Finally fall is upon us. Right around this year, there is something so right about plucking a beautiful apple right off the tree. Lugging home a nice haul. Baking something aromatic and yummy. Lighting a [pumpkin scented] candle. Sitting around the fire. Wrapping a scarf around your neck. Sharing laughs and stories with friends and family. Yes, Trader Joe's is one of my happy places where I enjoy frolicking up and down the aisles, saying hi to old friends and discovering the new. And it exists in a beautiful but broken world. I cannot post lighthearted content without acknowledging that there are countless lives now ripped asunder by unfathomable evil. And catastrophic storms. And callous responses for that matter. We do not live in a bubble free from suffering and pain. And perhaps that's about as much as I can say coherently without trivializing the impact of recent events or turning this into a much deeper philosophical stream-of-consciousness rant - I believe y'all who read this keep up with the news. Life is hard. Life doesn't always make sense. But there is hope. Would we be moved toward action that perpetuates hope.
What does this have to do with pasta or pasta sauce? Not much. Please don't find all your comfort in a pasta or pasta sauce. Put your stock in something a bit meatier, and I don't mean meat! Back to our regularly scheduled post.
This pair was strategically displayed side-by-side where it basically felt wrong to pick up one without the other. Autumn harvest pasta sauce and pumpkin-shaped pasta. I mean, how can you adopt a baby and leave his brother behind? Literally. Zucchette means little pumpkins. Also, I saw a mom grab a pack of zucchette, exclaiming that little Johnny (or whatever his real name is) would have these for Halloween. I won't deny that I'm a seasonal bandwagoner. :P
I was particularly interested in the sauce because I looked at it skeptically last year and passed. At first, I saw heavy cream on the back and automatically thought like so many health-conscious Trader Joe's patrons, "Gasp. Cream. Fattening. Bad for you!" Literally...this happened the other day in the pasta sauce aisle and the guy almost dropped the pasta sauce. But he caught it and turned out to be my high school classmate. Small world.
But...y'know there's pureed vegetables in there, which cancels out the cream right? I know that's not how it works, but at least it has veggies. Also..isn't this what the French eat? Pureed vegetables and cream/butter in like everything?
Usually, I end up doctoring store-bought pasta sauce. But for some reason, I tasted this sauce right out of the jar and knew that I'd better prepare this the no-nonsense way. Which means boil the pasta per package directions, drain, and dump on the sauce (saute a wee bit so the sauce clings to the noodles). It's one-pot and exactly how I would do it in a college dorm room. My friends - let me TELL YOU about this sauce. It's creamy, hearty, and terribly comforting. On first taste, it reminded me of a rich tomato soup except balanced with a nice sweetness. I guess that's the pumpkin, the butternut squash, and the carrot puree but I wouldn't guess those ingredients immediately in a blind taste test. It has a nice muted orange color, vaguely reminiscent of a vodka sauce. It's seasoned just right (yes, the sodium count is on the higher side.....but I'm not eating this everyday) and that texture is oh so perfect for a chilly day. It's the cream y'all. The richness makes the sauce feel complete, even without added veggies or meat (although A says the sauce can only get better with meat :P).
As for the pasta, it has the novelty factor. Although the package said 7-9 minutes, I ended up cooking it for 10ish minutes to make sure that it was cooked through. The shape made it more challenging to get to an al dente consistency. Also, try not to drop the pasta on the floor like I did because it shatters pretty easily, which defeats the purpose of the pumpkin shape. Did the shape hold onto the sauce better than any other pasta? Ehh..jury's out on that one. Maybe? I feel like a rotini would still get the job done.
The price point is considerably reasonable - $3.49 for an indulgent but not too crazy seasonal pasta sauce. It's easily worth more - probably in the $5-7 range. If we're sticking with the adopting the baby analogy - in this case, I'd say take home the brother and ditch the baby pumpkins? That sounds..so heartless. But get on this bandwagon while fall is around y'all.
TL;DR: Trader Joe's Fall Zucchette Pasta. Little pumpkin-shaped pasta. It's cute, but take it or leave it. 5.5 out of 10.
TL;DR: Trader Joe's Autumnal Harvest Creamy Pasta Sauce. Quintessential, comforting, NON-PUMPKIN SPICE autumnal delight. 9 out of 10.