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Rao's maranara sauce @ $10 - What gives?

Shopping at Vons (Safeway) today I came across these jars of Rao's sauces (Maranara, and other Italian styles) and they were $9.89 a jar! The same size at the store brand for $1.00 Can you CHowhounds please explain why that brand is so expensive? Is it laced with gold?

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  1. I've got to admit, I find it pretty exceptional. I had always scoffed at it until I found a recipe called "Liar's Soup" in Real Simple (1 jar Rao's, 1 can cannelini beans, garlic), and it insisted that it had to be Rao's. I bought it when it was marked down from $7.99 to $6.99, and I found it quite delicious. Worth it? Maybe not - but I never did try that soup recipe, so I picked up a jar a few weeks ago.

    1. I'll do you better. I've seen it for $12!

      1. I think you are paying for the recipe, not the ingredients. I've seen many people post that they thought Rao's was the best-tasting jarred tomato sauce ever. Whether the high price is worth it is up to the individual -- I've had it once or twice, and while I agree it's very tasty for a jarred sauce, I personally cannot justify the expense when with a can of tomatoes, an onion and a stick of butter I can make Marcella Hazan's delicious tomato sauce for a quarter of the price of a jar of Rao's, but to each their own.

        1 Reply
        1. re: DanaB

          I can justify it. I would have to shop, cook (even if easy), clean. Rao's is fabulous! Best I have found and I have tried waaaaay too many to count. Simple, pure, not sweet, not too thick, seasoned just right with minimal touches. Worth every penny to me.

        2. In CT it has peaked at $9 and Stew Leonard's has it at 2 for $10. I am reading other labels to look elsewhere. Although I love the dtuf, it is fabulous, at $9 I will crank up the recipe in the Rao's book and freeze.

          1. Rao's is excellent but pricy. Try to find the line of jarred Cento sauces made with San Marzano tomatoes; it's better. The vodka sauce is exceptionally smooth (and not too rich in dairy).

            6 Replies
            1. re: Karl S

              My turn to agree with you. We've stopped buying Rao's (even at a locally available price of $6.99) in favor of Cento's: their line of sauces is tastier than Rao's, uses high quality all natural ingredients beginning with those fabulous San Marzano's, and sells for $3.99.

              1. re: Striver

                I also stopped buying Rao's for nothing othaer than the price. I picked up some Cento's as well, but it is not Rao's. It's a little sweeter and less garlicky. But for 1/3 the price it replaces Rao's on my table.

                1. re: jfood

                  If you like a more peppery sauce, try Cento's Arrabiata. Also, it's easy to doctor the Cento with some sauteed garlic, if that's what's lacking for you. I can pick up Rao's for $6.99, but I'd prefer the Cento overall even if it was priced the same as Rao's.

                  1. re: Striver

                    Agreed on Cento. We (the family) recently taste-tested Rao's, Patsy's, Mom's, Victoria's and Cento's marinara and Cento won hands down with Victoria coming in right behind it. Rao's was definitely sweeter in a non-tomatoey way than Cento's. Cento's tomato taste was sweeter and much better. The tomato being a fruit after all.

                    Cento's tastes the closest to what you could make from fresh garden tomatoes if you had the time.

                    1. re: Striver

                      The Cento Arrabbiata is exceptional.

                    2. re: jfood

                      i prefer <<less garliky>> becaue imho, garlic does not do well when processed at such high heat.

                2. I love Rao's sauce. there is nothing close. If I consider the time it takes for me to make a homemade sauce, it is worth it to me.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: emilief

                    agreed! i rarely use jarred sauce, but this is a good one. they used to have it at Bed Bath and Beyond for around 5 bucks...no more :(((

                    1. The Marukai in Gardena carries Rao's for a bit less @ $7/bottle.

                      1. Could it be the "plecebo effect?" Or "psychosymatic" that if you're willing to pay $10.00, it's worth 10?

                        The Starbucks effect... can't sell enough coffee at 50 cents a cup? Mark it up to $4.00 and everyboy will want it! (overoasted, overpriced mud)

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Sandy Eggo

                          rao's is worth more than others, but like me only ordering a large coffee for $1.90 at starbs, $10 is too much even fir raos. i tried another brand tonight and although not as good as rao's i not a $10 jar.

                        2. Whe I was working a ton, I would use this sauce instead of makin gmy own. My husband calls it liquid crack. It is the best jarred sauce out there. Oddly enough, my second favorite jarred sauce I really like Wegmann's House Brand marinara that costs about $1.50 a jar. Now it is even harder to justify the $10 a pop.

                          11 Replies
                            1. re: JennyHunter

                              Those Wegman's house brands really do draw you in - I tried the same recently and thought it quite good, too.

