A Guide to Trader Joe’s’ Many Varieties of Ravioli
A lotta ricotta (I’m sorry)
It’s so fun to shop at Trader Joe’s because there’s always something new to try. Is it fall? Well here are 72 new pumpkin-flavored products. Looking for cheap but good booze? The wine aisle is calling your name. Want a 19-cent single banana? You’ve come to the right place.
On a recent trip to Trader Joe’s, I found that the refrigerated aisle contained row upon row of different varieties of ravioli. Has this always been here? It’s not something I ever noticed; did one ravioli take off, thus causing Trader Joe’s to invest in more and more ravioli, much in the same way that the frozen section is crammed full of Indian and Thai entrees and the seasoning shelf has a new blend practically every week? The flavors were exciting and not typical for ravioli I’ve ever had—cacio e pepe, chicken poblano, and caprese were some that caught my eye. I decided to buy all 13 flavors of ravioli that were carried at my Trader Joe’s and taste them, hoping to create a helpful guide for future consumers of Trader Joe’s ravioli.
Different ravioli fillings are undoubtedly going to pair better with different sauces, so for this extremely scientific research I used only olive oil and maldon salt as a constant to be able to fully taste the fillings of each pocket of ravioli before making a conclusion on what sauce I’d pair with each ravioli. Here are my findings:
Honey Roasted PumpkinWhat’s in it: Pumpkin, ricotta cheese, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, honey, sweet potato flakes, brown sugar, and molasses
Recommended sauce pairing: Brown butter and sage with toasted walnuts or pecans
Thoughts: This honey roasted pumpkin ravioli is really, really sweet. It could practically pass for dessert, thanks to all the fragrant and warming spices and the creaminess of the ricotta. I imagine it’d pair well with a brown butter sage sauce and some toasted nuts to bring more textural elements to the table. Honestly, though, if you wanted to fully commit to dessert, I could foresee this drizzled with a cinnamon-spiced glaze. I mean, people have already been making gnocchi cinnamon rolls—why not add ravioli to the mix?
Ricotta & Lemon ZestWhat’s in it: Ricotta cheese, butter, lemon zest, bread crumbs
Recommended pairing: Lemon butter and caper sauce or vinaigrette with fresh tomatoes
Thoughts: Lemon and ricotta pancakes are one of my favorite dishes for breakfast. This, sadly, is reminiscent of that—but not in a good way. The ravioli is cloyingly sweet when my tastebuds were expecting bright and somewhat savory. If you want to enjoy this pasta, I’d recommend having a saltier sauce—like a lemon butter and caper sauce with fresh lemon zest to finish—to balance out of off-putting sweetness. I could also see this working well as a refreshing summer pasta salad with vinaigrette, fresh tomato, and arugula; added bitterness will only help this dish.
Sweet Italian Sausage & 4-CheeseWhat’s in it: Cooked Italian sausage, fennel, butter, spinach, mozzarella, ricotta, provolone, and romano cheese
Recommended sauce pairing: Garlic tomato marinara or pesto
Thoughts: Though it’s described as sweet, this Italian sausage and four cheese pasta is actually rather meaty, with the delicate but unmistakable anise flavor of fennel shining through. This is a ravioli that actually feels like it can be a meal. To balance out the heartiness of the filling, I’d top this ravioli off with a refreshing garlicky tomato sauce or an herbaceous pesto.
LobsterWhat’s in it: Lobster, chives, garlic, mozzarella, ricotta, white wine, lemon juice, Old Bay seasoning
Recommended sauce pairing: Tomato cream sauce
Thoughts: If you’re expecting succulent chunks of lobster stuffed between a delicate pasta dough, this isn’t the ravioli for you. The lobster has been all but pulverized into a paste, reminiscent of creamy fish cakes or shrimp toast. That’s not a bad thing—the filling is smooth and well-seasoned, thanks to the addition of garlic, chives, and the unmistakable and salty flavor of Old Bay. Also, this ravioli is a mere $4.49, so how much lobster were you really gunning for? Regardless, this is a delicious and simple luxury. I’d serve it with a tomato cream sauce to complement the richness of the lobster while still maintaining some acid from tomatoes to cut through the creaminess.
Butternut SquashWhat’s in it: Butternut squash, breadcrumbs, butter, sugar
Recommended sauce pairing: Brown butter and sage sauce with toasted breadcrumbs
Thoughts: The butternut squash is very similar in flavor to the pumpkin, but with less autumnal spices and sweetness. Like the pumpkin ravioli, I think these pockets would shine in a brown butter sage sauce. But instead of crunchy walnuts or pecans, I think the addition of toasted garlicky breadcrumbs will coax out even more savory notes and improve the overall dish.
