Rao's Homemade's New Sauces Elevate The Brand's Classic Recipes

Rao's Homemade is a consistently expanding brand offering everything from pasta and pizza sauces to soups and frozen entrées. The brand got its start at its flagship restaurant in New York City, and eventually introduced its line of branded ingredients to offer home cooks the opportunity to taste the Rao's difference.

Rao's recently added several new pasta and pizza sauces to its lineup, which were provided to me for this taste test. Going into this, I knew how difficult it is to find "pre-made" Italian food and meal shortcuts that don't shortcut flavor and quality. After all, I myself have an affinity for Italian food, and rarely trust any "authentic Italian" from anywhere besides my own mother's kitchen. I reviewed these new Rao's Homemade sauces to see how they squared up against the classic sauce options and to decide if they were worth buying. 

Some recommendations are based on first-hand impressions of promotional materials and products provided by the manufacturer/distributor/etc.

Prices are as of the date of publication and may vary based on region. 

What are the Rao's Homemade sauces?

Rao's Homemade jarred sauces are often excellent — and that's not something I say lightly. The brand has had plenty of winners in the past, from the classic marinara to the adventurous spicy vodka arrabbiata sauce. The brand's six newest additions span across sauce types. It includes three Alfredo sauces — Four cheese Alfredo, bacon Alfredo, and Alfredo arrabiata — which add creative and playful touches to a roster that includes classics like basic Alfredo and roasted garlic Alfredo. The brand also released two red sauces, fire grilled vegetable and roasted red pepper, which add a summery flair to pasta night. Its lineup also includes a roasted garlic pizza sauce.

Rao's ingredients are key to its success. The red sauces are created from an authentic tomato base, which is simmered with olive oil, salt, and various herbs. The white sauces start with cream, butter, cheese, and egg yolks. The pizza sauces are essentially jazzed-up red sauces with extra herbs and spices. The new sauce variations offer a unique spin on these classic, beloved Rao's recipes, but only time (and a taste test) would tell if the extra ingredients are worth it. 

Where to find Rao's Homemade new sauces

At this point, Rao's is not much of a secret. If you were to have asked me what the best store-bought tomato sauce is, even before I had even tried any brands, I would have said Rao's — just on word of mouth alone. That's a good thing, because it suggests that Rao's is a major player on the grocery store sauce scene — and is one brand that you can find in stores almost anywhere. 

You can purchase Rao's Homemade sauces in stores including Target, Walmart, Wegmans, Publix, Harris Teeter, Ralphs, and plenty more. Whatever your region, it's highly likely that you will be able to get your hands on a jar in-store. If for any reason that is not the case, however, you can always go to the Rao's website and have your choice of the full lineup of products — rather than the selection that your local grocer carries — delivered to your doorstep.

How much do the new Rao's Homemade sauces cost?

The exact same jar of Rao's sauce depends on where you're purchasing it from, since it can vary so much from store-to-store. A 24-ounce jar of Rao's Homemade pasta sauce cost $8.99 from the brand's website, regardless of the flavor, before shipping. However, the website does offer free shipping for purchases of over $50, which is a relatively easy threshold to hit considering the price of each jar. Rao's enthusiasts can also build a case of 12 jars on the website to mix and match flavors. 

You might find cheaper prices at your local grocery store; I found the same jars costed between $7 and $8 at my local Harris Teeter. Meanwhile the cheapest jars of competing brands in the same size can run for under $3, so it would take a high quality sauce to justify the higher price point. The pizza sauces, which are sold in 12.3-ounce jars, naturally cost less than the pasta sauces. But, there are still many grocery store pizza sauce brands that offer a more budget-friendly alternative to Rao's. 

Taste test: roasted red pepper sauce

This roasted red pepper sauce is elegant and sophisticated, but it also has a sun-drenched Mediterranean nonchalance to it. When the peppers are roasted, the somewhat bland and watery flavor becomes brilliantly concentrated, charred, and earthy. That vegetal flavor is a great choice to add to a simple marinara because it makes the sauce very complex. The tomatoes work well with the red peppers to create an entirely new sauce. Moreover, that roasted flavor gives this sauce a homemade and slow-simmered quality that other brands can't replicate. 

Some people may want a red sauce that tastes tomato-based rather than murky or charbroiled. If that's the case, go for the classic marinara instead of this one. But if you love the rich flavor of roasted red peppers enough to want to craft a whole dish around it, I would highly recommend trying this sauce. It would be a great fit for a baked creamy red pepper penne pasta recipe — and it might end up as a regular in your meal rotation. You can thank me later.

Taste test: four cheese Alfredo sauce

The four cheeses promised in the four cheese Alfredo sauce are Parmesan, romano, asiago, and fontina. The original, basic Alfredo sauce only offers Parmesan and romano. You get double the cheese in this sauce — which makes a big difference in its flavor. 

