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Aug 24, 1999 01:46 PM

RAO'S Sauce in jar

  • d

Since it is not cheap I would like to know which is
the best and if it is worth the money. Thanks.

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  1. d
    Daniel Sonenberg

    I think the first sauce they came out with, the plain
    marinara, is really excellent. Definitely the best
    sauce I've ever bought in a store (including homemade
    sauces from specialty shops.) Once I tried one of their
    newer flavors and was particularly unimpressed. The
    marinara has a very full tomato flavor, a wonderful
    consistency, and is not acidic at all. Usually I have
    a hard time resisting eating spoonfuls of it while I'm
    waiting for the pasta water to boil. (This coming from
    someone who generally prefers to make his own tomato
    sauce - a damn good one).

    I have seen the 32 oz. jars for as little as $6.99 at
    Bed Bath and Beyond - they were running a special for a
    long time but I'm not sure if it's still going.
    Definitely don't pay more than $8.99 for it.

    Oh, and it beats the hell out of the jarred Patsy's
    sauce, which sells for the same price and sucks.

    On the lower-end market, I really have come to like
    Classico's red pepper tomato sauce. The other flavors
    I've tried of that line are not so enticing, however.

    Give Rao's a try!

    23 Replies
    1. re: Daniel Sonenberg

      Cook's Magazine did a comparative testing of 'jarred"
      marinara-style tomato sauces in April. Rated
      "acceptable" (the only ones so rated)were Barilla,
      Five Brothers Tom and Basil, and Classico tomato and
      basil, all for under $2.50 or so. Raos at over $5 was
      the highest rated "not acceptable brand", with some
      testers comparing it to tomato soup or chef boyardee.
      Ive not tried it (why spend the extra money?) but
      recently have used both the barilla and five brothers
      brands quite a lot. While not quite as good as the
      best homemade sauce, they are a fine quick substitute,
      especially with the addition of a little olive oil
      warmed up with a garlic clove or two in it. Add some
      sauteed mushrooms, herbs or italian sausage, or maybe
      some diced sauteed pancetta and red pepper flakes, and
      they become terrific.

      1. re: jen kalb
        Daniel Sonenberg

        That Cook's report sounds pretty ridiculous. As I
        mentioned, I like the Classico red pepper/tomato sauce,
        but it's nowhere near Rao's marinara. Why spend the
        extra money? Because it's as close to homemade as
        you're going to get with peeling and seeding.


        1. re: Daniel Sonenberg

          I can't state a personal opinion on the Raos sauce
          since I haven't tried it myself - nor will I at the
          price they are selling it at - when i can take 15 min
          to make a sauce from canned tomatoes. When Im not home
          or don't have time for this step, the cheaper sauces I
          mentioned work fine.
          The Cooks article said the tasters used freshness -
          fresh tomato taste such as would be obtained in a very-
          briefly cooked sauce from ripe, fresh tomatoes- as
          their standard. The Rao's sauce was noted to be
          distinctive but some of the testers had violent
          negative opinions of it, and neither it nor the other
          designer sauces tested met the tester standards for
          Some people prefer longer cooked or differently
          seasoned sauces, perhaps, than their testing group.
          In any case, tastes differ, and thats a good thing.

          1. re: jen kalb
            Daniel Sonenberg

            I guess that does explain my reaction, as I'm
            definitely a long, slow-cooked sauce (uncovered, of
            course!)kind of guy. I don't see how a sauce could be
            done in fifteen minutes - if you use fresh tomatoes
            simply peeling seeding and chopping them takes that
            long, and I always find it takes at least 45 minutes
            for the acidity to cook away. What's the trick for a
            quick sauce like that?


            1. re: Daniel Sonenberg
              jonathan gold

              Sauce made from fresh tomatoes is a wondrous thing, but a completely different animal from sauce in a jar. If you have great fresh tomatoes, it's a crime to use them in anything more complicated than a checca.

              But there are a lot of sauces made from canned tomatoes--better than fresh 11 months a year--that are pretty amazing, and are done by the time the water comes to a boil and you finish boiling the pasta.

