We Tried Rao’s Homemade New Sauces — These Are the 2 We’ll Definitely Be Buying Again

published May 17, 2024
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Credit: Lauren Volo

In my humble opinion, there’s not much a bowl of pasta can’t fix. It’s comforting, versatile, and, when cooked al dente, has the perfect chew and texture. When making pasta at home, sometimes I will make my own sauce, but it’s rare given how much time it takes to really get the flavors to cook down and permeate. So, I often turn to a jarred sauce to speed up the process.

Rao’s is one of the best jarred sauces out there. (It won our marinara sauce taste test). It has great depth of flavor, isn’t overly sweet, and as per the label, has that “homemade” taste.

Adding to its saucy empire, Rao’s launched six new sauce flavors earlier this month: three tomato-based sauces (Roasted Red Pepper, Fire Grilled Vegetable, Roasted Garlic Pizza) and three Alfredo sauces (Four Cheese Alfredo, Alfredo Arrabbiata, Bacon Alfredo). According to the company, all the sauces are slow-simmered with premium ingredients, no artificial flavors, preservatives, or added sugars. The new sauces are available nationwide at retailers like Walmart, Whole Foods, Sprouts, HEB, and Amazon. (Note: some retailers may only carry certain flavors.) 

Credit: Alexandra Foster

Naturally, I was eager to try them, and so were some of my colleagues at The Kitchn. So we cooked some pasta and got to tasting. (Yes, we tried the pizza sauce with pasta — more thoughts on that later.) All were pretty good, but there were two standouts in the bunch. 

Credit: Alexandra Foster

1. Rao’s Homemade Fire Grilled Vegetable Sauce

The clear runaway winner of the group is the Fire Grilled Vegetable Sauce. In fact, every single staff member at The Kitchn who tried it said they would buy it again. The peppery sauce is made by simmering red, yellow, and green peppers with sweet Italian tomatoes low and slow to really let the flavors infuse — and we could tell. 

Credit: Alexandra Foster

The grilled vegetable flavor is prominent and has a natural sweetness that comes from cooking vegetables over an open flame. “It’s really good,” says Phil Vuong, our Chief Financial Officer who also buys Rao’s in bulk at Costco. “You really get that grilled taste.” 

We also spotted bits of pepper and onion throughout the sauce, which I, and many others, like. “You get nice layers of flavor without it being too overpowering,” says Vicky Wasik, our Studio Director. “It tastes fresher and has a little more flair than your average marinara,” adds Blair Donovan, our Senior Style Editor.

Credit: Alexandra Foster

2. Rao’s Homemade Alfredo Arrabbiata Sauce

Admittedly, many of us are not huge Alfredo fans (including myself), but we all preferred Rao’s Alfredo Arrabbiata Sauce. It’s made from cream and a blend of cheeses including Parmesan, Romano, and Parmigiano Reggiano. The kick comes from ground red pepper, and you could see little red flecks in the sauce, as opposed to the other Alfredo flavors.

Credit: Alexandra Foster

Blair, who prefers Alfredo over tomato-based sauces, named it her favorite of all six new sauces. “It’s not super spicy, but it has a little kick to it. It’s cheesy and creamy, as expected, and then the heat comes at the end. It’s not overly spicy and cuts through the richness nicely.” “I appreciate the spice. I feel it at the back of my throat,” says Brian Mahoney, Director of People Operations. I, someone who can’t do a lot of spice, agreed. 

When mixing the sauce with the pasta, I also noticed the consistency is much thinner than some of the other thicker Alfredo sauces you can find on the market. It wasn’t chunky or gloopy and coated the pasta nicely, which I preferred.

Credit: Alexandra Foster

Honorable Mention: Rao’s Homemade Roasted Garlic Pizza Sauce 

As mentioned above, we did indeed taste the Roasted Garlic Pizza Sauce with pasta (mainly for ease and convenience). Nonetheless, many of us would buy it again to use for actual pizza, so it only felt right to include it, despite not trying it in its intended form. The sauce is made from stewing Italian tomatoes with slow-roasted garlic which takes away the harshness and gives the garlic a sweeter taste. 

The garlic flavor definitely packs a punch, which for someone like me who loves garlic, is a huge plus. I could see it being a good base for a margherita pizza with some mozzarella and fresh basil. But, I’d also happily eat it again poured over pasta. (Try it!)

“You could really smell and taste the garlic,” confirms Blair. “It would save me from having to put extra garlic on my pizza,” says Brian. While Phil thought it was a little too overpowering on the pasta, he just knows it “would be delicious on a pizza.”

Have you tried Rao’s new sauces? Which one’s your favorite?