Best Marinara Sauce: Our Updated Ranking of the Best Jarred Marinara Sauce

The best marinara sauce is savory, fragrant, and deeply flavorful. It should never be too sour or excessively sweet, and it should, ideally, be made with high-quality ingredients while not costing a small fortune. If it does cost a fortune, it better taste good.

Everybody makes it seem like red sauce can only be good if it’s homemade, like it’s a sin to even consider not making your own red sauce. But therein lies a falsehood. Say it with us: Homemade doesn’t necessarily equal quality. How we cook (good) and how you cook (we don’t know you) are very different. Maybe we don’t want our friend Dave’s “homemade sauce” that he’s been tinkering with in his dirty kitchen where his cat hangs out. And, statistically speaking, not everybody’s grandmother can be a good cook. It’s just not possible, man!

We know good sauce. Sporked contributor Danny Palumbo, who led our first taste test, even had a side hustle selling homemade pasta dinners. We’re pleased to report that the store bought sauce landscape is promising. Sure, some brands we shall not directly call out still taste like a bunch of dried oregano and undercooked tomatoes. But, there’s good stuff out there, too. Sauces with zip, bang, and bite. Savory, deeply flavorful sauces that go big on flavor and save you a ton of time. 

We recently sourced some jars of sauce we hadn’t previously tried in order to update this ranking of the best marinara sauce to buy. If your pasta could thank us, it would.

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bertolli marinara sauce

Best Budget

Bertolli d’Italia Marinara

Bertolli d’Italia is a perplexing product. On one hand, it’s made with a combination of tomato juice and tomato paste, which helps balance out texture without having to use more expensive ingredients. Tomato paste brings some nice sweetness to any pasta sauce; my personal opinion is that it’s quite necessary. On the other hand, Bertolli also uses citric acid as a preserving agent, which is a potential red flag on an ingredient list for me. That said, the normally acrid taste of citric acid didn’t come through as much as I thought it would. Even though Bertolli cut some corners that other companies didn’t, this is a solid (and widely available) sauce. It might not be the absolute best jarred marinara sauce, but the flavor here is quite good. —Danny Palumbo

Credit: Liv Averett / Walmart

Rating:

7.5/10

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cento marinara

Best Oniony

Cento Marinara Pasta Sauce

Cento’s sauce tastes like a true, homemade marinara. The onion flavor is really strong, so if you like a pungent bite Cento is the best jar of marinara sauce for you. Still, it’s not too overpowering. Cento’s marinara is basic, but the good kind—understated, flavorful, and straightforward. I imagine this is what the prison sauce in Goodfellas tasted like. Don’t put too many on-jins in the sauce! But, also, if you do, hopefully it tastes as good as Cento. —Danny Palumbo

Credit: Liv Averett / Amazon

Rating:

7.5/10

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rao's white truffle

Best for Truffle Lovers

Rao’s Limited Edition Reserve White Truffle Marinara

Rao’s recently launched a Limited Reserve line of sauces and we had to try them. I’m glad we did. These aren’t as accessible as most of the sauces on this list, but after this taste test, we decided two deserved to be included, even if you have to order them directly from Rao’s website. If you love white truffles, you’re going to absolutely flip out for this sauce, the best marinara sauce for truffle lovers. The flavor of white truffle lingers on your tongue after you take a bite, but still, the sauce itself is so outrageously flavorful, that it doesn’t get overpowered by the truffle flavor. It’s perfectly balanced, and if you’re accustomed to eating foods flavored with truffles and truffle oil, you know that’s not always the case. The consistency is perfectly oily and would cling beautifully to any pasta shape. Buy this while you can! —Gwynedd Stuart

Credit: Liv Averett / Rao’s

Rating:

8/10

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carbone tomato basil sauce

Best Basil

Carbone Tomato Basil

This is the most intimate sauce on this list. It tastes slow cooked, like the tomatoes have been simmering all day in a pot on nonna’s stove. When tomatoes cook for a long time, some of the carbohydrates caramelize and release savory, “brown” flavors that taste almost like meat. That’s what’s going on with Carbone. There is a tasty smokiness to this sauce that you’ll keep coming back to. It feels meaty without meat; the umami factor here is strong. Plus, the tomatoes aren’t too acidic, which is a problem with most jarred marinara. Carbone touts that they cook their sauce in small batches, and boy, does it taste like it. Spaghetti and meatballs, chicken parm, mozzarella sticks—this is the best jarred marinara sauce for any of the Italian-American hits.

