The New Rao's Pasta Sauce Is—Dare I Say—Better Than the Original Marinara

This is the only Rao's I'm buying from now on.

Everybody has a superpower. Rao's Homemade is mine. Before you roll your eyes, let me explain. See, Rao's is the only jarred pasta sauce I've tried that truly tastes like homemade. In fact, it's so good, many Allrecipes readers admit they insist on it, even though it's a little pricier than other jarred sauces.

I always keep a jar of the Rao's Homemade Marinara in my cupboard for weeknight pasta emergencies (okay, and weekend pasta emergencies too), so I was excited to learn the brand recently launched three new sauces, in addition to two soups. The new pasta sauce flavors are Vodka Arrabbiata and Caramelized Onion, and the pizza sauce is Pizza Arrabbiata. They all sounded delish, so I ordered one of each and stocked up on pasta. How did they stack up? Let's just say things got a little saucy!

How I Taste Tested the New Rao's Homemade Sauces

First, I opened each jar and poured some into a cup. I smelled each one—they were all really fragrant, even at room temperature—then stirred them to observe the texture. Finally, I tasted a spoonful of each one to take initial impressions.

After that, it was time to test with pasta! I cooked a pound of ridged penne, because the ridges help sauce adhere to the noodles. Meanwhile, I heated all three sauces in separate saucepans on the stove. Once the pasta was cooked, I added one cup, along with a splash of cooking water, to each saucepan. I transferred a scoop to a bowl, then dug in.

How I Judged the Sauces

Believe it or not, flavor wasn't the only factor that determined my rankings. I also judged these sauces based on texture, including considerations for how thick they were and how well they clung to the penne. I considered whether they were great "as-is," or if I thought they would be improved with grated cheese, salt or pepper, or olive oil. Finally, I compared them to Rao's Homemade original Marinara, and whether I would buy them again.

Rao's Homemade New Pasta Sauces, Ranked

#3 Caramelized Onion

<p>Rochelle Bilow</p>

Rochelle Bilow

  • Score: 4/10

  • Better than the original? No

This sauce did not steal my heart. But I've got to be honest about something up front: Although I eat caramelized onions, they're not my favorite ingredient, and I usually avoid them if I can. (I know that this makes me an impartial judge, but hear me out: I'm going to be honest about the description so you can make your own call!) The caramelized onion scent hit me the second I cracked the jar. This is a very oniony sauce. If you love the sweetness of caramelized onions, you're going to go nuts for this. I will say, I appreciated that the onions were chopped into small pieces, rather than left as stringy rings. This was also the most watery of the sauces, in part because it does not have any cheese or dairy to thicken it up.

#2 Pizza Arrabbiata

<p>Rochelle Bilow</p>

Rochelle Bilow

  • Score: 7/10

  • Better than the original? No

Although this is technically a pizza sauce, I tested it as a pasta sauce. By thinning it out with a little starchy cooking water, it became the perfect consistency for a thick, dairy-free sauce. The predominant flavor and scent is the oregano: opening the jar feels like stepping into a an old-school pizza parlor, and I love that. I don't think it's better than the basic Marinara, because the addition of carrots in the mix makes it a little too sweet for my liking (although the addition of red pepper does help balance the scales).

#1 Vodka Arrabbiata

<p>Rochelle Bilow</p>

Rochelle Bilow

  • Score: 9/10

  • Better than the original? Yes

This sauce is everything. It's the perfect amount of rich and creamy, thanks to two types of cheese (Parm and Pecorino). But a hit of crushed red peppers give it a hint of heat that balances out the heavier flavors. I loved the cheesy, indulgent flavor that smelled amazing when heated up. And yep, I think this one is even better than the original. Because I usually doctor up the Marinara with fresh herbs, extra seasoning, and a little cheese, I would give that one an 8 out of 10. But the Vodka Arrabbiata is practically perfect straight out of the jar. I did knock off one point because I think it can stand to be a little spicier.

The Bottom Line

If you like vodka sauce, you have got to try Rao's Homemade Vodka Arrabbiata. It's sold in 24-ounce jars, so you can get a couple meals out of each one. It is truly the most perfect "just heat and serve" jarred sauce I have encountered, because it already contains flavor enhancers, like red pepper and cheese. The Pizza Arrabbiata is great, but in the future I will save that for my pies. As for the Caramelized Onion? I would love to hear the review from an onion lover! If you've tried it, let me know what you think.