Frozen tortellini taste test
Credit: Sarah Crowley

I Tried More than 20 Bags of Fresh and Frozen Tortellini — There Were 2 Clear Winners

published Oct 13, 2021
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Tortellini should taste like little morsels of comfort. Fun fact: The Italian word translates to navels, which gives me comfort and a giggle. (Filling my belly with “belly buttons” is as silly as it is meta.) Moving on; tortellini is great. It’s convenient, it’s delicious, and it can be surprisingly decadent for a last-minute meal! There are lots of brands to choose from, too — in the freezer aisle and the refrigerated sections. Which one should you pick? I did the work to find out.

Credit: Aliza Gans

How I Picked and Tested the Tortellini

When it comes to testing pasta — a food I enjoy immensely — I wanted to be inclusive. Why not give tortelloni a chance, too? With such a small difference in lettering, I even threw some into my cart accidentally (and fortunately!). Italian for bigger navel, tortelloni have more filling, so a lower concentration of pinched dough. ‘Linis versus ‘lonis was clearly a size showdown, but ultimately ended up being about flavor and texture too.

I split the brands between fresh and frozen and set to cooking them, a few at a time, in boiling salted water. I tasted them plain first, then with sauce. My mom was a big help in providing sound second opinions. We not only learned which brands we’ll be buying from now on, but also ingredient trends to look out for. Spoiler: Tortelloni won out over tortellini because the larger shape allowed for a better filling-to-pasta ratio.

Credit: Aliza Gans

Best Tortelloni: Costco’s Kirkland Five-Cheese Tortelloni

Costco’s Kirkland Five-Cheese Tortelloni are elite. They nailed the texture: pillowy with a balanced gush of cheese, and the pasta is delicately chewy, not gummy. Flavor-wise, the hard cheeses in the blend really sing with nutty-salty flavor to complement the luscious mascarpone and ricotta. There’s even mozzarella in the filling, which gave it a little bounce.  Also, these pastas are very pretty to look at; we loved the zig-zag trimming and bright yellow color (it’s natural from eggs!). Those cupped pasta flaps are also perfect for holding sauce, unlike some of the more evenly surfaced tortellini.

Buy: Kirkland Signature Canada Five Cheese Tortelloni, $13 for 2 (20-ounce) packages at Costco

Credit: Aliza Gans

Runner-Up: Giovanni Rana Cheese Lovers Signature Tortelloni

Not everyone has a Costco membership, I know (although you can order through Instacart). A great runner-up — with almost the same exact filling recipe and in a smaller package for those who balk at buying in bulk — is Rana’s Cheese Lover’s Tortelloni. If you’re not a cheese-lover (we can still be friends), then Rana’s Five-Cheese Tortellini are also fantastic. Signore Giovanni Rana has mastered mass-produced fresh pasta. 

Buy: Giovanni Rana Cheese Lovers Tortelloni Refrigerated Pasta, $5.99 for 10 ounces at Instacart

Credit: Aliza Gans

Two Tortellini Taste Test Takeaways

(Say that three times fast!)

  1. Breadcrumbs in the filling are a thing. It cuts production costs, but also flavor. Brands that used this further up in the ingredient list were less tasty and more dense than the more dairy-forward versions. 
  2. Fresh, refrigerated tortellini and tortelloni are better than frozen. It’s no shock that pasta that’s made to withstand a shock of arctic air and getting slammed around in a bag is going to be less delicate than pasta treated like fresh, pillowy goodness. This fancy-pants pampering and packaging also makes it more expensive, though. If you want to have frozen tort (of either kind) in the freezer, I suggest just freezing a bag of the fresh stuff for a future pasta party.

Do you have a go-to brand that you love? Tell us in the comments below!