Credit: Liv Averett / Whole Foods

Rating:

8/10

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best marinara

Best Garlic

Michaels of Brooklyn Marinara Sauce

If you’re the type of person who always doubles (or triples) the number of garlic cloves a recipe calls for, this is the sauce for you. A lot of Sporked readers seem to think this is the best marinara sauce, so we gave it a shot. It’s no Rao’s, but it does have a raw garlic flavor we liked. Rao’s is restaurant quality, but this is really, really good home-cook quality. Not for nothing, this sauce also happens to be pretty low fat with 2 grams per serving, versus 7 or 8 you’ll find in a lot of these other sauces. —Gwynedd Stuart

Rating:

8/10

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best marinara

Best Chunky

Mezetta Napa Valley Homemade Marinara

Mezzetta is a textured, chunky sauce with plenty of bite. Open the jar and you’ll notice a glossy sheen on top from the olive oil, which is deliciously fatty. Emulsifying olive oil into a red sauce is the move if you want to create a flavorful, decadent sauce. There’s a red sauce joint in my hometown of New Castle, Pennsylvania. It’s called Ladies of the Dukes and I love it. I asked a friend who used to work there what made their red sauce so good and he said, “Those old ladies dump a ton of olive oil in there.” So does Mezzetta.The brand also uses a mix of San Marzano and California plum tomatoes to achieve a thick, aromatic, brightly acidic bite that you can count on. It’s got a slightly higher sugar, sodium, and fat content than Rao’s—but, in my opinion, that’s a good thing. Plus, it’s certified vegan and keto. This is closer than you might think to Rao’s and much cheaper. —Danny Palumbo

Credit: Liv Averett / Walmart

Rating:

9/10

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best marinara

Best Mushroomy

Rao’s Limited Edition Reserve Cardoncelli Marinara

I am a mushroom person who is married to someone who can’t stomach the things. This makes my life hard, but I like my husband a bunch, so we get by. He happened to be out of town when I brought this mushroomy marinara home and I housed the entire jar by myself. (It’s kind of like my tame version of having an affair.) This sauce has a deep, savory flavor and so much umami from the mushrooms. Plus, chunks of cardoncelli mushrooms give it a nice consistency and a little chew. Weirdly, this sauce is almost creamy. This is one of the best marinara sauces you can buy if you’re a mushroom lover. The next time my husband goes out of town, I’m getting a jar of this, a bag of frozen cheese tortellini, and treating myself. —Gwynedd Stuart

Credit: Liv Averett / Raos.com

Rating:

9.5/10

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best marinara sauce

Best of the Best

Rao’s Marinara

Rao’s is still the best marinara on the market thanks to its quality ingredients and lack of preservatives. Tomato, olive oil, garlic, basil, onion, and oregano—that’s all you need for a quality sauce. The olive oil gives it a nice, healthy sheen and a savory, mouth-smacking quality. I also appreciate that the herbs are fresh, so you don’t get that dry, leafy, herb flavor (lookin’ at you, brand I shall not name). There’s no added sugar (pasta sauce never needs added sugar), and it’s just an overall lovely, consistent, flavorful pasta sauce. There’s also something delightful about fresh oregano in any marinara. Most people opt for basil only, but oregano is the type of herb that our grandma’s cooked with. Its subtle earthiness contributes flavor without getting in the way. This is homemade marinara in a jar. Pay the extra money and don’t look back. —Danny Palumbo

Credit: Liv Averett / Target

Rating:

10/10

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Other products we tried: Rao’s Limited Reserve Balsamic, Rao’s Reserve Calabrian Chile, Buitoni Marinara Sauce, Whole Foods Rustic Marinara, Trader Joe’s Marinara, Trader Joe’s Tomato Basil, Bertolli Traditional Marinara, Great Value Marinara, Prego Marinara, Barilla Marinara, Victoria Marinara, Newman’s Own Marinara, Silver Palate Marinara, Organico Bello Marinara Sauce, Yo Mama’s Original Marinara

Prego

“Prego, you have done it once again,” exclaimed Link at the end of this blind pasta sauce taste test. “Not a sponsor, we just sucked them right through a tube and decided what’s best. That’s how it works,” added Rhett. The boys are esteemed flavor scientists, ya’ll. Prego won their taste test with its herby, tomato-forwardness. Heck, it beat out Emeril!

Share your favorite marinara sauce with us using #SporkedTasteTest for a chance to be featured on our social pages!


About the Author

Sporked Staff

The Sporked Staff tastes everything and anything. They are obsessive about groceries and finding the best of any type of food or drink, from frozen fried shrimp to Dijon mustard to gummy candy. And they're always on a hunt for the best new products. When they aren't eating professionally, they're eating recreationally. And often they're browsing grocery store aisles, just for fun.

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  • Wait, why didn’t you include Classico in these taste tests?? That’s the standard mid price one at every grocery store…I’m really curious to see how it stacks up. Raos is unfortunately just too expensive right now, but I feel like TJs Marinara just isn’t cutting it.

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  • Rao’s is better, but honestly just pick up a jar of Classico. For half the price their pasta sauce (Spicy Tomato and Basil being my personal favorite) is almost just as good as anything Rao’s sells.

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  • I’m late to the party, but was researching favorites and came across this. I am super picky about my sauce and will add I do not like chunks of tomato. Therefore, if you’re into chunks my recommendation won’t cut it, but as I’ve talked to others that also prefer smooth sauce and shared my favorite with them I’ve yet to have anyone not agree that’s it’s very good.

