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    After Taste-Testing 8 Popular Brands Of Jarred Marinara Sauce, I Honestly Can't Believe How Awful My Childhood Favorite Was

    The internet was right about one of these...

    I grew up eating a whole lotta pasta with jarred marinara sauce, and I can't lie...there's still something so nostalgic about that very specific taste of the jarred stuff in particular. I love a homemade pot of sauce as much as everyone does, but for the convenience factor alone, sometimes store-bought can't be beaten.

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

    When it comes to jarred marinara sauce, I've always wondered: The pricier, artisanal varieties definitely taste great, but side-by-side with their budget-friendly counterparts, I can't imagine they're that much better...right? I mean, it's tomatoes.

    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)

    So to find out once and for all, I decided to conduct a blind taste test of the most popular marinara brands out there — from the Ragú that I grew up with to the proclaimed "holy grails" of jarred sauce. And I gotta say...the results surprised me.

    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.

    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 blind taste tests below:

     Best Frozen Chicken Nuggets

     Best Microwave Popcorn

    • Best Ice Cream

    • Best Jarred Salsa

    • Best Boxed Mac 'N' Cheese

    • Best Frozen Pizza

    Best Pickles