel me on the use of the term "Joesian"? It means Trader Joe's-esque, as in, What Would Trader Joe's Do? Because Trader Joe's loves to swap out normal foods with cauliflower. It's super Joesian.
Just check the search term "cauliflower" on our blog. We've seen them swap out pancakes, rice, pizza crust, mashed potatoes, and much, much more...with cauliflower. Nothing but cauliflower.
Now they're keeping the pasta, but throwing cauliflower into the mix. I guess it's lower in carbs, but obviously not carb-free. I honestly wouldn't have minded a dish sans pasta. Cheesy cauliflower with a little panko would have been just fine with me. The pasta shells keep the look, feel, and taste just a tad more familiar...and it works.
In truth, I don't think the cauliflower adds a whole lot. But like I said, it might be taking away some of the carbs. It smells of cauliflower even more than it tastes like cauliflower, in my opinion.
This dish is tasty because of the oodles of warm, gooey ricotta and fontina cheese, with just a bit of dry, crunchy complexity from the panko. I love panko bread crumbs. Wouldn't have minded a whole lot more of it here in Trader Joe's Cauliflower and Cheesy Pasta Shells.
It's possible to tell which little bits of the dish are pasta and which are roasted cauliflower pieces, but they really don't taste all that different to me. I went the lazy route here and microwaved the dish, although both microwave and oven heating methods are listed. During the stirring process, I mixed most of the panko into the mostly melted cheese, except around the edges, where a nice, firm panko crust remained. I wish I'd left the panko-encrusted top intact, because it was probably my favorite part of the meal.
There's still plenty of fat and cholesterol in this product, so it's not really diet food, unless you're just aiming to consume slightly less carbs. I mean, pasta isn't the first thing you'd want on a low carb diet, but if you were going to splurge, cauliflower plus pasta is better than pasta alone I suppose. I give three and a half stars to this cauliflower & cheesy pasta shells microwave dinner. Sonia gives it four.
Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.