                              1. re: miss_mia

                                I want a Webman's (chicgail whined from Chicago).

                              2. re: JennyHunter

                                "... Oddly enough, my second favorite jarred sauce I really like Wegmann's House Brand marinara that costs about $1.50 a jar. Now it is even harder to justify the $10 a pop...."

                                I know I'm responding to a 2007 post, but this thread is still going strong today so I wanted to update JennyHunter's post.

                                I'm typically a Rao's marinara devotee. I can't stand any jarred sauce that adds sugar and, like most posters, I enjoy Rao's "clean" tomato goodness However, my every day cooking is for two people and I typically only use Rao's when I find the 15 ounce jar rather than the more widely available 24 ounce jar. When cooking for two, I typically don't use the full 24 ounces; if you think it's painful to pay $10, try to imagine having to throw away a neglected quantity of Rao's.

                                Recently, Wegman's introduced a new line of jarred sauces called Italian Classics. All the varieties come in a 17 ounce size. I looked at the label of the Tuscan Tomato Sauce and saw that it contained no sugar. Between the size and the absence of sugar, I decided to give the new Wegman's product a try. Lovely! Very Rao's like!

                                It's not cheap: $5.99 for the jar. However, I'm happy to spend that amount knowing there will be no waste with the smaller jar.

                                My enthusiasm for Wegman's Tuscan Tomato sauce is even more remarkable since I'm typically not a fan of the Wegman's products. With the exception of the Pittsford store, the typical stores devote too much space to the proprietary brands. For example, in the salad dressing aisle, I can find Wegman's salad dressings in every flavor imaginable in every version imaginable (regular, lite, no-fat, and organic). However, the shelf space devoted to Paul Newman's brand is quite limited and does not include the Greek dressing that I use. I tried the Wegman's Greek dressings. Whoops! Not good. I eventually tracked down the Newman's dressing in Target.

                                1. re: Indy 67

                                  I think the reason some very old sauce recipes called for sugar is that, years ago, tomatoes were more sour, and the sauce needed it. No, tomatoes are sweeet enought hat it is an unnecessary step/ingredient.

                                  1. re: Westy

                                    That may be true for a recipe in a cookbook for home cooks. For commercial products it's an entirely different matter. Products such as sauce are full of sugar because sugar sells, at least in the US. Americans are hooked on sugar.

                                    1. re: GH1618

                                      All 300 million plus Americans are hooked on sugar? Here's one that's not. Bet there's a few more out there too.

                                      1. re: coll

                                        No, not all. I'm not. But enough are to keep the food industry using it in large quantities. The effects can be seen all around us.

                                        1. re: coll

                                          Coll, formulae for ketchup destined for Canada has more sweeteners than ketchup in the US market - Canadians like sweet ketchup.

                                          1. re: Veggo

                                            There is also a difference between the southern and the northern US states, which is why Hunts is more popular in the south and Heinz in the north.

                                2. Eh, I'll pass there are plenty of other good sauces out there without having to pay for a name and support the "well you can't get a reservation but you can pay waaaaaaaaaayyyy too much for our sauce". I've used their cookbook, out of the library...I'm not buying the thing...I am underwhelmed. Marcella's simple tomato, butter and onion was way better than anything in their book

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Candy

                                    Believe me, I agree with my distaste of paying this amount of money that goes to a restaurant/corporation/whatever where I cannot walk through the door. I guess I am weak, but I don't always have the time, if ever, to do a home version, and without a doubt it is the best bottle sauce I have found, having tried dozens and dozens. So, I just cave and buy it. Such are my scruples.

                                  2. Rao's is incredibly great pasta sauce. It is by so far the best I've ever had. However, I've only had it once, and that was when I got a can for free, because nothing is worth that much money.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: masterofzen

                                      From where I am from, NYC, a jar of Rao's and a lb of pasta is a lot cheaper than ordering out. Spaghetti and meatballs at the restaurant below my apt goes for $12.99 for one entree.

                                      1. re: jenniebnyc

                                        Yep. But at least all your restaurants have good food. I'e never had a bad meal in New York.

                                        1. re: Sandy Eggo

                                          Very true. The spaghetti and meatballs that await below me are top notch !! We are lucky to live where we live.

                                          1. re: Sandy Eggo

                                            You've obviously done your research before coming to NY, but I can assure you that at least 3/4 of all NY restaurants are in the bad to mediocre range.

                                      2. Ok, many here say Rao's is a great or good enough sauce..but they can create this in their own kitchen..I ask at what price..what is one's time worth shopping/finding the great fresh or canned tomatoes/other ingredients/taking them home/firing up the cook top/opening can/jar/or charing tomatoes or blanching the fresh tomatoes/then simmering for an hour or more? Or even 15 minutes? Do people, Chowhounds, consider their time at times? Is it a pride thingy here that one can make it at home vs. buying a jar of something that is actually good?