              Most involve sauteeing aromatics--onion, garlic, minced anchovy filets, parsley, pancetta, fresh chiles--in a couple of tablespoons of good olive oil, then squishing canned whole plum tomatoes (I like the Muir Glen brand) to a rough puree with your fingers, squeezing the runny juice into the sink, and frying uncovered with the aromatics until the water cooks out, about 15 minutes, and the oil floats free at the top.

              It is possible to doctor a commercial bottled pasta sauce like this, but it actually tastes better when you start with good canned tomatoes. Why pay for their garlic powder and dessicated mushrooms when you can use the real stuff so easily?

              1. re: jonathan gold

                I can't agree with you more Jonathan! There are a lot
                of good canned tomatoes to be had, but, if buying the
                Muir Glen (which I use all the time, buy only the
                whole tomatoes in basil. There is a big difference
                among the puree, chopped and whole tomatoes with the
                whole tomatoes being much better. The "Food Maven",
                Arthur Schwartz, has several excellent recipes for
                various tomatoe sauces in his book "Naples at Table"--
                one of which can be made in five minutes from canned
                tomatoes. Too, don't forget it is the quality of the
                pasta that is key to a good pasta dish--try the
                Lentini brand to quickly find out how true this is!

                1. re: jonathan gold

                  For an incredible sauce made with canned tomatoes, try
                  Marcella Hazan's Tomato and Anchovy Sauce from
                  Essentials of Italian Cooking. It takes about half-an-
                  hour to cook.

                  A trick I learned from an Italian cook is to shave
                  bits of carrot into the sauce. I believe that the
                  effect of the sweetness offsets some of the acidity in
                  fast-cooked tomato sauces. Look at jars of commercial
                  sauce: you will see that they use sugar for the same

                  1. re: Tom M

                    In addition to adding sweetness, finely grated carrots are supposed to keep the sauce from separating. Seems to work for me....

                  2. re: jonathan gold

                    You write: "'s a crime to use them in anything
                    more complicated than a checca."

                    Jonathan: Perhaps you can answer a question that is
                    under debate in our family. Is that pronounced kekka,
                    or check-a, or chech-a?

                    Thanks in advance!

                    1. re: Pam Sommers

                      checca is pronounced "kekka." There is no "k" in
                      italian, but the "k" sound is produced with "ch."

                      As an italian, may I say something about sauce? 1) No
                      canned or bottled sauce can compare with freshly made.
                      2) contrary to what some people believe, most tomato
                      sauces should not be slow cooked for a long time. In
                      fact the only sauce that should be slow cooked is a
                      meat ragu.
                      3) Glen Muir tomatoes are quite good, as good as some
                      of the variety of san marzano tomatoes from italy. But
                      I like very much the "Squisita" brand from Italy.
                      beware though -- some Squisita tomatoes are not
                      imported, so check the label to be sure.

                      1. re: Giorgio

                        Georgio, my guess is that you would recommend whole
                        tomatoes and not the puree or chopped. The Muir Glen
                        cans are coated so there is no "metallic" taste from
                        these tomatoes that one often finds in canned
                        tomatoes. Don't forget canned tomatoes DO have a shelf
                        life of about six months or so. In Italy tomatoes are
                        most often found in jars.

                        1. re: Giorgio
                          jonathan gold

                          There is nothing that cheeses me off more than some big, expensive, beautiful can of San Marzano tomatoes that turns out when you get them home to be San Marzano brand (!) tomatoes, grown in Pennsylvania or something, with all the zesty, sun-ripened tomato flavor of pink bathing caps. I've been fooled more than once--it's the impeccable graphic design.

                          1. re: jonathan gold

                            A while ago there was a company that provided
                            warranties to grey-market electronics. They were called
                            the "USA Warranty Company", so stores could offer grey-
                            market goods with a "full USA warranty".

                            1. re: jonathan gold

                              The key to not getting fooled is to look closely at the
                              label, as Giorgio suggests, and beware of the
                              words"tipo Italiano"-this is a euphemism for plum
                              tomatoes grown elsewhere, frequently Argentina. They
                              are NOT the same. I also like La Squisita's true San
                              Marzano tomatoes-you can usually get them or a
                              functional equivalent at Russo's on East 11th St or Di
                              Palo's on Grand.

