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I Taste-Tested Trader Joe’s Pasta Sauces: Here Are the 5 Best

Credit: Samantha Jenkins for

One thing Trader Joe’s knows how to do exceedingly well is variety, and this variety, of course, extends to their arsenal of pasta sauces. From the traditional Marinara sauce to other spaghetti sauces, they have around twenty different options, but, in my opinion, these are the five best pasta sauces you can buy at Trader Joe’s. I taste-tested all of them and can tell you that they’re packed with flavor. While you can use them with whatever pasta you like, I’ll let you know which types of pasta would pair best with each sauce.

1. Bolognese Style Tomato & Beef Pasta Sauce

Trader Joe’s Bolognese Style Tomato & Beef Pasta Sauce/Credit: Samantha Jenkins

You’ve probably tried this traditional Italian pasta sauce unless you’re a vegetarian. Bolognese is a tomato sauce that features ground meat, usually beef, pork, or a mix of the two. In this case, it’s made with beef.

Trader Joe’s take on the Bolognese sauce is seriously impressive when it comes to the meat. While the average Bolognese contains 6%, their version has a whopping 9%. A 3% increase may not sound like much, but having tried this sauce multiple times, I can confirm that it’s far beefier than your typical Bolognese.

It’s packed with a rich, sweet flavor thanks to the use of imported Italian tomatoes, which are less acidic and more sweet than your average tomato.

Besides the meat and tomatoes, there’s olive oil, garlic, basil, oregano, and even some fennel seed and rosemary to round everything out and give the sauce its classic Italian flavor.

I like to pair it with a wider pasta shape like tagliatelle since you’ll need something sturdy to partner with this super meaty sauce.

2. Cacio E Pepe Pasta Sauce

Trader Joe’s Cacio E Pepe Pasta Sauce/Credit: Samantha Jenkins

Made with Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper, this Trader Joe’s pasta sauce tastes impressively similar to what you’d find at an Italian restaurant. I’m no Italian food connoisseur, but I’ve tasted plenty of bad cream sauces, and this is not one of them.

The Cacio e Pepe sauce just hits the mark for me. It’s creamy and velvety without being overly rich. The salty Pecorino Romano is on full display, and with only a couple of ingredients in the sauce, the cheese flavor shines through.

The other main flavor in this sauce is, of course, the black pepper. It brings a bold, spicy kick, and you can really taste it. In my opinion, black pepper is a seriously underrated spice. It’s used in tons of dishes, but it rarely gets to be the star of the dish. Well, it certainly gets its time to shine in this pasta sauce from Trader Joe’s.

I recommend pairing it with spaghetti since that’s how this dish is traditionally served, but you can always opt for bucatini if you want to try something a little bit different.

3. Creamy Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce

Trader Joe’s Creamy Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce/Credit: Samantha Jenkins

Tomato and basil are a classic pairing, especially when it comes to Italian foods. Combining fresh, bright tomatoes with herbaceous, sweet basil just makes sense. Clearly, Trader Joe’s agrees with the masses because they carry several tomato basil pasta sauces.

My favorite of all their tomato basil pasta sauces is the Creamy Tomato Basil. Thanks to the addition of parmesan and cream, it has the best of both worlds. It’s bright and fresh with all the classic flavors you’d expect from a tomato sauce, but it also has that rich creaminess you’d expect from a cream sauce.

This is my favorite Trader Joe’s pasta sauce because it has a little something for everyone. The taste and texture here are very similar to a vodka sauce, and the basil gives it that extra oomph of flavor to keep things interesting.

Shells, or conchiglie, are one of my favorite pasta shapes of all time, so I love pairing this sauce with them. The shells pick up a little extra sauce, so there’s a burst of flavor in each bite.

4. Organic Marinara Sauce

Trader Joe’s Organic Marinara Sauce/Credit: Samantha Jenkins

Trader Joe’s hit the nail on the head when they described their Marinara sauce as the “epitome of a simple sauce.” This sauce is basic in the best way possible.

There are pureed California tomatoes that make a medium-thick texture with bold tomato flavor, plus many herbs and seasonings like garlic, oregano, and, of course, basil. These bring a depth of flavor to the tomato base without overpowering it. There’s also a dash of parmesan cheese in the sauce, which brings some nuttiness and salt into the equation.

Since this is as classic as pasta sauces get, you’re safe pairing it with any type of pasta. It’s particularly good when paired with their Cauliflower Gnocchi, though, because the bright tomato flavor drowns out any leftover cauliflower flavor and makes the pasta taste like true gnocchi.

5. Three Cheese Pomodoro Pasta Sauce

Trader Joe’s Three Cheese Pomodoro Pasta Sauce/Credit: Samantha Jenkins

Pomodoro sounds fancy, but the word just means “tomato” in Italian, so there’s nothing too outlandish here. Besides the obvious tomato flavor, there’s a trio of cheeses featured in this Trader Joe’s pasta sauce – Romano, Parmesan, and Asiago.

These three cheeses bring a unique blend of nuttiness, salt, and umami to the tomato base. They also bring out the natural sweetness of the tomatoes. The texture in the sauce has a rustic, chunky feel to it. There are big chunks of tomato throughout, which makes it feel more like a homemade pasta sauce.

I recommend pairing this sauce with hollow pasta shapes like ziti or penne because the chunks of tomato can be transported from your plate to your mouth via the hollowed-out pasta.

About the Author

Samantha Jenkins is a food writer and digital marketing manager with a passion for storytelling, perusing grocery store aisles, reading menus, and eating really good food.

In her free time, she enjoys baking, performing in musicals, and cohosting the East Coast Haunts podcast.

December 27, 2023