9 Rao’s Frozen Meals, Ranked

Are Rao’s frozen meals as good as Rao’s sauces? We all know that Rao’s makes some of the best marinara sauce (yes, even though Rao’s is being acquired by Campbell’s, they still make great sauce, get over it). But what about Rao’s lasagna? Rao’s meatballs? Rao’s chicken alfredo, for gosh sakes? We tried nine Rao’s frozen meals to find out if they should remain sauce specialists or if Rao’s is an Italian food virtuoso. 

Before we get into our individual Rao’s frozen meals reviews, let’s discuss how we evaluated them. Obviously, flavor was the main qualifier—and we had high expectations. As stated above, Rao’s makes great sauce. So, it follows that the sauces in these frozen meals should also be good—at least way better than most other frozen meals. The meals should be well-seasoned. And the meat (if there is meat) should taste like actual meat. We also evaluated these meals on their texture. The pasta should be as close to al dente as possible. The meat shouldn’t be spongy. The cheese should be melty and gooey. 

Okay, now we’re ready. Here are nine Rao’s frozen meals ranked from “Ra-no” to “Ra-yo, this is great!” (Ranked from not so good to very good, if you didn’t get what I was doing there.) 


Rao’s Mushroom Risotto

Mushroom Risotto

Rao’s Mushroom Risotto

Out of all the Rao’s frozen meals we bought, this was the one I looked forward to the most. I love risotto. I love mushrooms. And I simply can’t be bothered to make mushroom risotto for myself. Sadly, this potential answer to my risotto prayers was a real let down. It is bland. It’s not seasoned. And it’s not even creamy. Yes, there are hearty chunks of mushroom, but that’s it. Perhaps if you added a ton of shredded parmesan it could be good. But on its own, it’s a real miss.

Credit: Merc / Instacart

Rating:

4/10

Sporks

Rao’s Penne alla Vodka

Penne Alla Vodka

Rao’s Penne Alla Vodka

Rao’s vodka sauce isn’t my favorite Rao’s sauce (although their vodka arrabbiata sauce is great), but it still has flavor. Out of the jar, it’s creamy and savory. But in this frozen meal it’s a pale version of itself. There’s not enough salt. And, even though you can see the cheese, you can’t taste it. The pasta is fine—it’s not mushy. But where’s the flavor?

Credit: Merc / Instacart

Rating:

5/10

Sporks

Rao’s Chicken Parmesan

Chicken Parmesan

Rao’s Chicken Parmesan

So, this looks like chicken nuggets on spaghetti. And, honestly, if that’s what it tasted like, this might be higher up on our ranking of Rao’s frozen meals. Unfortunately, the chicken is under seasoned and chewy. The sauce is decent, as is the pasta. But there’s a severe dearth of cheese. This is chicken parm! I want to see a dang rope of cheese stretching from my fork to the plate when I take a bite. More cheese, Rao’s! 

Credit: Merc / Instacart

Rating:

5/10

Sporks

Rao’s Chicken Alfredo

Chicken Alfredo

Rao’s Chicken Alfredo

Rao’s alfredo sauce is pretty good (although I’m partial to Rao’s Four Cheese Alfredo, specifically). And it makes Rao’s chicken alfredo pretty good, too. The flavors are all there—butter, cheese, pepper. Yum! But the sauce is a bit watery. The pasta is a fun shape (twisty!) and it’s perfectly al dente. The chicken is fine—perhaps a bit dry. But, when it comes to frozen chicken, sometimes that’s the best you can hope for. Just douse it in the sauce.

Credit: Merc / Instacart

Rating:

6.5/10

Sporks

Rao’s Meatballs & Sauce

Meatballs & Sauce

Rao’s Meatballs & Sauce

We ranked Rao’s meatballs decently high in our ranking of the best frozen meatballs. But even then, we noted that Rao’s meatballs themselves were a bit bland. It’s really the sauce that carries this frozen meal. The meatballs are soft (there are soft meatball people and people who like their meatballs to have a crispy outer coating, I’m in the latter camp). And the meat tastes a bit like turkey or chicken even though they purport to be made with pork and beef. All that said, the sauce really is quite good. And if you ate this with some crusty bread, scooping up sauce and little bites of meatball, I think you’d be pretty satisfied. 

