With an option for pressure cooker, slow cooker AND stovetop, there’s no reason not to make this amazingly delicious and simple harvest pasta sauce full of warm, fall, savory flavors. 


Ever since the nice associate at Trader Joe’s talked me into buying the harvest pasta sauce on display there (let’s be honest, it doesn’t take much to talk me into buying literally anything at Trader Joe’s – I love that place), I’ve been dying to recreate it and post a recipe.

Incidentally, that same trip, I also bought a case of their semisweet chocolate chunks and another case of pickled beets (be still my heart), but that’s a story for another day.

No offense to my beloved TJ’s, but I think my homemade version of their harvest pasta sauce is better, which is saying a lot, because I quite enjoyed the taste and flavor of the one I got talked into buying. I snapped a picture of the ingredients before I tossed the jar, and after a few variations, we’re stuck on this one. It’s amazing.

Trader Joe's Copycat Harvest Pasta Sauce

Savory and creamy and full of all the flavors I love during fall, the deliciousness is unreal. My husband and kids are undeniably good eaters (me, too!), but I haven’t heard rave reviews about a meal, like I did this one, for a long while. Everyone loved it. From the 30+ (ok, 35+) mom and dad down to the often-picky 4-year old sister.

It doesn’t hurt that the nutritious vegetables (pumpkin! butternut squash! tomatoes!) are blended to smithereens after cooking so you’re left with the smoothest, creamiest, yummiest sauce ever. I’m all about texture in some dishes, but this dreamy sauce was meant to be silky and smooth.

Because I want everyone to have this sauce in their life, I’ve given options for making this in a pressure cooker, slow cooker or on the stovetop. I’ve only ever made it in the pressure cooker (because it’s just so darn easy to set and forget the Instant Pot), but the cooking method is so simple, it’s a no-brainer to extrapolate this to a slow cooker or pot on the stove; all the cooking methods allow the incredible flavors to develop.

Who knew that pumpkin and butternut squash were a match made in heaven paired with tomatoes, a touch of creaminess, and simple, flavorful spices? This one’s a keeper. (And bonus: the cooked and cooled sauce freezes beautifully.)

Trader Joe's Copycat Harvest Pasta Sauce

What To Serve
Divine Breadsticks
Autumn Salad with Maple Balsamic Dressing
Consider adding a protein like the meatballs from this recipe or simple, grilled chicken

One Year Ago: Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake with Chocolate Cookie Crust
Two Years Ago: Gourmet Caramel Apples + Free Printable Handout
Three Years Ago: Black Bean and Butternut Enchilada Skillet

Harvest Pasta Sauce {Trader Joe’s Copycat}

Yield: Serves 6-8

Harvest Pasta Sauce {Trader Joe’s Copycat}

Make sure the butternut squash is cut into small enough pieces so it doesn't take an extra long time to cook through - I go for about 1/2-inch pieces. The cooking times given for each method are not only to cook the squash but mostly to allow the flavors time to blend.

I've only ever made this in the pressure cooker (in the Instant Pot), but I have included slow cooker and stovetop methods since the simple recipe is easy to modify. Keep an eye on the sauce to make sure that it doesn't reduce too much using the stovetop (adding liquid as needed).

The leftovers of this sauce freeze great!


  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chopped carrots (about 4 medium)
  • 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 15-ounce can cooked pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2 to 3 cups diced butternut squash (about 12 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth or stock
  • 1 tablespoon granulated or brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning (I used a Tuscan blend from Penzey's)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup half and half or cream (or try milk)
  • Hot, cooked pasta for serving
  • Parmesan cheese, for serving


