I'm a chef comparing 5 popular store-bought red sauces, and I found the best is worth paying a little extra for




I tried tomato sauce from five different grocery-store brands.Lizzy Briskin
I tried tomato sauce from five different grocery-store brands.Lizzy Briskin  
  • I used my expertise as a professional chef to review five brands of store-bought marinara sauce.

  • Classico's marinara seemed more appropriate for pizza and the Newman's Own sauce was just OK.

  • Rao's Sensitive marinara sauce, which doesn't contain onions or garlic, was my favorite.

First, I tasted the Classico Cabernet marinara with herbs.

Front of Classico marinara sauce jar; Back of Classico marinara sauce jar with nutrition facts
Front of Classico marinara sauce jar; Back of Classico marinara sauce jar with nutrition facts  

Though I was intrigued by Classico's use of Cabernet, the sauce just didn't feel right on pasta.

Out of the jar, the sauce was completely smooth so it was probably pureed and strained before canning.

Classico's Cabernet marinara might be better as a pizza sauce.

I thought Classico
I thought Classico's marinara was just too sweet.Lizzy Briskin  

When I tasted the sauce, I thought it had a strong sweetness that didn't pair well with pasta. I also prefer some texture in my pasta sauce so this was too smooth for me.

Because of its sweetness and texture, I think Classico's marinara might work better on pizza.

The 24-ounce jar cost $4.29.

The Newman's Own marinara was up next.

I thought the Newman
I thought the Newman's Own marinara was just OK.Lizzy Briskin  

Unfortunately, I thought the Newman's Own marinara sauce didn't stack up in the flavor department compared to the others.

The sauce fell a little flat and had what I thought was an uninspiring, smooth, and almost watery texture.

The Newman's Own marinara was too thin for me.

The Newman
The Newman's Own marinara didn't have a standout flavor.Lizzy Briskin  

Since the texture of the Newman's Own sauce was so watery, it didn't cling to the noodles very well.

However, I also saw a tomato-basil sauce from the brand when I was at the store, and that may have more promise.

I paid $3.99 for a 24-ounce jar.

I also tried Primal Kitchen's tomato-basil marinara sauce made with avocado oil.

Primal Kitchen
Primal Kitchen's marinara sauce was the only one made with avocado oil.Lizzy Briskin  

The most expensive marinara I tried came from Primal Kitchen, which was made with avocado oil rather than the Italian standard, olive oil. To me, the addition of avocado oil in itself wasn't necessarily a benefit or worth paying more for.

When I poured some sauce into a bowl, I noticed it was quite chunky and thick with small pieces of diced onion and lots of herbs.

Primal Kitchen's marinara sauce was pretty tasty.

The marinara from Primal Kitchen was hearty.Lizzy Briskin
The marinara from Primal Kitchen was hearty.Lizzy Briskin  

Despite my initial opinions about the avocado oil, the sauce was tasty. I think the avocado oil gave the marinara a richer, heartier flavor than the other sauces, which tasted brighter and more acidic in comparison.

The oregano and basil flavors were also prominent in this marinara.

You can get a 24-ounce jar for $11.99.

I tried Barilla's marinara next.

Barilla
Barilla's marinara had some specks of herbs and onion.Lizzy Briskin  

When I tried Barilla's marinara, which says it has "no sugar added," I was surprised by how tasty it was.

The texture was looser than some of the other sauces, with visible specks of herbs and onion and some larger chunks of tomato.

I thought Barilla's sauce had a good herb flavor.

The Barilla marinara was pretty tasty.Lizzy Briskin
The Barilla marinara was pretty tasty.Lizzy Briskin  

I could certainly taste the basil and oregano but it wasn't overpowering the entire dish.

It separated a bit in the jar but came back together when stirred.

A 24-ounce jar cost $3.99.

Finally, I tried Rao's Homemade Sensitive marinara.

Rao
Rao's Sensitive marinara was made without onions or garlic.Lizzy Briskin  

The difference between Rao's Sensitive marinara and the regular one is that the former is made without onion or garlic.

Out of the jar, the sauce was mostly smooth with a nice amount of larger crushed tomato pieces.

Out of all of the marinara I tried, Rao's sauce was my favorite of the bunch and is my personal go-to at home.

Rao
Rao's marinara sauce in a clear glass bowl next to jar on table  

Rao's marinara had a slightly smoky flavor, perhaps from roasting the tomatoes. The concentrated-tomato flavor really was the most prominent taste in this jar, which I appreciated.

Rao's marinara had the flavor of a homemade sauce that had been simmering all day long.

I bought a 24-ounce jar for $7.99.

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