Every Trader Joe's Fresh Stuffed Pasta, Ranked From Worst To Best

If you have a hankering for fresh pasta with a little something special, the Trader Joe's refrigerator aisle is the place to be. There you'll find a wide selection of tortellini and ravioli stuffed with an assortment of cheese, meats, and produce. While you can always try and make perfect pasta on your own (which we definitely encourage you to do), it's a time-consuming process that requires patience and some trial and error, not to mention the major mess you'll need to deal with after your meal.

Alternatively, you can simply mosey on over to Trader Joe's, grab a pasta package, boil some water (don't forget the salt!), dump those stuffed morsels into the pot, wait a few minutes, drain, sauce, maybe top with a sprinkling of cheese, and you're ready to eat. While all of these options are simple to prepare, some are better than others in the taste department. We dug in and sampled every fresh stuffed pasta available at Trader Joe's and ranked them from the worst to the very best. Keep in mind, that what's in stock one day at TJ's may not be available the next, and this covers what was available at the time of publication.

12. Lobster ravioli

For an individual who has a special occasion coming up and wants to impress a certain someone, whether it's Valentine's Day, a birthday, or an anniversary, this might seem like an easy (and frugal, but no judgment from us) option to deliver a celebratory meal with little fuss and low risk of failure.

We're disappointed to report that this eye-popping ravioli, which is decorated with red stripes to remind you of the cooked lobster within, is a bland offering. Things went awry when we placed our ravioli into the pot. While we were careful, thr flimsy pasta wrapper meant that a lot of the costly crustacean spilled out of the pasta casing during the boil. That means you mostly end up with lobster-infused pasta and not necessarily lobster-filled pasta.

When you do come across a ravioli that didn't burst and spread that precious seafood meat into the sea of your boiling pot, the lobster within is lacking in flavor. The other strike against this product is that it expires more rapidly than its counterparts. While a lobster meal for under $5 may seem like a bargain, you're better off splurging on large morsels of meat if you want a taste of the real deal.

11. Cacio e pepe ravioli

A favorite dish of the Romans in non-ravioli form, cacio e pepe is perhaps the simplest weeknight meal around. It's basically the Italian version of mac and cheese. Traditionally, it's made with just three components: spaghetti, cheese, and pepper.

Unfortunately, just like the Trader Joe's Cacio e Pepe Puffs, this creative spin can't compete with the classic rendition. The ravioli filling is rather sparse and a bit on the sweeter side. Cacio e pepe should definitely not taste sweet. While there is plenty of pepper mixed into the pasta dough (though not enough to make this too spicy for a child's sensitive palate), creaminess, a major component of cacio e pepe, is non-existent. The addition of a butter sauce would help remedy that situation, but at that point, you might as well just make traditional cacio e pepe. At the end of the day, this was far from our favorite Trader Joe's stuffed pasta dish. Cacio e pepe is simple but spectacular. This is just simple.

10. Goat cheese & sundried tomato ravioli

If this ravioli grabbed your attention because you're a fan of goat cheese, we have some bad news for you. Yes, this stuffed pasta entry from Trader Joe's has an eye-grabbing, mouthwatering description, but it doesn't live up to its billing. The quintessential tang of goat cheese is only vaguely present. Depending on the bite, you might detect that there is, in fact, sundried tomato somewhere in the mix, but it's most noticeable when a piece of its leathery skin becomes wedged between your teeth. Bottom line, for how it's advertised, the flavors were much too muted.

The disappointment might lie in the fact that the entire package of ravioli was woefully understuffed. When you're selling us on a combo of goat cheese or sundried tomatoes, go big or go home. It amounted to a collection of thin pasta wafers with a scant amount of the raison d'être. If you have a vegetarian diet and want some variety in your home-cooking line-up, this is a purchase to consider. But otherwise, there are better options out there.

9. Cheese tortellini

Allow us to present the easiest answer to the eternal question of "what's for dinner?" If you're a frequent shopper at Trader Joe's, there's a good chance you've picked up a package of the chain's cheese tortellini. It's always available, quick to make for a weeknight meal, and approved by even the pickiest of palates (here's lookin' at you, kids).