    Belletieri’s Tomato Pasta sauce is the only jarred sauce I’ll eat (they also have a chunkier Marinara). That said, I do agree that Rao’s Homemade is another tasty sauce and it is the only other jarred sauce in my pantry.

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  • If Rao’s is “the best of the best,” why does it only have 7.5 sporks?

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  • Tried Rao’s tomato basil sauce. No better than Classico. Not worth twice the price.

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  • Classico Tomato and Basil is 15/10!

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  • My mom made the WORST homemade sauce ever. I think it was just diced tomatoes from our garden that she froze and then heated up with crumbled hamburger and tomato paste. She didn’t believe in seasoning, so I’m sure there was no oregano, basil, anything like that. (Probably not even salt!) I hated it and she’d always put a scoop on my plate that I was required to eat (alongside the spaghetti noodles that I doused in butter and cheese). Then one day, I noticed that the sauce tasted WAY better than usual, and when I said so, everybody else agreed. Mom was so made because she’d run out of time and just picked up a jar of Prego to use instead of her homemade version. We had jarred spaghetti sauce from then on, much to everyone’s relief.

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  • Should try Victoria’s – without question the best jarred marinara- surprised it’s not mentioned

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  • I guess I should try Rao’s, but Prego is my favorite too. That really helps me understand even further where my taste lies compared to Rhett and Link!

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  • I love Rao’s, butTrader Joe’s Traditional Marinara Sauce Recipe #99 – the comparatively smaller 18oz jar – is the best darn jarred pasta sauce when you take price as well as quality into consideration.

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  • Not sure if it was tried but Victoria’s is also great.

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  • We bought Rao’s once. ONCE. And now everyone in the household recoils at subpar sauces. It’s all Rao’s, all the time.

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  • Hi – would just like to recommend My Dad’s Sauce.. Authentic taste, family owned & operated, quality ingredients and their story is really cool. Not everywhere yet but a lot around NJ and NY

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  • I’m not sure how many frozen mozzarella stick brands there are, but could you guys do one and with the best marinara!?

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  • Tantillo’s Pomodoro sauce or tomato with basil is my favorite pasta sauce but couldn’t find them lately at the market. I just found out they have a website where it can be bought so I am going to do that.

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  • I remember watching the GMM about this and I am a strong believer that if you are going to lazy and not make your own sauce, Prego is the way to go. With both taste and price in mind, it blows Rao’s out of the pot!

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  • Mezzetta is a really good sauce. In my area it’s half the price of Rao’s, so I always grab it to save a few. All their flavors area really good!

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  • Should seriously try MIDS sauce, it is the best jarred sauce I’ve ever had. Hopefully this list will helped find a sub though because it’s not available out west 🙁

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  • We just don’t like any jarred pasta sauce we’ve tried, including several of the above. We spend so much time doctoring it up to make it edible that we may as well just make it homemade. So that’s what we do. You can make extra and stick it in the freezer if you want something fast for another time.

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  • S10 E71 Rhett and Link ranked Prego the best sauce and I’ve been buying Prego since haha.
    Surprised it’s not on this list 😅

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    • I am 100% with you on this, way better than Rao’s!

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    • Prego is pretty mid tbh

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      • Nope. has the taste most people are used too. Rao’s is too acid based

    • Prego has been my favorite for decades. especially the mushroom. I tried Rau’s and found it much too salty.

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  • I scoffed at Raos for years because of the price, but after I tried it I couldn’t go back to anything else.

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  • If you are pressed on time, Rao’s is a literal godsend. Not only is their Marinara good, but everything else they do (as long as you enjoy the actual flavor itself) is good. You’ll save a bunch of money making your own sauce, but if pressed on time, they’re a legit substitute.

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  • I’d also argue Michaels of Brooklyn should be added to the list. The taste is equitable to Rao’s, and the label looks like something your uncle (the cool one) would make in his home office. Adds a certain charm.

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  • Good choices, but I think our favorite that I don’t see on the list is Michael’s of Brooklyn. Really, really good.

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    • love to hear it! there are some more I want to try (we tried over 15). But I’ll add Michael’s to the list as we update.

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  • My family just started buying Rao’s on the regular. It comes closest to our own homemade marinara, and it’s the only store-bought sauce my wife will eat. Super happy that both Sam’s Club and Costco carry Rao’s now. I hope their newfound nationwide popularity doesn’t lead to any decline in quality.

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  • “Pay the extra money and don’t look back.” Thank you. I will :’)

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    • I will also gladly stock up on Rao’s and then avoid looking at my bank account.

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    • If you have a Costco or Sam’s membership, they put it on “Instant Savings” fairly often and that can knock a few bucks off the price.

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      • Yes, the club store price, plus the occasional bonus savings, is the way to go.

  • Rao’s is seriously the best of the best, I know it’s pricey but if you wanna impress someone with some pasta, rao is perfecf

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    • The wife Hates this sauce. Prego is the only sauce she likes. Now what?

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  • I believe in Rao’s supremacy. Always have a few jars stocked in our pantry, now that Costco sells it too!

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    • make your own sauce its 100% better.

      Reply