                                        I will never in my lifetime dine at Rao's, and I actually don't care...would be interesting, but I found a sauce that appeals to my family, Rao's, it is costly, but it hits the spot...time is money...and this works with a twist of a cap.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Jesdamala

                                          "pride thingy" ...
                                          having known folks with plenty of money and not much time, in every sense, I respectively differ on which is more precious; but then I also love to garden.
                                          If you found something that works for you there's not need to fret.

                                          1. re: Jesdamala

                                            Time might be money, but there are a bunch of very good sauces that can be made in the time it takes to boil the pasta water.

                                          2. It's probably time to try it to see for yourself...even just 1x! You can just go to bed bath and beyond and use a 20% off or $5 off coupon and pick up rao's there. Rao's arribiata sauce is unbeatable too - nothing comes close in terms of taste or consistency.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: downtownstefanie

                                              I was out of Rao's Arribbiata yesterday, and needed sauce, so popped for the only thing on Von's shelf that seemed to be what I wanted...Coppola's. Much more chunky than Rao's, has red wine in it, and rather large pieces of garlic. It was OK, and I would use it again in a pinch...but it doesn't come close to Rao's.

                                              1. re: downtownstefanie

                                                Wow - I never thought to do this. I always buy Rao's at the supermarket when on sale, I stock up on it then but buying it at BB&B makes total sense now that you say it. We get a ton of coupons from them, more than we can use. They always expire before we use them - I mean, once you've had your home for several years how many more pillows or candles do you really need to buy? Utterly brilliant way to use them up! Thanks for the tip!

                                                1. re: sivyaleah

                                                  FYI...BBB will accept there own coupons (as well as Linens and Things) even if they are expired. They will take up to 5 coupons per transaction. Pretty customer friendly policy !

                                                  1. re: TonyO

                                                    I know! They do have great service and they also cross-honor each others coupons too!

                                                1. Rao sauces are $7.99/jar at Safeway's through 1/14/07 - at west coast stores.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: Sarah

                                                    Thanks Sarah. Just picked up a jar of the marinara at Safeway; can't wait to see how it tastes.

                                                    1. re: ChefGirl412

                                                      Just remember it's "jarred" sauce. It's good, but not as good as homemade. Enjoy!!

                                                      1. re: jenniebnyc

                                                        Oh, I understand. I'm very curious to do my OWN taste comparison.. You know us Foodies ;)

                                                  2. It is a lot cheaper then going to Rao's . Which btw when you finally get a table there. 3 month wait. It was a disappointment food wise. Plus $$$$$$ for 4

                                                    1. Rao's jarred sauce is the only thing that reminds me of the sauce made by my Italian immigrant grandmother when I was growing up in New York. Since she's dead, and since I can't seem to get close to it even using all the same ingredients she used, well, 8.99 is pretty cheap for a time machine to food of the past, you know?

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: wombat

                                                        True....very true. Did she ever show you how to make it?

                                                        1. re: wodicker

                                                          My mom could make it exactly the same actually - my grandmother taught her when she married my father - and she taught me. (She now lives in Florida, and a trip there is also more expensive than a jar of Rao's.) It's not like there's anything complicated to the method or exotic about the ingredients, but even if I used the same exact brands of tomatoes and so on, it was never right. It's so inexplicable that I have to assume it's some kind of cosmic punishment for sins of a previous life, or something.

                                                      2. Let me give a secret to a lot of you who may not know it. Of course red wine but more importantly is finely chopped filets of Anchovies, nobody will ever know it's in there but you will be amazed at the difference it makes to your favorite recipe.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: malibumike

                                                          Funny about the anchovies - I've been telling my husband this for ages; he hates them but I keep telling him it's that certain "something" in sauce sometimes which makes it taste so good. We recently were out someplace which had a completely insipid puttenesca sauce and he suddenly realized it was because there probably were no anchovies in it. It was a lightbulb moment for him, how he suddenly understood that they really did add a depth of flavor which was integral to the sauce.

                                                          I've been hiding it in many of my sauces for ages, unbeknownst to him - I confessed it that night :-)

                                                        2. After reading a rave review of Rao's in the newspaper, we held a tasting and Rao's came in dead last (up against 6 other jars, ranging from $2 to $10). My 12-yr-old liked my homemade stuff the best (did I raise her right, or what?!). It seems jarred sauces have to be "doctored" with anchovies, sugar, garlic, basil, or whatever to make them taste fresher.

                                                          1. RE: RAO's Marinara Sauce a poster on a different site confirmed the following directly from RAO's:

                                                            "I am pleased to say that an email today from Rao’s Sales VP confirmed
                                                            that their Marinara sauce is indeed suitable for vegetarians
                                                            (ingredients are: imported Italian tomatoes, imported pure Italian
                                                            olive oil, fresh onions, salt, fresh garlic, fresh basil, black
                                                            pepper, oregano)."