                        2. re: jonathan gold
                          Rachel Perlow

                          "sauteeing aromatics--onion, garlic, minced anchovy filets, parsley, pancetta, fresh chiles--in a couple of tablespoons of good olive oil, then squishing canned whole plum tomatoes (I like the Muir Glen brand)"

                          Have you tried the Muir Glen brand of sauces? I found them on sale at a local gourmet/wine shop (Madison Wine & Liquor, stores in both Madison and Livingston, New Jersey - my wine afficianado mother-in-law was quite impressed with their wine collection, but I go there for the cheese and olive oil!) for $1.99!

                          It was so cheap because they decided to stop carrying Muir Glen because it had become "popular" enough for supermarkets to carry it, so the gourmet section of the wine shop dropped it. I hope this success doesn't ruin this excellent "starter" sauce (as described above).

                          1. re: Rachel Perlow

                            probably unneccessary word of warning - I'm rather certain jonathan didn't mean to suggest the use of ALL of those aromatics at the same time in a homemade sauce.

                            1. re: jen kalb

                              This would be correct. If I'd meant you to use all of them, I would have suggested that you throw a handful of orange zest in there too.

                    2. re: Daniel Sonenberg

                      IMHO, Rao's sauce is definitely NOT the next-best-
                      thing to homemade sauce; it still has that "bottled"
                      flavor but it is not awful. I recall the Cooks' panel
                      as having a very difficult time selecting a jarred
                      sauce, and it seemed as though it was a case of "if I
                      HAD to pick one...". There is another sauce, quite
                      pricey and in smaller jars, but has an extremely fresh
                      tomato taste, not messed with too much and includes
                      only a few quality ingredients...and the winner is,
                      (for me) Rustichella d'Abruzzo, found at gourmet-style
                      markets. They also make a damned good dried pasta.

                      1. re: Heidi

                        Let me add, that at that price, I only purchased it
                        once and prefer to make my own anyday BUT it is good
                        enough to send or bring as a gift.

                        1. re: Heidi

                          Victoria Marinara sauce is exactly the same as Rao's
                          (and made by the same foodservice corp.) at half the
                          price. Barilla and Five Brothers have sugar, which, in
                          my view, is a deal breaker.

                          1. re: Jon Wolfe

                            dont see why it should be a dealbreaker - many or even
                            most good recipes for fresh tomato sauce have just a
                            touch of sugar, as a flavor enhancer and to counter
                            excess acidity - I do agree that if the sauce is
                            perceived as sweeter than natural tomatoes, like some
                            of the commercial sauces, that that is a definite no

                            1. re: Jon Wolfe

                              Which food service company makes Victoria Marinara sauce? I bought it on the East Coast and loved it. I've since moved and want to find a source for it.

                          2. re: Heidi

                            I am literally sitting here eating rusticella pasta with RAO's sauce!!!!! i think rao's is wonderful, the pasta, btw is pretty outstanding for dried pasta.

                    3. I have dined at Rao's several times in the past and it was always a treat if you had lots and lots of patience.I have also tried the sauce and find it to be very ordinary and way overpriced. By contrast, Patsy's sauces are excellent although also rather expensive.
                      Aunt Millie's at less than half the price is still a darn good bet!

                      Sid Berger

                      tovery ordinary and way overpriced. By contrast, the Patsy sauces ore excellent although also rather expensive,

                      1. s
                        Sarah Groshong

                        Who's to say what is the best? I love Rao's because I prefer a light marinara that doesn't obscure the taste of the food I serve it with. It is rather outrageously priced, however, and I am trying to duplicate it. The recipe is in their cookbook and if you don't want to spend the $40 to buy another Italian cookbook, do what I did and go to Barnes and Noble and copy it from the book!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Sarah Groshong

                          I am amazed at the lukewarm responses to your post--I think Rao's sauce in a jar is INCREDIBLE. It is really really really good. Worth every single penny. I don't eat any sauce in a jar, only this one. They use San Marzano tomatoes, which are distinctively sweet and delicious. If you haven't tried it already, try it. You won't be sorry.

                          1. re: ahr

                            Where can I find the lowest price on RAO's? Online?
                            Any suggestions?