  1. Pressure cooker: Heat the butter using the saute function (in the InstantPot) or by heating the pressure cooker over medium heat on the stove (for stovetop pressure cookers). Add the onion, garlic and carrots, and saute for 2-3 minutes, until onions are translucent.
  2. Add the tomatoes, pumpkin, squash, chicken broth, sugar, salt, parsley, pepper, Italian seasoning, and cayenne. Stir to combine. Close the pressure cooker and bring to high pressure. Cook for 20 minutes. Let the pressure cooker naturally release for 10 minutes, then release the rest of the pressure.
  3. Use an immersion blender (or transfer the mixture in batches to a blender - taking care as hot liquids expand while blending) to blend until smooth. Stir in the half and half or cream. Thin with additional broth or cream/milk, if needed. Serve over hot, cooked pasta and garnish with Parmesan cheese.
  4. For the slow cooker: Combine all the ingredients, except the half and half or cream, in a slow cooker and cook on low for 4-6 hours until the squash is tender and flavors have combined well. Use an immersion blender (or transfer the mixture in batches to a blender - taking care as hot liquids expand while blending) to blend until smooth. Stir in the half and half or cream. Thin with additional broth or cream/milk, if needed. Serve over hot, cooked pasta and garnish with Parmesan cheese.
  5. For the stovetop: Heat the butter in a 4- or 5-quart pot (or similar size) over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and carrots, and saute for 2-3 minutes, until onions are translucent.
  6. Add the tomatoes, pumpkin, squash, chicken broth, sugar, salt, parsley, pepper, Italian seasoning, and cayenne. Stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and cook, covered, for 50-60 minutes until the squash is tender, stirring every once in a while to make sure the sauce doesn't stick (reduce the heat as needed). If it looks like it's reducing while cooking, add another 1/2 cup of broth or so.
  7. Use an immersion blender (or transfer the mixture in batches to a blender - taking care as hot liquids expand while blending) to blend until smooth. Stir in the half and half or cream. Thin with additional broth or cream/milk, if needed. Serve over hot, cooked pasta and garnish with Parmesan cheese.

Recipe Source: from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

Disclaimer: this post contains an Amazon affiliate link for the Instant Pot I bought there; feel free to shop around for the best price!

56 Responses to Harvest Pasta Sauce {Trader Joe’s Copycat}

  1. Tee Emm says:

    Thanks for this!
    I’ve used the TJ’s harvest version to make a quick pork ragout – brown a couple pounds of cubed tenderloins, saute a couple onions, then combine both with the sauce, tweaking the seasoning with sage and salt, thinned it with a few ounces of beer, and served it over soft, creamy polenta (lots of milk and butter) topped with a bit of some grated parm.
    Since I’ve now found your recipe, I’m not limited by the seasonal availability of the jars.

  2. Jennifer says:

    I simply don’t have words for the deliciousness of this sauce. Thanks for the great recipe! How long does this sauce stay good? I wonder if Infinity Jars will help this sauce last longer? https://infinityjars.com/collections/screw-top-jars

  3. Tara says:

    Mel, this was so tasty! Loved getting so many veggies into my kids without their knowledge and I love that you gave the cooking options. I was wondering if I could suggest a 4th option for Vitamix/Blentec? I think after sautéing, everything could go into the blender to puree and then simmer on the stove to cook. Just a thought! I may try it next time!

  4. Anna S. says:

    I’ve made this three times now and love using frozen chopped butternut squash. It is a good size to start out with so that is one less thing to chop! Thanks for the tasty recipe!

  5. Anna K. says:

    Wow this was good. I made the pressure cooker version and pretty much followed the recipe exactly except that I thought it needed a lot more salt. When I tasted it with the salt as written I wasn’t a fan, but another 1.5 tsps of salt helped meld the flavors. (I did use water instead of chicken stock so that would have reduced my salt slightly from the original.) Anyway, we were big fans and I’ll be putting this in the rotation for sure. Thanks so much!

  6. tisha says:

    Thanks for this recipe. At the end, I decided to season it more aggressively with salt and pepper than you have here, but that’s totally a matter of personal choice. I love the TJ’s version, but this is even better IMO. To top it off, I now have a jar full in my fridge and two large containers of it in my freezer, so I will have autumnal harvest pasta sauce forever.