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: jenniebnyc

                                                              what! At that price they use pure olive oil instead of extra virgin 1st cold pressed?! I believe "pure olive oil" is the lowest grade in retail market.

                                                            2. Personally, I prefer Mom's Original Garlic and Basil Spaghetti Sauce. Almost as expensive as Rao's but generally closer to the $6 level. Love the big chunks of garlic.

                                                              Haven't been able to find a really great jarred putanesca sauce. Anyone have any suggestions? Yes, tried Rao's but found it lacking a bit.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: srcusa

                                                                I'll agree about their Puttenesca. I tend to stick to the basic Marinara, it's their best one. Although the Vodka is pretty decent too, but I rarely use it.

                                                                1. re: srcusa

                                                                  Mom's has a very good Puttenesca sauce also; I prefer it over Rao's.

                                                                2. I have enjoyed Rao Marinara for years and it has consistently been my favorite. However, BJ'S Wholesale Club sells Rozzano Marinara in a jar which taste the same to me. Wonder if there is some connection.

                                                                  1. For just about every insipid variety of jarred tomato sauce on the market is one that is deemed superb. Just about every famous chef/restaurant has their own signature brand comprised with their own touches, including Lidia Bastianich, Paul Newman, former mobster Henry Hill (anybody recall "Goodfellas"?), Rao's and Vincent's. Personally, I've never bought any of these brands but prefer to make my own as most of you do. If I wanted to duplicate the flavor of a particular brand I would purchase the book which provides the recipe. Each is varied, though most follow the same idea. I figure one could easily capture the same flavor by following the recipe's guidelines, though it may help to adjust the proportions to your own liking. If you find you cannot produce the results you were hoping for, at least you may bask in the glory of creating a delicious tomato sauce nonetheless. Any recipe that provides the cook with a sense of pride for originality is ultimately better than trying to usurp one that is published under a protected seal.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: CuzinVinny

                                                                      I have tried Lidia, Rao's, Newman's and Vincent's on your list and let's just throw out Newman's, it's horrible. The other three are very good and you should add Patsy's as well to this group.

                                                                    2. Does the sauce recipe in the Rao's cookbook taste like the jarred sauce? I'm wondering if they would purposely leave something out of their "secret" recipe!

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: blondelle

                                                                        It does not taste the same :((
                                                                        We talk about this all the time....they definitely leave some ingredient out.

                                                                      2. I meant to include Patsy's.. I have the cookbook from Patsy's Restaurant, as well as Rao's and Lidia Bastianich. Each of them are wonderful.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: CuzinVinny

                                                                          Another Patsy's sauce fan here. Also a big fan of the cookbook. The chicken parm is perfect.

                                                                        2. not worth the money,,,2 cents

                                                                          1. As I just reported in this thread:
                                                                            ...I tried Rao's marinara for the first time last night. It's the best marinara in a jar I've ever had. As a matter of fact, I've been thinking about it all day--I can't wait to get home and eat the left-overs. Regarding the price, I do think you're paying mostly for the name, so best to wait till it's on sale and stock up.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: NewYorkDave

                                                                              I usually always make my sauces from scratch and make extra and keep some in the freezer. It takes a bit of time to make. Sometimes I run out and just want a little and I wish I had a jar that was fast and easy. I tried the Rao's and it was the best jar sauce out of all the ones I tried but--I do have a problem with the price at $10 per jar and I don't find the Rao's to be 5 times better, but two times better. I tried all the sauces my store carries and excluding Rao's and I found Barilla to be the best, for me. I noted what it had missing IMHO. I found that if I jazz-up the Barilla I can get a really good jar sauce on par with Rao's. Use whatever you want.
                                                                              1. In a saute pan I saute a little onion and garlic in EVO.
                                                                              2. After a few minutes I add a little red wine and stir in half a sm can of tomato paste.
                                                                              3. I add in cut chunks of 4-5 tomatoes stir them in and raise heat or 5 minutes and let it cook then adding the Barilla and simmer for 10 adding herbs etc and whatever else I want. Use your own variations but you get a quick good jar sauce on the Rao's level for much less.
                                                                              I'm a coupon nut so I use coupons and get the Barilla for 99cents and my added ingredients cost less than a buck--so for $1.99 I have a nice little sauce. Not as good as my scratch sauce but competes with Rao's for one fifth the price if I'm in a rush.

                                                                            2. I'll never pay 10 bucks for a jar of sauce. Seven dollars? Okay. Eight if I'm really flush.

                                                                              PS--When I lived in Missouri I used to buy Tony's sauces out of St. Louis and they were the best jarred sauces I've ever eaten.