Credit: Merc / Instacart

Rating:

7/10

Sporks

Rao’s Meat Lasagna

Meat Lasagna

Rao’s Meat Lasagna

I’m going to say something that sounds like an insult but it’s actually a compliment. Rao’s lasagna tastes like airplane lasagna. Seriously, this is a good thing. I really like airplane lasagna! Rao’s lasagna is layered with creamy, gooey cheese. The noodles aren’t mushy at all. The herbs mixed into the ricotta taste dried and a little old, but at least they’re there. You could do a lot worse than Rao’s when it comes to an individual portion of frozen lasagna. Pro tip: Hit it with the broiler at the end to get those nice, crispy bits. 

Credit: Merc / Instacart

Rating:

7/10

Sporks

Rao’s Penne Arrabiata

Penne Arrabiata

Rao’s Penne Arrabiata

Do you love fennel in your Italian sausage? I do. You need to if you’re going to enjoy this sausage-packed penne arrabbiata. The sauce is spicy. There’s tons of cheese (finally!). The penne is al dente. And there are big chunks of Italian sausage—flavored with lots and lots of real fennel seeds. This tastes like a perfectly acceptable homemade meal.

Credit: Merc / Instacart

Rating:

7.5/10

Sporks

Rao’s Rigatoni Bolognese

Rigatoni Bolognese

Rao’s Rigatoni Bolognese

This big platter of rigatoni bolognese is one of the best Rao’s frozen meals. Yes, it’s on the saltier end of the spectrum, but it’s not too salty. The pasta is nicely al dente and it tastes like a high quality pasta. There’s a LOT of sauce (which should be the default for Rao’s frozen meals, since that’s kinda what they’re known for). And there’s a lot of meat. It’s really hearty. If you plunked this down on a dinner table with a big bowl of salad, no one would complain. Easy family dinner, done.

Credit: Merc / Instacart

Rating:

8.5/10

Sporks

Rao’s Four Cheese Pasta Bake

Four Cheese Pasta Bake

Rao’s Four Cheese Pasta Bake

I love this cheesy baked pasta so much. My first tasting note includes an expletive—it’s so good it made me swear. Me, a dainty, innocent mother. Can you even imagine? Anyway, it fucking rocks. It’s so cheesy and savory and creamy and yummy. It has so much more flavor than most frozen mac and cheeses and it isn’t too oily. It’s also just saucy enough—I hate having to go fishing for a noodle in a pool of cheese soup. The flavor is cheese forward, of course, but there’s also a hint of something sweetly nutty, as well—nutmeg, perhaps? This is a new freezer staple for me, for sure. It’s the best of all the Rao’s frozen meals we tried—and it’s not even made with a Rao’s sauce!

Credit: Merc / Instacart

Rating:

10/10

Sporks


About the Author

Justine Sterling

Justine Sterling is the editor-in-chief of Sporked. She has been writing about food and beverages for well over a decade and is an avid at-home cook and snacker. Don’t worry, she’s not a food snob. Sure, she loves a fresh-shucked oyster. But she also will leap at whatever new product Reese’s releases and loves a Tostitos Hint of Lime, even if there is no actual lime in the ingredients.

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  • Just had the Rao’s Four Cheese Pasta Bake. No way that’s a 10!

    Reply
  • We tried the chicken parmesan and I was torn between calling it disappointing or disgusting. The meat was just little globs of something. The pasta was just mushy strands. Banquet could have put out a better meal!

    Reply
  • Like to know what’s good and what we can avoid ike the comparison too

    Reply
  • Thank you for your honest review! I’m definitely looking forward to trying the cheesy pasta bake after you’re amazing review! Thank you for being real and true to yourself.

    Reply
  • Must we e accept filthy language everywhere we turn today?
    Can’t someone take a stand to stop the usage of four letter words, please? There is no call for filthy language while reviewing tasty food.

    Reply
    • Shut the fuck up.

      Reply
      • 🤣

    • I agree…was a bit shocked to see the f word when reading!!!! Clean it up!!!

      Reply
    • “Bad language” is just sound, Nothing more.

      Reply
  • Where’s the Eggplant Parmesean, please? I really like that dish and have bewn awaiting hearing a review from someone. Thanks for the other reviews.

    Reply
  • The f-word is just not needed in a pasta review. Please stop being so profane to read your opinion

    Reply
    • Why is this an issue? I appreciate a real response that most normal people would say.

      Reply
    • Go to another fuckin website

      Reply
  • It is not necessary to use the f-word to critique a recipe.

    Reply
    • I totally agree.

      Reply
  • No, I cannot believe Justine swore.

    Reply
    • It’s not professional, nor necessary, to use the f. word in a review about pasta.

      Reply
      • I wouldn’t overstate the power of the occasional swear word, but that’s just me. Used sparingly, it can be effective in punctuating surprise, anger, or humor.