Reviewing Three Rao’s Frozen Entrees

Update 12/2021: Rao’s is now our favorite jarred pasta sauce and we buy it every time we find it on sale. I’ve also heard you can buy it at Costco.  

After posting about trying a few frozen meals from Rao’s Made For Home line, a few friends shared they like Rao’s jarred pasta sauce – I’ve curiously looked at the jars in the grocery stores, but never bought one before because I’m a cheap ass.

My parents always bought Prego or Ragu. I buy the cheapest, nicest marinara I can find. Usually it’s Newman’s Own or a store brand with a short ingredient list. I’ve made my own marinara from scratch, but find it tasted worse than when I doctor up a cheap jar of marinara with sautéed onions, garlic, fresh herbs, wine, or butter. . .

With Rao’s frozen entrees in our freezer this week, we randomly watched an old season of Top Chef where the contestants cooked at Rao’s in NYC. I’m probably not going to buy the $8 jar of marinara sauce and we’re obviously not going to dine at Rao’s anytime soon (or ever, because basically no one can).

Rao’s NYC is offering takeout for the first time via text requests.

So, this is the next best thing?

We found Rao’s “Made For Home”  frozen entrees at Whole Foods last week on sale for about $4.50 each, discounted from $6.99. The larger sizes cost around $11 full-price at Target.

Chicken Parmesan

My first impression is that the portion size is really tiny. I’m sure the chicken could be crispy, as described, if we had baked it in the oven. Who spends 40 minutes to  bake frozen single-portion entrees in the oven? Not us.

The chicken cutlet was really tender – fork tender. I like that the sauce is not too sweet and use of the good quality cheese. I was most surprised by the pasta – I expected it to be mushy, but it was actually closer to al dente.

Because of the portion size, I wouldn’t buy this unless it was on sale for under $5.

Lasagna

Of these three entrees, the lasagna is the largest portion size at nine ounces.

It might not look like much coming from the microwave, but tasted satisfying. The good sauce (not too sweet), cheese with a nice chew, and al dente pasta. The meat tasted fairly ordinary to me, but all in all, better than a typical frozen lasagna.

Would buy again on sale.

Chicken Alfredo

This was the meal I was most excited about. Unfortunately, it’s the smallest of the three entrees at 8.4 ounces. I was struck by the portion’s tininess when I opened the package.

Consistent with the other two meals, the noodles have a pleasant chew. The cream sauce needed a little salt, but tasted of the simple ingredient list with nothing artificial tasting. And the chicken pieces were texturally soft, inoffensive-tasting.

All in all, fine, but a disappointingly small portion for me to buy again, even on sale.

The other side  of the chicken alfredo and lasagna boxes  


My concluding thoughts: Better than what I’d expect from an average frozen Italian entree, but would not pay full price. I would re-purchase the lasagna on sale.

Jake’s thoughts based on taste alone: “You know, this all tastes pretty good!”

12 Comments

  1. sally eskew

    I had the penne with vodka sauce last night. It was very good. I fact I bought the chicken alfredo when I was at the store this a.m. I like the smaller size – just one of me for dinner. I used their pasta sauce for years. It’s the best!

    • Jeni

      We’re converts to the sauce too and buy it every time we see it on sale

  2. Joseph Patrick Prete

    I have only tried the Pizza Sauce & it was worth every drop, I am going to purchase a jar of Sauce today & an entree.
    Being Italian & growing up with homemade Sauce, I was very impressed. I only hope the meatballs are at the level your Sauce is, the Lazagna was like grandma had made it. I need a larger tray of Lazagna, so I can double size if a friend comes for dinner

  3. Glenn

    We tried Rao’s meat lasagne and were disappointed. Microwaved per instructions 100 WATTS and added an extra 30 SECONDS. It was cold in some spots and hot in others. The pasta was okay, the ricotta cheese filling was not. Also, it was listed on the review as $4.99. Target charged 12.99 for the same size. All in all the review was not reliable.

    • Glenn

      I meant 1100 watts not 100 watts. Apologies.

  4. Glenn

    My comment disappeared, so here it is again. We tried Rao’s Meat Lasagne and were disappointed. The lasagne pasta was good, but the ricotta filling was not. Also, the price you listed was $4.99 at Target, but we paid 12.99 at Target for the same size. Microwaved at 1100 watts as per instructions and gave it an additional 30 seconds. It was cool in spots and hot in others.

    • Jeni

      Thanks for sharing! The one I saw at Target for 12.99 was a family size, but not sure exactly what was at your Target.

    • steve

      maybe you should of baked it.

  5. Bill

    We have purchased and eaten the following meals: Four Cheese Pasta Bake, Meat Lasagna, Spaghetti and Meat Balls, and Rigatoni Bolognese. The only one which we would ever buy again is the Meat Lasagna. We would give it four stars. The Spaghetti and Meat Balls is absolutely the worst frozen dinner I have ever purchased. We would give it zero stars. I would give the Rigatoni Bolognese 2 stars and my wife would give it 3 stars. Four Cheese Pasta Bake is 2 stars. These meals are not cheap. With the exception of the Meat Lasagna, they do not taste good. We tried adding mozzarella and various spices, but none of them could be made into a palatable dinner. Do not waste your money

  6. jane cuomo

    Have used Rao’s sauce for years, my deceased husband(Italian) always made the sauce, however I just never was able to duplicate his,thus Rao’s, the dinner I love is the chicken parmesan,when its on sale, I purchased 8-10 to keep to store in freezer. Its tasty, good size cutlet plus pasta al denta.Family love it. Thanks;

  7. Andrew Walter

    Rao’s frozen food products are not what they once were.

    They had been high-quality near-gourmet grade selections sold at a premium price.

    Portion size was never Rao’s strong suit in the frozen food case. It was generally reasonable though.

    Quality was also apparent.

    Recipes and end-product end semed to rule the day. A great food product begins with a great recipe; no matter how simple or complicated that might be.

    Rao’s frozen products excelled in this fashion.

    Not anymore.
    Whether because of covid related economic or.supplty chain issues Raos frozen foods are barely distinguishable from other brands at sometimes half the price.

    Shrinkflation is also at work.

    The each of the two Chicken Parm pieces in my recent meal were barely the diameter of half-dollar coin; that is no exaggeration.

    Try Michael’s Frozen Italian. They have maintained quality, portion, taste and value.

    Good bye Raos.

  8. George

    My Kroger stopped carrying Rao’s, I was a big fan of the Penne a la Vodka. I gave the Michael Angelo’s a try, and honestly I think the entrees I have tried thus far, the 4 cheese baked ziti and lasagne are better and a couple bucks cheaper. Gotta bake them, though.

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