                                                                              1. since thip OP jfood has moved to canning his own homemade Rao's recipe sauce. Start w a huge can of San MArzanos at Costco and you are good to go.

                                                                                1. Rao's is gorgeous. To me it is worth the cost. In all honesty, I don't think I could replicate that sauce at home. I don't know what they put in it, the ingredients on the back are so simple, but it has an extra oomph and depth like no other sauce. It is tomato sauce gold. I am interested to try Cento's after reading this thread, though.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                                    Well, the tomatoes are milled finely, and they use lots of oil. Fat gives a lot of oomph.

                                                                                  2. People talk about this like spending $8 for a bottle of sauce is some kind of sin.
                                                                                    2 pounds of De Cecco $5
                                                                                    1 bottle of Rao's $8
                                                                                    Feeds 6-8 people.
                                                                                    People pay over $8 for a pack of Malboro's. Get real.

                                                                                    12 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: CindysFarmStand

                                                                                      True. And that's one reason I quit smoking back in '99. But I must say, to my mind a two-dollar jar of Ragu is every bit as good, if not better, than the vast majority of jarred sauces that cost four or five times as much. No reason for me to lay out the extra cash.

                                                                                      1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                        There's no sauce on the market close in authentic Italian taste to Raos.

                                                                                        1. re: CindysFarmStand

                                                                                          I tried Rao sauce for the first time in the last few months. I think it is very good, costs $9 something here. I do think I should at least get a kiss, a little foreplay, before I buy it.

                                                                                            1. re: CindysFarmStand

                                                                                              I agree that there is nothing that comes close. And when it goes on sale near me for $4.99 for a 32 oz. jar, I buy 3-4 jars.

                                                                                              1. re: valerie

                                                                                                I have read a lot of the negative comments about Rao's and I get the feeling the crowd here is more Prego than Rao's. Which is what Americans are taught to like.
                                                                                                There's a reason Rao's is as popular as it is, and why you can't get a seat in the restaurant. They make a sauce that is Italian, not a sauce that is geared for the Ronzoni crowd.
                                                                                                I know it's the best sauce on the market for people who enjoy the traditional Italian style. So no one will ever be able to agree on what is best since everyone has their own idea and likes.

                                                                                                1. re: CindysFarmStand

                                                                                                  All jarred sauces are "geared for the Ronzoni crowd". That's why they're made.

                                                                                                  I've eaten at Rao's and thought it was good. I've been served their sauce and thought is was inferior to the restaurant. I would never buy it, but then again, I can't fathom buyin' jarred sauce. "It's just the 'hound in me, baby."

                                                                                                  "So no one will ever be able to agree on what is best since everyone has their own idea and likes."

                                                                                                  That is the point of this Site, no?

                                                                                                  1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                    Pretty much. Taste is subjective, it's all about what we like!

                                                                                                    1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                      "..... I can't fathom buyin' jarred sauce. "It's just the 'hound in me, baby."

                                                                                                      Once again, I'm with you all the way. Especially, since the Rao's sauce recipe is so available. I've been using their recipes for marinara, "gravy", meatballs, etc., for a long time. First on the net and later from the book "Rao's - Recipes From The Neighborhood" by Frank Pelligrino. p.s. Lucky you to have eaten there.

                                                                                                    2. re: CindysFarmStand

                                                                                                      I love Italian sauce and gravy. I would never buy Ronzoni, or anything like it. I prefer to make my own. from San Marzanos. I've tasted Rao's and it is nothing to write home about. I think that part of it is the name factor. Americans love a big name. You also can't really logically assert that it must be good since so many people like it. There are many things that are popular that just aren't good, like white bread from a plastic bag. Rao's isn't bad. It's tasty enough, but for $10 a bottle, it better knock my socks off. Especially when their are far better sauces out there for less.

                                                                                                      1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                                                                        "There are many things that are popular that just aren't good..."

                                                                                                        Exactly. Democracy is seriously overrated.

                                                                                              2. There's no way I would pay that much for a jarred sauce.

                                                                                                I used to only buy the San Marzano tomatoes when making my own sauce, but used to get frustrated at spending $4-$5 a can for those.

                                                                                                However, recently I found a brand called "Diane's Garden" that a local grocery store chain sells for only 99 cents for a 28 ounce can, and was really surprised at how good they were. They're just as good as the San Marzano brand imo, and with just a few fresh ingredients I can make a sauce that runs circles around anything pre-made in a jar.

                                                                                                11 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: Atomic76

                                                                                                  San Marzano is a type of plum tomato, from a specific region as Italy, grown in volcanic soil. It's not a brand.
                                                                                                  I am glad you can make a sauce better than anything in a jar. I am a chef that lived in Italy, and although I can make amazing sauces, I still have not been able to make an arrabiata as good as Rao's.

