The Best Thing I Bought at Trader Joe’s So Far This Year

updated Apr 29, 2019
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Credit: Ariel Knutson

I am not one of those people who has trouble naming their favorite meal. Others might vacillate between the dishes they’d take with them to a desert island — mac and cheese, crunchy fried chicken, a juicy burger — but not me.

Without even a moment of hesitation, I can say that my most loved dinner is pasta Bolognese (I prefer penne, but really any variety of pasta will do). That rich, salty, and slightly sweet and creamy sauce is divine. Calling it a comfort food hardly does Bolognese justice.

There’s just one problem: Bolognese is a decadent, special-occasion food. It’s the type of meal I eat when I want to treat myself. I rarely make it at home (a true Bolognese sauce can take an entire day to cook properly), but I always crave it. Then, one day while roaming the frozen food aisle at Trader Joe’s, something miraculous happened: I spotted a box which read “Just the Sauce: Turkey Bolognese.”

I was understandably skeptical. After all, how could a frozen pasta sauce possibly compare to the real thing? But knowing that I often need easy meals to cook for lunch on weekdays (because I work from home), I threw a couple of boxes in my cart. I planned to try it out, but didn’t expect much.

I had a box of penne in my pantry already, so later that week I decided to heat up the frozen sauce on the stove. I poured the cooked sauce onto penne seasoned with nothing but salt and olive oil. The resulting meal was super simple, but I didn’t mind: It took so little effort to make and got on the table in under 30 minutes. And yet it still tasted amazing.

I worried the sauce would be watery, but it thickened to the perfect chunky texture. It wasn’t bland either. It’s totally reasonable to add extra salt and pepper to the sauce while it’s cooking, but I find that it’s not necessary (this is coming from someone who adds extra salt to pretty much everything from eggs to salad dressing). It’s got that classic hearty, savory flavor that makes Bolognese such a pleasure to eat. And listen, it’s not exactly the most nutritious lunch in my repertoire, but if that worries you, add this perfect simple salad on the side.

It might not be restaurant-quality Bolognese or the homemade variety that simmers on the stove for hours at a time, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s a perfectly satisfying way to get my Bolognese fix without going to a fancy Italian restaurant, or sweating over a giant pot of tomato sauce. In fact, it does a splendid job of imitating a higher-quality pasta sauce. I adore the ease with which I can prepare this little Trader Joe’s treasure, and it will forever be one of my favorite Trader Joe’s purchases.

Have you tried this turkey Bolognese? What’s the best thing you’ve bought from Trader Joe’s this year?