Valentine's Day is right around the corner, so perhaps you're still thinking about your dinner plans with that special someone. Personally, I'll be cooking! After falling for far too many overpriced Valentine's Day meals out, my husband and I made a vow to one another that from now on, we're cooking at home on this extremely commercialized day of love.
So as I was searching for the perfect meal to cook this year, one popped up over and over on my Instagram and TikTok feeds: Five-ingredient Trader Joe's "lobster pasta." I first saw this recipe posted by @traderjoes5itemsorless, an Instagram account that I love and reference often for dinner inspo.
There are iterations of this same recipe all over the internet. It seemed super indulgent, simple, affordable, and delicious. So naturally, I wanted to try it out to see if it lived up to the hype. Could this be the perfect budget-friendly date night dinner?
@seafood_network / Via tiktok.com
Lobster is incredibly delicious and perfect for special occasions, but I'm not sure who needs to hear this, it's a luxury. It's quite expensive! Here is a portion of fresh lobster meat that I found for just under $80 a pound. Ouch!
But as the internet has discovered, Trader Joe's sells bags of frozen langostino tails for just under $15. This happens to be one of the pricier items you can find at TJ's, but it contains a whole lot of shellfish — 12 ounces, to be exact. Langostino (or langoustine) is basically a slightly smaller but very close cousin to a lobster. In terms of taste and texture, it's nearly identical if you ask me, but it's a quarter of the price of fresh lobster meat.
So off to Trader Joe's I went... Some people on TikTok are using Trader Joe's Argentinian red shrimp in place of the langostino because they're a bit cheaper. I happen to be a huge fan of the red shrimp, and they are a staple in my freezer, so I heavily support the motion. I, however, wanted to try out the langostino.
And you might be wondering why I opted for fresh basil instead of Parmesan cheese. There are several reasons. First of all, I don't personally love mixing cheese and seafood (even on pasta). Secondly, I figured this dish might be creamy enough on its own, thanks to the bisque. And finally, I think fresh herbs are the key to making a meal feel a bit elevated.
Let's talk pasta, too. You can obviously pick any pasta shape you like best. IMO, a shorter, thicker noodle is essential for any creamy pasta sauce. It sticks to the crevices and sops up the sauce better than a longer shape like pappardelle or spaghetti. I'm usually a rigatoni girl, but I wanted to try the gigli (mostly because I love saying the name).
As you can see from my receipt, all the ingredients you need to make this meal at home cost me $29.35. This may be pricier than what you'd tend to spend for an everyday dinner at home, but if you consider what a special occasion meal at a restaurant would cost, this feels like a bargain.
I used roughly 8 ounces of pasta, half a 12-ounce bag of pre-cooked langostino tails, 3/4 container of lobster bisque soup, and a big ol' handful of cherry tomatoes. This easily fed two people. For non-date nights, you could serve four people by using the whole bags of langostino tails and pasta. Either way, you can easily whip up this recipe in about 20 minutes.
Before we get onto the cooking, a word on Trader Joe's lobster bisque soup. A container of this stuff costs $5, so I wouldn't go into it expecting a generous portion of lobster meat. My bisque had very tiny bits of lobster throughout, with one or two noticeable chunks. For this reason, IMO, I started to see why it could function better as a pasta sauce than a standalone soup...
I gathered my ingredients and started cooking. Start by thawing the langostino tails under some cool water and boiling the pasta. Grab some olive oil from your pantry and sauté the cherry tomatoes until they're soft and juicy. Then add the defrosted langostino. I also added some salt and pepper.
I hope we can all agree that pasta should always be cooked al dente. Make sure to undercook it because the noodles will briefly continue cooking in the bisque. Add the cooked pasta to the tomato and langostino, pour in the bisque, and stir it all up so the pasta is nicely coated. I let everything simmer for another minute or so.
Transfer the pasta to a bowl and garnish with basil (you could also add the Parmesan at this point). I added a little more salt and pepper for good measure.
As for the consensus? I would 1000% make this again. It was extremely good and decadent. Plus, it was so easy to make and really did taste restaurant quality. With just these five ingredients, this recipe is a keeper, but I think you could add a few more ingredients to really take it to the next level. I would add a little lemon juice for acidity, maybe some toasted bread crumbs on top, and perhaps some sautéed garlic and shallot for a little more flavor.
If you still don't know what to cook for Valentine's Day dinner, this viral recipe is well worth the hype — and way cheaper than a night out. It would be difficult to screw up, it comes together with minimal effort, it's an affordable riff on an otherwise expensive meal, and it's really quite tasty. If your love language is cooking, give this one a go on Valentine's Day or for your next date night.