                                                                                                  1. re: CindysFarmStand

                                                                                                    There is a "San Marzano" brand of tomatos grown in the US. I've used it, but I agree it is overpriced.


                                                                                                    1. re: GH1618

                                                                                                      Hard to find that volcanic soil over here. I've had locally grown tomatoes from San Marzano seeds. Good, but not great.

                                                                                                      1. re: GH1618

                                                                                                        It's just a brand of plumb tomatoes. Taking advantage of those that don't know that San Marzanos are a variety of tomatoes from Italy grown in volcanic soil. It's the soil and the weather that gives real San Marzanos their distinctive qualities.

                                                                                                      2. re: CindysFarmStand

                                                                                                        Rao's from the restaurant or Rao's from the jar?

                                                                                                        1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                          I've never been to the restaurant. If I am in the city, I am not going to waste the opportunity eating Italian!

                                                                                                          1. re: CindysFarmStand

                                                                                                            That seems odd to me. You like Rao's sauces, they are way better in the restaurant than from the bottle, and New York's dining culture was basically borne outta Italian-American fare. Next time you're in The City, you owe yourself to a treat uptown.

                                                                                                            1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                              I'm confused by your comment that folks can get a reservation at the NYC Rao's. I saw a segment on television some years back and NYC's Rao's was described as having something like a dozen tables and that every table was reserved every night of the week. The holders of that reservation are obligated to send someone in their place if they can't keep the reservation. If they fail to do that, they're stripped of their standing reservation.

                                                                                                              The Las Vegas and Los Angeles Rao's work like completely ordinary -- albeit popular -- restaurants. I had a delicious meal at the Las Vegas branch about 2 years ago.

                                                                                                              FWIW, I did a search for Rao's and got a link to a very recent Forbes article which says essentially what I've said about an ordinary person's ability to dine at Rao NYC (Harlem).


                                                                                                              1. re: Indy 67

                                                                                                                Until rather recently, I never knew it was a problem to get reservations. I had never tried to do so. Between 1978 (possibly '79, but I know it was before Munson died), when my Mother's (then) husband took us all there and 2002 when a Manhattan lawyer I was working with was my host, I have also dined there on one other occasion. In retrospect, had I known it was such a precious seat, I might have appreciated it more.

                                                                                                                I don't really think that my company in the past was really all that special. It always just seemed like one of those NY, "This place is really small, but great" joints. Nevertheless, you are right, it appears that Cindy will never be able to eat at Rao's. Sad time for the Proletariat in The City.

                                                                                                                1. re: Indy 67

                                                                                                                  Slightly off subject, but I was shocked to find that DiFaras pizzeria now has locations in Las Vegas and elsewhere. You KNOW it's not going to be the original, unless Dom clones himself somehow.

                                                                                                        2. Orville Reddenbacker was approached to be a control for Kraft marketing and agreed. The outcome was that the Kraft fold told him that for marketing gourmet popcorn, he needed to charge way more, not a little bit more. This is the same thing. Make your own sauce for $12 per meal. Sauce is easy. Good, fresh ingredients = superb sauce. Get some fresh tomatoes, onions, peppers, and imagination, some wine and go. Basil, oregano, whatever suits you.

                                                                                                          1. Even better... today I saw Rao's canned tomatoes (not sauce) for over $3 a can. Not happening!

                                                                                                            1. I have no clue. We were so disappointed in Rao's.

                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                                                                                i thought that silver palate's low-sodium marinara is better than rao's

                                                                                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                  All Silver Palate are the best! And it goes on sale for 2/$5 often.

                                                                                                              2. We tried Rao's once and were decidedly underwhelmed.

                                                                                                                It was bland and watery

                                                                                                                1. I have tried Rao's sauce and yes it does taste good for a jarred sauce, but I pride myself on making fresh sauces from canned tomatoes in the winter and fresh in the summer, marinara, and pomodoro fresh diced, but in a pinch I will buy a jar of sauce every so often...First of all you are paying for convenience, not the for the taste of fresh made sauces, because no matter how good some pre-made sauces taste they can not replace a good simmered home made sauce. Rao's comes close but I would not spend 10 dollars for 1 jar. I think Safeway must mark up their sauces a bit more than some other chains, but maybe I am wrong. I thought I have seen their sauces for 7-8 dollars a jar in some stores. But for me to keep buying this sauce for 10 dollars a pop, it better make me start talking Italian!