The curly pasta shell itself is pleasingly chewy. It's the filling, however, that disappoints. Stuffed with a trio of ricotta, Romano, and Parmesan (listed in order of prominence in the blend), it seems like a slam dunk for cheese lovers (which we most certainly are). The issue is that the queso combo is so sparse you can barely taste it.

Despite the disappointing lack of cheese, you can still make a tasty meal out of TJ's tortellini. Since the filling components are rather neutral and don't have any aggressive or potent flavor notes (a subtle amount of garlic, salt, white pepper, basil, and nutmeg are present, but you wouldn't necessarily know it), this pairs nicely with any sauce. Whether it's a jar of ragu, a dollop of pesto, or even a coating of creamy alfredo, you can't go wrong. We'd also recommend a hefty shaving of Parmesan if you want a truly cheesy meal.

8. Spinach tortellini

As you may have surmised by its ranking, we enjoyed the Trader Joe's spinach tortellini more than the cheese version, but not by much. As you may recall, our main issue with the cheese tortellini was the filling, or rather, lack thereof. The combination of the leafy green and another trifecta of cheeses (in this case ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan) offered a little extra flavor but still left us wanting more.

Another turnoff is that despite their small package, these tortellini pack in a lot of ingredients, over a couple of dozen by our count. Still, for $2.75 (50 cents more than the cheese tortellini — and yes, it's worth the extra quarters), it's hard to complain too much since the 10-ounce package can feed two people. While it may have its shortcomings, considering the price tag, the Trader Joe's spinach tortellini is a solid budget buy, but we suggest using the funds you'll be saving on Parmesan and pesto sauce to wake it up a little bit.  

7. Porcini mushroom & truffle ravioli

Trader Joe's serves up a fungi-forward stuffed pasta that we would argue aims a bit too high. With earthy porcini mushrooms and decadent truffles as the spotlight ingredients, it unfortunately falls into the same trap as its lobster ravioli offering. By that we mean the headline truffle is generally delicious, but this is not the best venue for the pricey ingredient. 

While there is a tendency to use the phony, chemical-based, Alton Brown-loathed truffle oil in store-bought "truffle" products that isn't the case here. This is legitimately dosed with actual truffle, per the ingredients list, and you can see black specks of the mushroom as proof. To ensure we didn't overwhelm the flavor the filling, we kept things simple with a toss in melted butter, per the package's recommendation (for the perfect movie pairing, you can't do better than "Pig" for some Nicholas Cage truffle hunter action).

But while truffle oil isn't an ingredient, there is a strange artificial truffle note that lingers on the palate. Perhaps the vague "natural flavor" listed among the ingredients is to blame. While this is without a doubt the superior Trader Joe's "luxury" ravioli pick compared to the lobster ravioli, it doesn't quite hit the mark. 

6. Organic Caprese ravioli

It's worth noting right off the bat that appearances can be deceiving. The dual-banded red and yellow visual appeal of this ravioli does fade after it's gone through a few minutes in boiling water. But in a blind taste test, this would earn high marks.

Because Caprese salad is a familiar appetizer order at Italian restaurants, you'd hope it captures that mozzarella, tomato, and basil combo — and indeed it does. We appreciated the ooey-gooeyness of the mozzarella stuffing. Sun-dried tomatoes bring sweetness and tanginess, while herbaceous basil certainly came to play.

One of the most appealing aspects of the Caprese ravioli is that it offers so much flavor and texture on its own that you don't have to do much else to dress it up. Just add some extra virgin olive oil, a grating of good parmesan, and a rough chop of fresh basil, and you're good to go. Also, Trader Joe's made a point to put "organic" front and center on the package, so if that's important to you, put this on your grocery list pronto.

5. Chicken & 4 cheese ravioli

Here's a rare meat-filled member of Trader Joe's stuffed pasta line-up, so if you're looking for a boost in protein, this might be the ticket. According to the package, this made using only chickens that were raised without antibiotics or added hormones and were treated to an all-vegetarian diet (a bit ironic since, as we just mentioned, this is one of the few carnivorous options). Unlike the lobster, the chicken pieces make a positive impact when it comes to both flavor and texture. 

