The Easy 5-Ingredient Trader Joe’s Dinner My Husband Goes Ga-Ga For

For a dinner that feels homemade and special but takes just 15 minutes to make, look no further than Trader Joe’s. This hearty soup costs less than $4 per serving.

<p>Simply Recipes / Laurel Randolph</p>

Simply Recipes / Laurel Randolph

I’m a frequent Trader Joe’s shopper, regularly visiting my local store to pick up snacks, flowers, cards, cheese, and wine—just about everything. And while there are a plethora of ready-made meals available in the cool case and freezer section that end up in my cart from time to time, I’ve found the key to creating a memorable meal from Trader Joe’s is to create your own.

I’ve started making my own shortcut dinners using a handful of TJ’s ingredients. They feel fresher and more special than a frozen meal, but they’re just as easy and cost-effective.


One dinner I keep coming back to is Meatball and Tortellini Pesto Soup. It combines a few ready-made ingredients with fresh veg for a one-dish meal that couldn’t be easier. It’s also packed with flavor coming directly from the ingredients themselves. My husband goes ga-ga for this soup and it feels fancy enough that I wouldn’t hesitate to serve it to guests.

<p>Simply Recipes / Laurel Randolph</p>

Simply Recipes / Laurel Randolph

Trader Joe’s Meatball and Tortellini Pesto Soup Recipe

To make this soup, you’ll need to make a quick trip to the frozen section, grab a couple of things from the pantry aisle, and snag the pasta and spinach from the cold case. It’s also easy (and even cheaper!) to make vegetarian. This hearty, one-dish dinner will cost you less than $4 per serving and takes just 15 minutes to throw together. Serves 4 as a main.

  • 1 (32-ounce) carton organic low-sodium chicken broth

  • 1 (16-ounce) package fully cooked frozen Italian-style meatballs

  • 1 (10-ounce) package spinach tortellini

  • 1 (6.7-ounce) jar pesto alla Genovese

  • 1 (6-ounce) bag fresh baby spinach

Add the broth to a 2.5-quart or larger saucepan along with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Add the meatballs (no need to defrost), bring to a simmer, and cook until warmed through, about 10 minutes. If desired, skim off any scum from the top.

Add the tortellini and simmer until they are all floating and puffed up, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and add half of the jar of pesto and half of the baby spinach. Stir to combine and wilt the spinach. Taste, adding more pesto as needed (I usually add about 3/4 of the bottle). If desired, add more spinach and stir to wilt.

Serve hot. If you want bonus points, grate the top with Parmesan cheese or sprinkle with fresh parsley, although it’s not necessary.

For a vegetarian version, use vegetable broth, skip the meatballs, and simply cook the pasta. Add all of the pesto and spinach and salt to taste. A drained can of white beans is a nice addition and makes it heartier.