                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: keithlb1

                                                                                                                    Hear hear. Many store bought products are terrific and can equal homemade. Pasta sauces, even the hallowed (by some) Rao's, is not among them. It is, therefore, slightly daft to shell out 10 clams for a bottle of the stuff and then claim it as the acme of pasta sauce. It is not. It is a convenience product.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                                      $10 is too much. At that point I am going to make something, or buy a roasted chicken. I only buy Rao's when I am too lazy to cook, or to hungry to wait. And then, only when it's under $8.

                                                                                                                  2. Just saw this thread wondering what the foodie world thought of Rao's. I've been getting Rao's Marinara for a couple months now. No, it isn't cheap, but it is by far the best jarred sauce I've ever used.

                                                                                                                    Now, I NEVER just use jarred sauce on its own. I typically saute off red onions, garlic, sometimes mushrooms, and add it to whichever sauce I pick. I usually add ground beef and sometimes half Bob Evan's Hot Sausage. Delicious. I don't think I could make sauce as good if I tried, and certainly not in the 15 minutes it takes me to put together a scrumptious spaghetti dinner.

                                                                                                                    I also like that it has the fewest number of ingredients in the grocer's selection.

                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: muzicman82

                                                                                                                      muzicman82: if you're going to spend that much time and effort doctoring up ready-made sauce, i'd recommend that you start with the Trader Joe's Marinara sauce that comes in the can with the green label.

                                                                                                                      in my experience it is the best "base" to use for doctored-up-sauce.

                                                                                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                        It's not so much "doctoring up" as it is customizing. I'll give it a shot the next time I'm ever near a Trader Joe's.. I find Rao's to be delicious without modifying, but even better when used as a base.

                                                                                                                        It doesn't even take "that long". Most of the 15 minutes it takes me is waiting for water to boil.

                                                                                                                    2. Given the fact that making a classic marinara sauce is so easy, I would never buy it--at least as long as the ingredients are available. Fortunately, we have a very food store two blocks away.

                                                                                                                      1. Well, I hope you all are right. I bought a jar of Rao's Arrabiata at Target last night, because it's on sale this week for $6-something.

                                                                                                                        I'm a lifelong Prego buyer and only just started making my own sauce from scratch last year, using canned Cento San Marzano tomatoes and Mario Batali's basic sauce recipe. But I'm willing to try anything once if it's THAT GOOD, especially if it's marked down a few bucks.

                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                                                                                                                          I never would have thought of Target for Rao's sauce - that is amusing. And maybe as close as I'll ever get again to a Rao meal...

                                                                                                                          1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                                                                                                                            Thanks to you I just bought some there, but it was $7.49. Still felt reasonable for what it is.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                                                                                                                              Bumping up this thread to reply to my own post from October. I finally busted out that jar of Rao's Arrabiata sauce, and it was INCREDIBLE. Easily the best jarred pasta sauce I've ever had, better than most restaurants' red sauce, and as good (in a different way) as Mario's recipe that I make with Cento San Marzanos.

                                                                                                                              It had a nice bit of spice, richness from the olive oil, and a delicious oniony/garlicky taste that lingered afterwards. I'm still thinking about it several days later, so I'm glad I just used a tiny bit of the jar on a small portion of spaghetti.

                                                                                                                              I'm cheap, so I won't indulge often, but Rao's more than lived up to the hype.

                                                                                                                            2. Has anyone tried the vodka sauce?

                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                              1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                                                                Gave up vodka ever since I got off the sauce.

                                                                                                                              2. No f_____ way I would pay that kind of money for a jar of tomato sauce when I can get Barrilla for $2.50. I always doctor it up the way I want anyway by sauteeing garlic, basil, capers, red wine and olive oil, adding some Italian sauage, etc. You can start with decent sauce as a base and make it spectacular. I'd rather put my investment into the upgrades.

                                                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                                                                                                  Barilla on sale around here for $1.49 this week, I'm stocking up. I only use it plain, for emergency reasons, but it's not bad at all, especially at that price (or at $2.50, for that matter).

                                                                                                                                  1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                    Yes. I like their sauce with the black and green olives, especially. $1.49 is a pretty good deal!

                                                                                                                                    1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                                                                                                      I know, I'm going to just get a few jars of marinara, although you never know; it's cheaper than making it yourself, and it's made plain and simple the way I like it. Great for a thrown together, last minute meal.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                        Update: I picked up two jars of Barilla basil and tomato sauce this weekend. It was distinctly sweeter than the last batch I purchased a month or so previous. I looked on the label and, sure enough, they now list sugar as an ingredient. So....we're done with Barrilla.

                                                                                                                                2. I like Victoria better, it is still expensive but not as bad as Rao's it also isn't 1/2 fat like rao's is


                                                                                                                                  1. While I've never had it and admittedly I'm a bit of a gravy snob, nothing will ever compare to my version/my grandmothers gravy, I have a hard time justifying that price for sure.

