I Just Found My New Favorite Jarred Pasta Sauce at Trader Joe’s

published Aug 28, 2021
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Credit: Lauren Masur

Raise your hand if you’re on the constant hunt for the platonic ideal of a jarred pasta sauce? I know I am. And even my Italian mother-in-law appreciates the convenience of a shelf-stable jar when she doesn’t have time to make a Sunday sauce. I will say that in the five years I’ve worked here at Kitchn, the single best thing I’ve learned is that Rao’s makes the best red sauce. It consistently makes our list of Kitchn Essentials and it wins in every blind taste test we put it in. But sometimes I don’t want a red sauce. Sometimes I want a white sauce, with lots of cheese and flavor.

Well, it’s like Trader Joe’s has been reading my mind. Because the grocer recently came out with a Cacio e Pepe Pasta Sauce! In a jar! Honestly, I’ve been thinking about this since last winter, when TJ’s launched a bagged frozen Cacio e Pepe pasta dish. The frozen version is perfectly creamy and peppery, quick and easy to make, and has a high sauce-to-pasta ratio. It’s honestly perfect — as long as you want spaghetti. And there’s the rub. What if you want that peppery sauce over fettuccini? Or tortelli? Or, say, on potatoes? Trader Joe’s is finally ready to help you make that happen.

Find it in stores: Cacio e Pepe Pasta Sauce, $3.49 for 14.5 ounces

As far as I can tell, the recipe for the jarred stuff is nearly identical to the sauce in the frozen meal. Even the branding looks the same. It’s got Pecorino Romano cheese and lots of black pepper (the two crucial ingredients!). It’s incredibly rich and creamy and thick. It smells like cheesy, peppery heaven and it takes every ounce of self control I have to not eat it right out of the jar with a spoon. And a little goes a long way. You don’t need much — just a spoonful is plenty for a large bowl. (I’ve also found it’s nice to thin the sauce out a little with a bit of the pasta water. And then I like to add freshly grated cheese on top.)

This means that you’ll need some more ideas for how to use up the whole jar. In addition to all the pasta shapes (radiatore is my favorite!), I highly recommend spooning some on top of roasted potatoes, air fryer Brussels sprouts, or cauliflower. It also adds a decadent touch as a spread on grilled cheese or mixed into scrambled eggs. My point? I’ve already gone through two jars (and it just hit shelves this month!).

Got any other ideas for ways to use this sauce? Share them in the comments below.