I Tried a $17 Jar of Pasta Sauce — Here’s My Honest Review

published Sep 6, 2021
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Credit: Rochelle Bilow

When it comes to jarred pasta sauce, Rao’s is pretty much king. Home cooks love this stuff, paying as much as $10 for a 32-ounce jar of “basic” marinara. And for what it’s worth, Rao’s also consistently makes our Kitchn Essentials list. So when I got my hands on a jar of their limited-edition white truffle marinara, I was super eager to try it. Only three batches of this sauce were made, resulting in fewer than 2,500 jars, which are only available on the Rao’s website. It’s definitely a special-occasion ingredient. But would it be worth the $17 price tag?

Credit: Rochelle Bilow

First, unlike so many truffle-flavored products, this sauce actually contains shavings of real white truffles. Because they’re foraged, truffles are rare and pricey. As a workaround, “truffle oil,” infused with a chemical compound, is often used as a flavoring agent. The ingredients in the Rao’s sauce include both — the actual truffles, and the truffle flavor. 

I decided to give the jar a try with a friend who exclusively buys Rao’s sauce, figuring he could help me compare it to the baseline marinara. We planned on serving it with farro and a little basil, thinking the simple preparation would allow the truffle flavor to shine.

When I cracked the jar, I immediately remarked that it smelled “very truffley.” It reminded me of freshly shaved truffles, not a pile of fries doused in fake oil. In other words: It was perfume-y and pleasant, but not cloying. 

Credit: Rochelle Bilow

As for the flavor? It actually wasn’t as intensely truffley as I’d been expecting. Every once in a while, I’d catch a faintly funky, earthy note, which probably meant that I lucked upon one of those real shavings. A spoon of sauce straight from the jar had a similar effect: It was delicious. The sauce is sweet and balanced, and not too truffle-forward.

My friend, the Rao’s aficionado, reported the same truffle impression. Together, we polished off almost the entire jar. As our forks scraped our plates, he commented, “Was it really good? Yes, of course; it’s made by Rao’s. But why deviate from their marinara when that’s already perfect?” I’m inclined to agree. And that’s good news for all of us because this jar will only be available for a limited time and the marinara will always be available.

Would you try Rao’s truffle marinara sauce?