    I’m thinking this might make a good soup, too, with the addition of more chicken stock–sort of an autumnal harvest bisque. I might try that by using some thyme with the carrots, onion, and garlic in the first step.

  7. Melissa says:

    Wow – this is amazing!!! Even all my kids liked it! This is definitely a keeper and going into regular fall meal rotation! Now if it didn’t cost $20 to buy a butternut squash here in Japan, I’d be even happier.

    • Anna K. says:

      Can you use kabocha? That’s a Japanese squash, no? I love it and may try it in this recipe even though I can easily get butternut squash.

  8. Tami says:

    SO DELICIOUS! Thank You!

  9. Kristin C says:

    This was super yummy! I used my crock pot and it worked perfectly. Thank you!!

  10. Ashlee says:

    I liked this sauce, my kids chose the alfredo sauce after trying this, and my husband said he felt like he was eating glorified baby food… not sure what the Trader Joe’s version is like but I couldn’t get that visual of baby food out of my head after he said that… silly husband!

  11. Stacey says:

    Oh my, this was one of the best things ever! I loved the complexity of flavors. Worked so well in the IP. I didn’t enjoy prepping the butternut, but bonus — I have enough of it left to make another batch which I most definitely will do (even though I had quite a bit left over)….cause I just don’t think I can have too much of this sauce in the freezer.

  12. Collette says:

    Did you buy the little harvest pumpkin pasta to go with it??

  13. Chelsey says:

    This was so good! Reminded me of the Dave’s Gourmet Butternut squash sauce Costco used to sell. But better! The only downside is it totally ruined my blender. I didn’t realize you can’t put hot ingredients in most blenders! The good news is I wanted a new one anyway! I’m investing in an immersion blender! And looking forward to my leftovers.

  14. Jen says:

    This looks so yummy. Question about the slow cooker method. It says to just add all ingredients. But should the onions and garlic be sautéed first? Also, I’m guessing we don’t add the cream/milk since it is used later?

    • Mel says:

      Hey Jen, because it cooks longer, you can add the onions and garlic with everything else…but it will create a little extra flavor if you want to saute them first. And thanks for pointing out the cream – I’ll edit the recipe because yes, you’d want to add that at the end.

  15. Michelle says:

    I can’t wait to try this recipe. I love TJ’s version, but they run out of it so quickly. You have the best recipes Mel, so I’m sure it will be delicious!

  16. Rachael K says:

    I made this yesterday. It was simple to make, but turned out sort of bland. My Italian seasoning is old, so I think I need to get a new one. Hopefully that will fix it. I was so sad. I was hoping to love it.

  17. Melissa S says:

    This TJ sauce is my fav! I bought 10+ jars this fall since they only have it one time a year. I am excited to try out your version (once my jars run out ;)).

  18. Lori says:

    Looks amazing, Mel!!

    How much pasta does this recipe cover? Having company over and trying to decide if I need to double it or not…

  19. Paige says:

    This sauce looks amazing! I love the one from TJs so I’m sure this will be just as amazing!


  20. Lindsey says:

    This looks amazing! I can’t wait to try it. We moved away from Utah about a year ago, but you better believe if I had still been there, I would have come to see you. I’m sure you were fantastic!

  21. KT says:

    What would you recommend using in place of garlic? Darn garlic allergy.

  22. chris says:

    This comment is not specific to this recipe. In fact, it’s a tech question. Lately whenever I print recipes (whether recent or current) from your site, it prints out leaving holes in the ingredient list and directions. For instance, it will list 2 and leave one out, list another 3 and leave another out, and that sort of thing continues through the instructions as well. Always a complete line that won’t print in various places throughout the recipe. I have tried different computers and printers and different recipes and it keeps doing it. Do you have any suggestions? Anyone else having that issue? I wondered if it had to do with the popup ads?

