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One pantry staple that our food editors always have on hand is jarred marinara sauce. From whipping up a delicious weeknight dinner like Pork-Meatball Skillet Bake to using it to create the base of a rich stew, store-bought marinara sauce is a versatile, essential ingredient to keep in the pantry. We tested eight popular brands of marinara sauce to determine our favorites.
Rao's Marinara Sauce ($6.98, amazon.com) has long been our food editors' go-to. Would that still be the case in a blind taste test? To try the various marinara sauces, we heated and served each sauce in individual glass bowls with penne on the side, which allowed our editors the chance to taste the sauce with pasta and on its own.
So, which brand made it to the winner's circle after the taste test? Our old favorite, Rao's Marinara Sauce, was victorious, as well as Ragu Marinara Sauce ($2.79, amazon.com) and Victoria Marinara Sauce ($6.29, target.com). Our food editors thought that the other sauces they tried were too sweet, too herby, too artificial, or in one instance, tasted "like airplane food."
Food editor-at-large Shira Bocar described the flavor of Ragu as "cozy and balanced," and said it tasted like her childhood. While some of the food editors thought it was a bit sweet, deputy food editor Greg Lofts considered it one of his favorites—"It has a clean taste. It's a good, very neutral marinara with lots of real tomato flavor and a natural sweetness," he said.
While our food editors thought that Victoria's Marinara Sauce tasted more acidic than Rao's and Ragu, they were impressed by its neutral, not-too-sweet, not-too-salty flavor.
When tested against its rivals though, Rao's Marinara Sauce still came out as the best of the bunch. The food editors noted it has a rich, fatty flavor; editorial director of food Sarah Carey wondered if it is made with Parmesan or Italian sausage (it isn't). "Because there's so much flavor, it would be great for pizza too," said Greg. Shira called its flavor the most "developed" of all the marinara sauces that were tested. Senior food editor Lauryn Tyrell thought that it had "lots of umami flavor."