I Tried Trader Joe’s Cacio e Pepe Products—Here’s What’s Worth Buying
Cacio e pepe definitely had a moment on restaurant menus—people were cacio e pepe-ing everything they could get their hands on, from roasted potatoes to pizza and even broccoli. The dish, which is a traditional Roman pasta using nothing but lots of black pepper, Pecorino Romano cheese, and maybe a little olive oil and parmesan. It’s a creamy, comforting sauce that makes sense as an adaption—who doesn’t want cheese and black pepper coating everything they eat?
Trader Joe’s obviously noticed our collective obsession with cacio e pepe, and they’re recently introduced two new cacio-centric pasta dishes. The first, a straight-up bag of frozen cacio e pepe, caught my eye on a recent grocery run. A few days later, I went back to the store and saw they were also offering cacio e pepe ravioli. I had to try them both.
I tried the frozen pasta first. I was a little skeptical, since cacio e pepe is a pretty simple dish to pull off, but I know people often run into trouble getting it to the right consistency, and also keeping the sauce super creamy. When you open the bag, the pasta is frozen in small nests, and the sauce is frozen in rectangular grey pieces. It’s not very pretty to look at, but the fact that it’s not all frozen in one big chunk means it’s easy to cook half the bag if you’re only feeding one person. The pasta cooks quickly—all it takes is a few tablespoons of water in a hot saucepan, and a few minutes cooking. It took me, start to finish, less than five minutes, and I was pretty pleased by the results. The pasta is a pretty good texture—not the same as a high-quality dried pasta when it’s freshly cooked, but it had a decent chew and the sauce was flavorful, with a nice kick of black pepper. I could see this becoming a go-to quick dinner for someone who doesn’t like to cook or doesn’t feel confident, but for me, I’ll probably stick with making cacio e pepe from scratch.
Cacio e Pepe image Gina Desimone; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis; Food Styling: Adam Dolge
The ravioli was also delicious. There’s less Pecorino flavor, since the filling is also made with ricotta cheese, which gives it a nice creamy texture, but the black pepper in the filling and in the pasta wrappers came through. I ate mine with tomato sauce, since I had some leftover that I needed to use, but it had enough flavor that I think it would also do well on its own, maybe served with some arugula or baby spinach to give it a healthier vibe.
I would say that TJ’s latest foray into cacio e pepe-centric dishes has been a success—both of these are delicious items in a flavor profile I love, that are super convenient and delicious. What’s not to love?