                                                                                                                                    I use to be a fan of Aunt Millie's to use in a pinch but that has been long gone from my local supermarket shelves. Don't know why.

                                                                                                                                    1. Look on the list of ingredients. Isn't #1 your money? It isn't? Well, I guess labels are misleading.

                                                                                                                                      1. Found a bottle of Rao's sauce earlier this week at the discount grocery for $1.49, so I picked it up. However, my brother has laid claim to it, and he is in college, so it will be awhile until I can share his thoughts. I was just going to prepare it for the husband and step-daughter, since I'm allergic to tomato.

                                                                                                                                        DH is a little bitter. Maybe he'll be lucky and I'll find another at a good price.

                                                                                                                                        8 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: jw615

                                                                                                                                          Why don't you just use it, and fill it up with something else decent when you get word you brother is on his way? Or if you find another, then save that one. Husband trumps brother in my book.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                            Coll...fill up your Rao sauce jar with something else, and then display it to your guests, as a sommelier would with wine? That reminds me of buying motor oil in Mexico City...:)

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                              Well if you serve enough wine, maybe no one would notice!

                                                                                                                                            2. re: coll

                                                                                                                                              Typically I would just make it for the husband, but my brother was super excited about the prospect of trying it. He's in his first semester and struggling with depression, and the conversation we had about trying the pasta sauce was the first time that he perked up all week, so he wins in this case.

                                                                                                                                              And it's not like DH is losing out - he had my first attempt at beef wellington this week, and it was delicious.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: jw615

                                                                                                                                                Yummm beef Wellington is a great dish!

                                                                                                                                                1. re: jw615

                                                                                                                                                  In that case, make it for your brother, definitely. Depression trumps all in this case, I agree.

                                                                                                                                                2. re: coll

                                                                                                                                                  Knowing Coll's cooking, anything she would put in the jar would be better than Rao's.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                                                                                                    You are too kind! Only 6AM and you made my day already.

                                                                                                                                                    I did try Rao's once, and didn't find it to be the elixir of the gods that others do, that's why I'm being a little flippant about this whole scenario.

                                                                                                                                              2. I bought a few jars a year or two back on sale for $5.99 after reading all the praise on here and I was really underwhelmed. It just tasted like oily stewed tomatoes, and average (at best) tomatoes at that. It was marked down over 40% and still wasn't worth the price in my opinion. $10+ per jar is absurd, you're just paying for reputation IMO.

                                                                                                                                                1. The jar we tried was watery and bland. It was terrible. We don't throw food away that often but neither of us wanted to eat the leftover sauce so it went in the trash

                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                                                                                    Watery, bland, and very oily. No need to use so much oil if the sauce is really that good. It's covering up for something.

                                                                                                                                                  2. I read on NoblePig.com that canned tomatoes (whole, crushed, diced, etc.) have to be of a certain freshness, but tomatoes used in sauces and other food items are more lenient and can be older. So at the very least, you are getting fresher tomatoes when you buy them canned and make your own sauce, vs. buying a pre-made sauce.

                                                                                                                                                    I think my big problem with jarred sauces is that they all have to have a certain level of acidity to them to be shelf stable by law, which I guess the manufacturers try to offset with sugar and other ingredients, which generally results in a "processed" taste with many of them.

                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Atomic76

                                                                                                                                                      Interesting. I have not seen it in years, but tehre used to be a brand that was sold in the cold case in supermarkets. I haven't seen another company do that. Maybe they did that instead of adding an acid?

                                                                                                                                                    2. Old thread, but you can usually get these for ~$8 in mainstream markets in the Northeast. Add a box of pasta, some Romano cheese and a loaf of bread and you'e got an excellent meal for 4 under $15. I'm also from a southern Italian family and Rao's is the only jarred sauce I've found that approaches my grandmother's exceptional home-cooked sauces.

                                                                                                                                                      Taste is subjective, but -- whether it's the oil or not -- I agree that it's the only sauce that has some depth and a pleasurable taste that lingers on the palate. Rao's tastes home-cooked; every other sauce tastes cheap to me: too much sugar, too watery, etc...

                                                                                                                                                      1. FWIW, I recently purchased a jarred sauce because a recipe called for it as a convenient time-saver. Bought a jar of Victoria Trading Company Arrabiata for a little over $3.00 at WalMart, and what can I tell you? I was extremely surprised at how good it was. Now very rare is the time I'll buy jarred pasta sauce, but when I do, it's gonna be this stuff.

                                                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                                                                          My wife picked up three jars of Kirkland marinara sauce at Costco last week for $7, and the stuff is excellent! Nice, bright-tasting sauce with no sugar added. Next time, she's getting a case.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                                                                                                                            When it comes to jarred pasta sauces, you don't always get what you paid for. Sometimes you get less, sometimes more.