    • Mel says:

      Hey Chris…that’s annoying! Sorry that’s happening. I think I can help troubleshoot. What browser are you using?

        • Mel says:

          Hey Chris, I wasn’t able to duplicate this issue using Chrome; do you mind clearing your browser history/cache and let me know if the problem is still continuing? Also, can you let me know what type of printer you are using? And one last question, in the print preview, before you print, are the lines missing? Or only when it prints? Thanks! I’m sure we can get to the bottom of this.

  23. Laura says:

    Does this sauce reheat well? Sometimes I find that sauces with cream do not.

  24. Joanna says:

    When using the pressure cooker, do you put the pumpkin in uncooked like you do the squash, or does it already need to be cooked and pureed? Thanks!

  25. I’d love to see you making demo, but unfortunately a bit too far away. Meantime I’ll enjoy the pasta 😀

  26. Sarah Jane Jennings says:

    This looks delicious!!! I wish I could come listen to you speak!!! Will you do a blog post on what you share with those that are lucky enough to go?! I’d love to hear what you share!

  27. trish says:

    Sweet! My Walmart has their pumpkins marked down to $1 each and I was wondering what to do with all the puree because I am one of the crazy few who doesn’t like pumpkin in all their baked goods!

  28. Laura Sandiford says:

    Do you think I could add Italian sausage To instant pot as well? I am thinking it would cook and than remove it before blending?

    • Mel says:

      It might leave the sauce a little greasy although I love the idea of it with this sauce. How about sautéing it in the IP, then removing it and any excess grease before adding ingredients for the sauce?

  29. Abi says:

    So excited that you will be speaking at BYU. I wish I could come. Maybe I can convince my husband to watch our 6 littles while make the drive from SLC… Good luck to you, my virtual friend! 😉 This recipe sounds unusual and awesome!

  30. IG says:

    This is so speaking to me! We have a dairy allergy in the family. How do you think this would be without the addition of milk? Or, do you think you can sub unsweetened almond milk or just leave it out? Thanks

    • Kelsey says:

      @IG we have a dairy allergy as well and I often have good luck subbing unsweetened coconut milk for cream since the fat content is similar. I bet almond milk would work too but it wouldn’t be as rich.

    • Mel says:

      My cousin made this last night and they also have a dairy allergy so she left out the milk/cream and said it was amazing!

  31. Emily says:

    Mel! I just saw you’re speaking at BYU today. Will this be your only speaking event in Utah on this trip? If so I will do my best to come tonight! It will involve some public transit shuffling, but I would love to see you.

    • Emily says:

      Thank you for posting about your event tonight. I missed the other announcement, but saw today’s note and was able to attend. I was so thrilled to see you in person and hear you share stories, although I needed to leave before I could talk with you. When you mentioned signature dishes, I immediately thought of one of your skillet pasta dishes I’ve been making probably seven years now. Works for weeknights and serving to friends. Most of my favorite dinner recipes come from your site. Thanks again for all you do, and for the lovely talk tonight. That Carmel just melted in my mouth…so good!

  32. Grace says:

    Oooh, I have butternut squash needing to be used up! Can’t wait to try this! Have you used homemade pumpkin purée? I’m sure it’d work great, I just wondered if I’d need to adjust liquids or anything. 😉 Wish I was in Provo today!

    • Mel says:

      Homemade pumpkin puree is delicious in this sauce!

      • Grace says:

        I made this last night and it turned out great! I forgot to set the seal, so it was on “vent” until halfway through the cook time. Oops! I was sure it’d be a(nother) cold cereal night, but I set the seal, set the time for about halfway and figured I’d go from there. It turned out just fine. Hallelujah! My oldest son said he wished he could have eight plates of it. 🙂 We did add a little salt and pepper to our individual plates depending on our own tastes, and the parmesan is a must! Thanks for the fall-flavored recipe! 🙂

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