As for the four cheeses, you've got familiar favorites ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, and Romano in the mix. The creaminess of the ricotta and the sharp umami of the Parmesan and Romano blend are most evident here. Unfortunately, we couldn't really detect the mozzarella, but it also wasn't especially missed. Three cheeses were plenty enough, and there wass an additional flavor boost courtesy of onions, parsley, basil, and particularly rosemary.

The main drawback of the Trader Joe's chicken & 4 cheese ravioli was that the pasta wrapping was indeed thin as advertised on the package. Be very careful to not overcook the ravioli and to delicately spoon them onto your plate, as they run the risk of falling apart.

4. Arugula & Parmigiano Reggiano ravioli

With arugula getting top billing in the description, you wouldn't be wrong to consider this a dark horse candidate for the top-tier Trader Joe's stuffed pasta varieties. Apparently, we need more salad greens in our ravioli. The first bite of this reminded us of a dolma thrown into reverse — with starch on the outside, veggies on the inside. It shared a dolma's traits of having oodles of savory tang and zip.

With a well-crafted mash-up of creamy ricotta cheese complemented by the gentle bitterness and pepperiness of arugula and an appropriate amount of lemon zest, it really delivers. In fact, the citrus contribution may actually be the key to its appeal, and the essential ingredient to what makes this one special.

This holds up with a red sauce, but a butter-based situation might be more appropriate here. Throw in some capers if you feel like amping up the tang and vinegar elements.

3. Roasted cauliflower & cheese ravioli

Much like Brussels sprouts, cauliflower tended to get a bad rap back in the day. But in recent years, the snow-white cruciferous veggie has found its footing in the culinary pantheon. And it can be said that Trader Joe's has played an important role in that foodie elevation. As for as grocery chains go, TJ's is the undisputed cauliflower king, with numerous products that highlight the vegetable on the shelves including cauliflower gnocchi, cauliflower pizza crust, and spicy Mexican-style riced cauliflower. But, dare we say, this might be the store's best cauliflower offering of all.

We'd liken this to a pile of pierogis more than we would a bowl of ravioli. Compared to the other Trader Joe's ravioli offerings, this was exceptionally well-stuffed. Each bite contained a very smooth filling that we anticipated to be a bit gritty because cauliflower can be that way, but we were delighted by the delicate, creamy texture. The combination of roasted cauliflower and the umami of Grana Padano (one of multiple cheeses listed among the ingredients) is a definite winner.  

2. Ricotta & lemon zest ravioli

The Trader Joe's ricotta & lemon zest ravioli immediately caught our eye thanks to the charming image of a bicycle with a basket stuffed with provisions and sunflowers. The vibrant flavors within this ravioli certainly evoke the brightness and cheeriness of the summer, when sunflowers are in their peak season.

The lemon zest in the stuffing is apparent, but not overpowering. It adds incredible depth to the creaminess of the ricotta. Given that this is a store-bought deli case ravioli from the market, it's especially impressive. It has the same simplicity we described in the cacio e pepe ravioli, but with an actual wow factor. We wouldn't bludgeon this special ravioli with an aggressive tomato sauce or an overly vegetal pesto. If you're feeling extra cheesy, play around with an alfredo, but that might be overdoing it.

Let the pasta sing with a butter or olive oil dressing flavored with one or two mild, fresh herbs (we'd recommend sage or oregano). A light sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan will make this a special meal any day of the week.

1. Butternut squash ravioli

Red alert! Red alert! Do not under any circumstances apply a red sauce to this delightful ravioli. It would completely overshadow the warm, cozy flavor notes that butternut squash brings to the table. This is comfort food at its core, with an ample sweet and savory filling and a pasta wrapper sturdier than the ones in the other Trader Joe's ravioli products. It begs for a basic, simple brown butter sauce to add layers of nuttiness to the butternut. We'd also recommend accenting that brown butter with autumnal herbs (preferably fresh, but dried works just fine) such as sage or thyme to add some dimension. While fall would be an optimal time to serve butternut squash ravioli, feel free to enjoy this delight any time of the year.  

This is yet another overwhelmingly appealing vegetarian option from Trader Joe's. With its triangular structure, it also begs for further conversation about the shape of pasta, particularly of the stuffed variety. More store-bought stuffed pastas should consider following this lead as we found this 3-edged structure to be less prone to leaking the key ingredients.