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).
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.
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.
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.
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!”