Regular Alfredo is a creamy sauce constructed on a base of milk, cream, egg yolks, and butter. It's very bland while also being very rich, but that's what some people (especially young eaters) love about it. Doubling the cheese in the Alfredo meant that this sauce tasted like 75% of the way towards straight-up mac and cheese — albeit a nice and fancy version of the classic recipe. It's decadent, and a little sauce goes a long way. 

I would definitely want to add some protein to this pasta to it to cut through all the cheesy, buttery gooeyness. If you are looking for a mac and cheese shortcut, try heating up your sauce with some cheddar cheese and pour it over pasta.

Taste test: bacon Alfredo sauce

Alfredo sauce, by itself, is pretty indulgent. There are a few ways to up the ante, though, and Rao's went ahead and explored them. It added more cheese and more bacon to its bacon Alfredo sauce. The bacon Alfredo sauce is for the brave or the curious — and I happen to be both. At least when it comes to Rao's sauces, I know I'm in good hands.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this sauce is not quite as crazy or over the top as its name suggests. The bacon does add yet another level of fat and richness that Alfredo sauce doesn't really need, but at the same time, the smokiness and savoriness are a great way to offset the bland creaminess of basic Alfredo. The sauce is certainly delicious — there's no question about that — but I probably could not get through a whole bowl of just pasta covered in this sauce. It would especially difficult to get through if you topped the pasta with crispy oven-baked bacon for extra oomph.

Taste test: Alfredo arrabbiata sauce

After trying the two other creative spins on regular Alfredo sauce, I was a little wary (and weary) to try yet another iteration. But this sauce goes in a different direction from the "more is more" approach. Instead, the arrabbiata, which translates to "angry" and nods to the inclusion of hot red pepper, transforms and uplifts the sauce to new levels. The red pepper is the simple ingredient that gives arrabbiata sauce its iconic spice, and it gets this sauce all to itself.

If you're a pasta purist, this sauce likely is not going to be your cup of tea. It's got a lot going on, and for some people, it's probably going to be too much. But in my opinion, lacing buttery, sometimes cloying Alfredo with some spice is a great idea. This Alfredo arrabbiata tastes lighter than all the other Alfredo sauces that I had tried. This sauce just has the extra pizzazz factor to it that not a lot of other sauces have to offer. 

Taste test: roasted garlic pizza sauce

Pizza sauce is so useful for homemade pies. It's an especially useful ingredient to have on hand when you'd rather focus on perfecting your ideal Neapolitan pizza dough rather than worrying about a sauce. Pizza sauce is also great for dipping because it has more herbs and spices than a basic marinara. Rao's has four kinds of pizza sauces now, with the newest being this roasted garlic variation.

Instead of the astringent and bitter taste of raw garlic, this sauce brings out the allium's savory side by roasting it. And garlic lovers, rejoice — because I could tell that this was a garlicky sauce from the minute it hit my tongue. Rao's doesn't go easy on us, here. I love garlic, I really do, but even I thought it was a little too much. I felt that this slow-roasted garlic flavor tasted more like a piece of garlic that had sat a little too long in my fridge and spoiled — but maybe that's just me.

Taste test: fire grilled vegetable sauce

Bolognese sauce harnesses the power of vegetables and meat. But what if you like the sounds of a vegetable mélange in your red sauce, but without the meat? Then, the fire grilled vegetable sauce is going to be the one you'll want to add to your cart. 

This sauce includes multi-colored bell peppers and red onions, which have more of a sharp bite than basic white onions. But I have to admit that I was hoping for more vegetable variety than just added peppers and a different kind of onion — like maybe some zucchini or eggplant. But, this is still a gorgeous sauce that tastes like it was the product of a garden harvest. This sauce is lighter than the roasted red pepper one, but still a little more zesty than a simple marinara. Overall, this sauce fills the veg-forward sauce gap in Rao's lineup quite well. 

Are any of the new sauces worth it?

Rao's is one of the best pasta sauce brands that I have ever tried, and I've rarely been disappointed in its offerings. The roasted garlic pizza sauce was a rare misstep, but all the others are still absolutely worth purchasing, if your budget allows for it. Rao's high prices reflects its high quality, but after this taste test, I've concluded its new pasta sauces are worth splurging on. 

Personally, I am not the biggest fan of Alfredo sauces, but I'm going to put my bias aside for a minute. Out of the selection of newer sauces, I would keep a jar of the four cheese Alfredo on hand for a quick, delicious spin on mac and cheese. I would also reach for the roasted red pepper red sauce if I wanted to take a break from the regular marinara and go for something with a more sophisticated, elevated flavor profile. 

Though I loved the Alfredo arrabbiata, it's a little out there — so I would pick it up for when the mood strikes, even if it's not a regular addition to my cart. Meanwhile, the bacon Alfredo would also come through when I'm craving something decadent. And, the fire grilled vegetable red sauce would be an excellent choice for red-sauced pasta in the summertime because of its seasonal, garden-fresh flavor. Overall, Rao's new lineup, once again, came through with some real winners.