For Jarred Pasta Sauce, One Brand Stands Above The Rest

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Some things in the kitchen are worth taking the extra time to make from scratch, including cookies, bread, and mashed potatoes. It's this simple: Certain foods just taste better homemade. Homemade pasta sauce is another one of those foods that immediately comes to mind. Besides, when you've got a recipe you love, it usually merits the additional effort. In fact, as Eat This, Not That! puts it, those pasta sauces you'd find in a jar at the grocery store are often not as tasty or healthy. Some brands can be too sweet or too salty, or a combination of both. This is partly due to their sodium, sugar, and preservative content.

However, sometimes there just isn't enough time to simmer tomatoes and measure the right amounts of seasoning needed to make fresh pasta sauce. In those instances, you may find yourself needing a good store-bought option that delivers the same delicious taste without any hassle. Rest assured there's one brand of jarred pasta sauce that is hailed by many as the holy grail of store-bought tomato sauces.

Reviews say Rao's Marinara Sauce is so good, you'll never make homemade again

Everyone from anonymous Amazon reviewers to Ina Garten agrees: Rao's Marinara Sauce means you never have to make homemade sauce again. The top U.S. review on Amazon for the 15.5-ounce jar of Rao's Marinara points to the sauce's ingredient list as the "secret" to its success. According to the Rao's website, the marinara sauce contains tomatoes, olive oil, basil, onions, garlic, salt, black pepper, and oregano. "You'll never buy another (or bother making your own!) marinara sauce again. Seriously," top Amazon reviewer A. Saxton wrote. "There's a reason Ina Garten calls for Rao's in some of her recipes," Saxton added. "Try it with her meatball recipe and be prepared to make it again and again."

Garten says when it comes to pasta sauce, you can spend a whole day making homemade marinara sauce, or, as she recommends to Bon Appétit, you can purchase Rao's Marinara Sauce. Garten calls the jarred pasta sauce, in a word, "fantastic." Not only is it a delicious time-saver for quick dinners, but it's also versatile, as Garten notes that it's perfect for both pasta and lasagna.

Rao's Marinara Sauce is more expensive than some brands

Bon Appétit is also a fan of Rao's Marinara, once devoting an entire article to the store-bought pasta sauce. According to the food magazine, in comparison to other popular brands, "Rao's sits on an entirely different plane." Per Bon Appétit, Rao's earns the title of best pasta sauce because it is made from quality ingredients and has a distinct, balanced flavor. The brand almost has a perfect 5-star rating on Amazon, with thousands of reviewers singing the pasta sauce's praises. Rao's Marinara Sauce comes in various sizes, according to the brand's website, with prices ranging from $5.99 for the 15.5-ounce jar to $9.99 for 32 ounces.

The Canadian Costco-product reviewer Costcuisine was happy to find Rao's Marinara at their local warehouse. Two 770 ml jars (26 ounces each) cost $14.99 Canadian, or about $11.85 in U.S. currency. Per jar, that's less than Rao's listed price for 15.5 ounces. Those reviewers who were hesitating over Rao's relatively high price might want to look for it at Costco. As Costcuisine noted, "I will be stocking up on this sauce at Costco next time I go, and if it ever goes on sale I'll be buying a truckload!" They gave Rao's Marinara a 10 out of 10 for both taste and nutrition.

Rao's Marinara has more fat and calories than Ragu -- but that's not a bad thing

Does Rao's score well for nutritional value? How does the sauce stack up against a less expensive pantry staple such as Ragu? Mashed ranked store-bought marinara sauce, and Ragu placed 12th out of 18 — not the worst. (Yes, we ranked Rao's No. 1.) At $5.59 for a 24-ounce jar at Walmart, Ragu is considerably cheaper. (That price was found earlier this year. Ragu marinara is currently out of stock at Walmart online.) So, can a Rao's customer at least say they're paying for a healthier product as well as a tastier one?

Rao's website says a half-cup serving of its marinara sauce has 100 calories with 7 grams of fat, 420 mg of sodium, 4 grams of sugar, and no added sugar. The Ragu website gives the nutritional details for that brand's marinara: 80 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 480 mg of sodium, and 7 grams of sugar. Ragu doesn't specify how much, but some of those seven grams are added sugars, according to the sauce's ingredient list. Ragu also contains calcium chloride, which the Occidental Chemical Corporation describes as a preservative. Ragu adds soybean oil in addition to olive oil, but Rao's is clearly adding more oil to its sauce, given that brand's higher fat and calorie totals. This doesn't make Rao's less healthy, however. Fat and calories aren't bad for you, in moderation. In fact, the fat in olive oil is mostly the healthier monounsaturated kind, per Mayo Clinic. And when added to Rao's Marinara Sauce, by all accounts, it sure tastes good.