Thursday, April 30, 2015

Trader Joe's Spelt Risotto With Vegetables and Chickpeas

This is one of the weirdest Trader Joe's products I've ever tried.

Let's start with TJ's own description, from a past issue of the Fearless Flyer: "It's a rich, creamy, risotto-like dish, where spelt -- the ancient grain also called farro -- replaces the rice. The result is both luscious and delicious. This is a vegetarian dish that's bursting with vegetables like pumpkin, zucchini, and turnip greens. The addition of garbanzo beans boosts both the protein and fiber level, and smoked provolone cheese gives the dish a lush, rich, and unique flavor that will make you think it was slow-cooked with ham or bacon -- we promise it wasn't."

And here's my description: It's basically globs of chewy (the label calls it "parcooked") wheat in a mild cheese sauce, with a few bits of vegetables thrown in. The proportions are nothing like shown in the photo above.

Now, who are you going to believe--me or Trader Joe's? The only adjective in the Fearless Flyer blurb I can agree with is "unique." I've never had anything like it.

It's not so terrible that I couldn't finish it. In fact, after the Nina dinner at which it debuted, I had it twice more as a side dish with my lunch, finishing off the bag. But it's weird. Who eats gloppy, semi-softened kernels of wheat in cheese sauce? Frankly, the main reason I kept at it was trying to figure out (1) how to describe it for this blog, and (2) whether there was something good about it that I had missed on first tasting. (No.)

Some people claim to like it. See favorable reviews here, here, and here. I do not understand these people. They may not even be of our species.

Will I buy it again? 

Are you kidding me, asking that?

Nina's View 

You know how Bob has his Top Ten for this blog? Well, I’m going to institute a new category/tag: Nina’s Bottom Ten, brought to you by Trader Joe’s Spelt Risotto with Vegetables and Chickpeas.

I don’t even know where to start. This stuff SHOULD have been delicious. But I knew I was in trouble the moment Bob set the serving bowl in front of me. The smell coming off it was atrocious.


It smelled toxic. It smelled as if the plastic handle of the pot they cooked it in had fallen off and melted into the sauce. Smoked plastic. OMG yuck. I actually checked the empty bag to make sure that there hadn’t been an extra sauce pouch (which sometimes TJ’s includes in their frozen items) that somehow ended up in the mixture and contributed its (non)savor to the dish.

I put a serving on my plate. I put a small forkful in my mouth. I thought to myself: “No, this isn’t possibly as bad as it seems!” I swallowed the first bite. I thought surely there must be some mistake, and so I put a second forkful in my mouth.

Nope. The mistake was mine. IN PUTTING THE SECOND FORKFUL INTO MY FACE. I am still trying to wrap my brain around the fact that Bob has apparently had it twice more and actually finished the bag. WHY?????? (Must be that from-another-universe thing.)

I am desperately hoping that when TJ’s describes this product as “unique,” what they mean by that is that they promise never, never, never to make anything even vaguely like it ever again. They proclaim this product was imported from Italy. Apparently the Italians declared war on the US at some point and I didn’t notice, because that’s the only excuse for unleashing this gunk on an unsuspecting population. It may, however, be a violation of the Geneva Convention—as calling this “food" is probably a Crime Against Humanity. For shame, Rome, for shame!

Look, I’m pretty open-minded about food. I like all sorts of stuff. Very few things are likely to land themselves on the newly inaugurated Nina’s Bottom Ten. But this item? This item has earned itself a spot on the lowermost rung of hell that is Spot 10 on the Bottom Ten List. It is going to take something incomprehensibly vile to push it up a notch onto the second rung.


  1. TJ's didn't specify who eats this in Italy, did they?

    Four-legged creatures, perhaps?

  2. Uhh...are you guys crazy? This stuff is delicious and nutritious.

  3. I'm late the game on this blog blog but this risotto is my absolute FAVE thing in the freezer aisle at TJs. I buy three at a time! I ate an entire bag by myself for dinner just last night. Spelt also goes by the name of Farro and in trendy restaurants this is on the menu.

  4. Just had this spelt risotto. It is DElICIOUS!!!

  5. This stuff is really good. You guys are just objectively wrong.

  6. I agree with the blog. This stuff is terrible. Tasted like chewy salt and now my stomach hurts

  7. Hated it! Very disappointed, ugh

  8. Dont nuke it. Heat in skillet with olive oil. Its great. Blog is way off on this one. In fact make all TJ frozen that way. Microwaving in bag is recipe for yuck regardless of directions or what it is including any plain veggies.

  9. I agree with anonymous August 18th, you have to heat in skillet with olive oil. I love it! Unique is true! Don't nuke it!

  10. It has cilantro, some people hate that herb. I just had this tonight, heated it in the microwave in a sistema meant to cook rice in the microwave. It is chewy, but I find it endearing and forgiving (less likely to overcook).