The Frozen Pasta at Trader Joe’s That’s Even Better than Homemade

updated Oct 2, 2020
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Credit: Cassiohabib

I spend a lot of time reflecting on what life looked like back when I could waltz into Trader Joe’s, grab a mini cup of coffee, and nibble on whatever snack was being showcased at the sample station. It’s a luxury I once took for granted, and I anxiously await its return.

On one particularly fateful day in The Before Times, the crew was dishing up their frozen penne arrabbiata for shoppers to sample. After a taste of just one tiny cup full of this smoky and spicy dish, I was sold. I practically sprinted over to the freezer aisle and bought multiple packages (for $2.99 each!) then and there. And now I always have a bag or three in my freezer.

Credit: Julian Montijo

When preparing it at home, I start by first adding a tablespoon or two of oil into a hot pan. While I’m at it, to get my daily veggies in, I like to toss a couple handfuls of either fresh or frozen kale and/or a cup of TJ’s frozen Melange a Trois peppers into the pan. After heating the vegetables through, it’s time to add in the frozen package of penne arrabbiata.

While the packaging says the meal should be ready in five to seven minutes — and that’s certainly true — my personal preference is to leave it on medium heat for around 10 to15 minutes, until the liquid of the sauce is thick and nearly sticks to the bottom of the pan. (The flavorful crispy bits are not to be discounted!) Then I turn down the heat and leave it in the pan for another five minutes before serving it up. While the package contains multiple servings, I, um, tend to eat it all in one go because it’s that good.

Since my obsession with this frozen penne arrabbiata began, I have spent some time seeking other options. (It’s always good to have options!) I started by buying TJ’s shelf-stable Arrabbiata sauce to make a more DIY-friendly version, but I preferred the frozen option by leaps and bounds. I’ve also made it a point to try different renditions of the dish on restaurant menus when the option is available. Of course, the recipe varies from restaurant to restaurant, but it never seems to hit the same flavor points I’ve become accustomed to in the Trader Joe’s frozen version.

When given the choice between any other penne arrabbiata and Trader Joe’s frozen penne arrabbiata, I prefer Trader Joe’s frozen option every time. And for $2.99, my wallet isn’t upset about the verdict!

Have you ever tried Trader Joe’s frozen penne arrabbiata? What did you think?