Porcini Mushroom & TruffleWhat’s in it: Porcini mushrooms, black pepper, garlic, bread crumbs, truffle
Recommended sauce pairing: Cream sauce
Thoughts: The filling in this ravioli is definitely heavy-handed on the salt, so be careful when salting your own pasta water when preparing. Other than that, this ravioli definitely delivers on that distinctive truffle flavor. The porcini mushrooms that make up the majority of the filling are sauteed and pureed before added to their ravioli pockets, resulting in a creamy and savory stuffing. Although this dish is inherently rich, I think I’d double down and pair this with a cream sauce. If you have black truffles on hand, shaving those to finish would really be the cherry on top.
CapreseWhat’s in it: Tomatoes, bread crumbs, basil, mozzarella, ricotta, and parmesan cheese
Recommended sauce pairing: Tomato and basil sauce or balsamic vinaigrette
Thoughts: This is delicious and refreshing! It feels sort of like a summer pasta, so it might not be what I reach for when the weather turns colder, but the filling has that unmistakable cheese pull-quality you get from mozzarella and the flavor of tomatoes and basil shines through. I’d submerge these raviolis either in a tomato basil sauce or covered with a balsamic glaze (which Trader Joe’s already has bottled).
Chicken PoblanoWhat’s in it: Chicken breast, poblano peppers, ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan cheese
Recommended sauce pairing: Spicy verde
Thoughts: Although it has poblano, there isn’t any real heat coming from inside this pasta. In fact, there’s almost a sweetness to it—likely from the generous amount of ricotta. To counteract that, I’d recommend a spicy sauce to go with it. Perhaps a verde sauce blended with jalapenos, or even an arrabiata sprinkled with spicy, caramelized chorizo.
Beef BologneseWhat’s in it: Ground beef, mirepoix, ricotta cheese, breadcrumbs, parmesan, tomato paste, carrots
Recommended sauce pairing: Arrabiata or a meat sauce
Thoughts: Beef bolognese is a winner! You can really taste the layers of beef, the mirepoix, and the cheese. It comes together uniformly; there isn’t an element that is overpowering the pasta at all. The filling is creamy and full of robust tomato flavor. I’d recommend some type of tomato sauce to tie it all together—maybe an arrabiata if you’re into heat or a meat sauce if you want more of that beefy flavor.
Goat Cheese & Sun Dried TomatoWhat’s in it: Ricotta, cream, bread crumbs, goat cheese, sun dried tomatoes
Recommended sauce pairing: I truly don’t know what could redeem this
Thoughts: This was my least favorite of the bunch. I love goat cheese on a cheeseboard, but inside this pasta it was off-putting and abrasively pungent. The sun dried tomato did not help matters; the pasta overall was just too salty and too stinky. If you’re a huge fan of goat cheese and can envision yourself eating a plateful of the stuff, maybe this is the ravioli for you. Otherwise I’d skip this one entirely—one bite was one bite too many.
Arugula & Parmigiano ReggianoWhat’s in it: Ricotta cheese, arugula paste, breadcrumbs, parmigiano reggiano, cream
Recommended sauce pairing: Olive oil, red wine or balsamic vinegar, sea salt flakes
Thoughts: There’s a bitterness to this filling that I should have expected, thanks to the arugula. It wasn’t necessarily unpleasant, but I find that arugula works best when it’s fresh and dressed in a complementary vinaigrette. Perhaps to achieve that refreshing salad flavor, you can toss this pasta with balsamic or red wine vinegar, olive oil, sea salt flecks, and fresh arugula and cherry tomatoes.
Roasted Cauliflower & CheeseWhat’s in it: Roasted cauliflower, ricotta, cream, mozzarella, butter
Recommended sauce pairing: Pesto or drizzle of olive oil
Thoughts: I never expect cauliflower to be flavorful because, as is, it’s usually tasteless. But the roasted qualities of this cauliflower comes through clearly and the remainder of the cheesy filling is gooey and delectable. To cut through some of the heaviness of the cream and butter inside the pasta, I think a light pesto or simple drizzle of olive oil will do the trick.
Cacio e PepeWhat’s in it: Ricotta, cream, pecorino romano, black pepper
Recommended sauce pairing: Butter, parmesan cheese, and black pepper
Thoughts: Honestly, this cacio e pepe ravioli doesn’t need sauce. A bit of olive oil or butter can carry it because the filling is already so flavorful and reminiscent of the classic cacio e pepe we all know and love. If you really want to take that peppery taste to the extremity, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to shower these in additional parmesan cheese and black pepper.