As A "Pasta And Sauce" Lover, I Taste-Tested The Most Popular Jars Of Marinara Sauce — And The Winner Was Better Than Homemade

    I taste-tested the top 8 jars of marinara sauce — and for some of you, I've got bad news...

    If you, like me, were practically raised on pasta with jarred marinara sauce — I'm not the only one, right? — then you'll likely agree that it's still blissfully nostalgic. Yes, I'm keenly aware that homemade marinara is top-tier, but sometimes the jarred stuff just hits. And even if it doesn't hit quite as hard as a from-scratch sauce, the convenience factor alone makes up for it.

    Author holding a bowl of pasta with marinara sauce with drawn-on heart eyes

    But listen, folks: Every jarred marinara sauce is unique. As a former kid who grew up on Ragú, I'll tell you right now that you probably can't compare it to the fancy (read: pricey) stuff — but is that the case with every brand?

    Ragu and Cucina Antica marinara sauces set on a window sill for comparison, the former with one dollar sign, the latter with three (to indicate price)

    In my endless quest to determine the best brands of all your favorite pantry and refrigerator staples, I embarked on a taste test of the most popular marinara brands — from the cheap to the shockingly expensive. And let's just say the results were not at all what I was expecting.

    Bowl of steaming pasta with marinara sauce
    The Sauces

    For the purposes of this experiment, I separated the sauces into three main categories: the "fancy" stuff, the common standards, and the house-brand versions you'll find at stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. All in all, I landed on eight total sauces:

    Eight jarred pasta sauces, laid out on a cutting board
    The Taste Test

    Here's how this went: To find out whether or not the fancier stuff really is better,I knew I had to make this a blind taste test. Luckily, my very willing (and hungry) partner was more than happy to mix up some saucy pastas for me.

    Package of fusilli pasta next to a pot of water on the stove
    Small bowl of sauced pasta on top of a piece of paper with notes: "#1: literally tastes like SpaghettiOs sauce??? kinda bitter aftertaste...there are genuinely no real tomatoes in this lol" and a frown face drawn next to it

    I quickly made my way through the eight different sauces, and it didn't take long to realize that, yep, NOT ALL JARRED MARINARAS ARE CREATED EQUALLY. Some tasted like actual tomatoes, others left weird aftertastes, and some tasted like they contained an entire jar of Italian seasoning, which might just be the biggest offense of all.

    Handwritten note saying: "sort of sweet? too sweet. honestly this one tasted like Italian herb bread @ subway which feels...wrong for sauce." and a frowning face.

    After jotting down every single one of my thoughts, I tried to guess which sauce was which. Ultimately, I got 2/8 correct, which wasn't bad. I tried.

    Piece of paper with numerous handwritten notes and smiley face rankings for all eight pasta sauces, the first two (Ragu and Tuttorosso) have check marks next to them

    Before my boyfriend finally revealed the order in which I tasted the sauces, I sorted them to finalize my thoughts.

    Screenshot of iPhone note with text: "BEST MARINARA SAUCES" listing the order, best to worst, 7, 8, 5, 3, 2, 6, 4, 1

    The following is my definitive ranking — from the absolute worst to the inarguable best.

    The Results

    8. Ragú Traditional — It tasted like SpaghettiOs, but distinctly bitter.

    Ragú Traditional

    🍝 Overall score for Ragú — 3.5/10

    Given the SpaghettiOs-like flavor and the bitter aftertaste, I was deeply disappointed by my childhood fave and I can't exactly recommend buying this one, either.

    7. Prego Traditional — Basically just syrupy garlic.

    Prego Traditional

    🍝 Overall score for Prego — 4/10

    Vampires, beware. This sauce is unnecessarily garlicky, IMO, and I also didn't love how sweet it was. All in all: pass.

    6. Trader Joe's Tomato Basil Marinara — If you've ever had the Italian Herb and Cheese bread at Subway, that's what this sauce tastes like...and I don't mean that in a good way.

    Trader Joe's Tomato Basil Marinara

    🍝 Overall score for Trader Joe's — 4.5/10

    While I appreciate the fact that they went for flavor here, I think it was ultimately overkill. Their fine-tasting tomato sauce was completely overshadowed by the distinct, polarizing Italian seasoning taste.

    5. Tuttorosso Marinara — For the price, it's honestly a pretty solid option.

    Tuttorosso Marinara

    🍝 Overall score for Tuttorosso — 6/10

    If you need a cheap, budget-friendly tomato sauce that's by no means offensive — even if it's not exactly jam-packed with flavor — Tuttorosso is a solid option.

    4. Classico Marinara — While it's certainly not the most budget-friendly option, it does pack in some bold, impressive flavor.

    Classico Marinara

    🍝 Overall score for Classico — 7/10

    For a middle-of-the-road pasta sauce (in terms of taste and price point) that you can find at just about any grocery store, Classico's cabernet marinara definitely impressed.

    3. Whole Foods 365 Organic Marinara — As far as your wallet is concerned, this is THE sauce for you.

    Whole Foods 365 Organic Marinara

    🍝 Overall score for Whole Foods — 7.5/10

    If you live near a Whole Foods, run to stock up on this budget-friendly, delicious-tasting marinara sauce. It's cheap, undeniably tasty, and just so happens to be organic, too.

    2. Cucina Antica Marinara — It's a near-perfect, blank-slate sauce at a higher price point.

    Cucina Antica Marinara

    🍝 Overall score for Cucina Antica — 8.5/10

    While I didn't love the flavor as much as my #1 pick, I did appreciate that it was incredibly tomato-forward without any excessive herby notes to cover up all that freshness. You'll pay a little more for this one, but if you need a sauce that's truly fresh-tasting, Cucina Antica is a great pick.

    1. Rao's Homemade Marinara — I don't know how else to say this...this stuff is 🔥.

    Rao's homemade Marinara Sauce

    🍝 Overall score for Rao's — 10/10

    Rarely do I taste "premium" products that are worth every penny. Rao's is the exception. If you can find it on sale at your local grocery store or at a wholesale club, like Costco, stock up.

    Over the years, I've also tried several brands of jarred marinara sauce that weren't initially included in this taste test (but are still very much worth reporting on). We'll update these occasionally, with an idea of where they might fall on this list.

    Late Addition: Carbone Marinara — 7.5/10

    There's no denying that Carbone's jarred marinara sauce is good. But is it $10 good? Well, if Rao's is the pinnacle of "$10 good," the answer is a resounding no. Still, it's fresh-tasting and bursting with bright, basil-y flavors, which makes it the perfect sauce to add to a dish where you don't want it to totally steal the show; think seafood pasta or a meaty, cheesy lasagna.

    Late Addition: Michael's of Brooklyn Marinara — 9/10

    Everything about Michael's marinara gives big homemade energy, from the vibrant tomato and garlic flavor to the exceptionally charming, bulbous jar it comes in. While not as flavorful as Rao's, it's a slightly better deal at less than $9 for 32 ounces in most stores, and you could still likely fool a friend into thinking you simmered it all day to end up with something that delicious.

    Any sauces that you totally disagree with? Or, any of your absolute faves that we left out entirely? Let us know in the comments. Happy pasta-eating! 🍝

    If you're curious about how other popular grocery store products stack up to one another, you can check out the rest of my grocery store taste tests below:

     Best Ranch

    • Best Instant Ramen

     Best Frozen Chicken Nuggets

     Best Microwave Popcorn

    • Best Ice Cream

    • Best Jarred Salsa

    • Best Boxed Mac 'N' Cheese

    • Best Frozen Pizza

    Best Pickles