I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again: My mom has the best taste. Impeccable, in fact. From always ordering the best thing on the menu (yes, I'll have a bite of that, thankyouverymuch) to jumping on the oat milk trend before it was the most coveted item in the dairy aisle, she's always had a knack for knowing what's good.
Her choice of tomato sauce is no different.
While other kids may have grown up slurping down spaghetti doused in Grandma's tomato sauce recipe (passed down for generations, of course), I grew up with something that's, dare I say ... better?
Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce has been in my mom's pantry for as long as I can remember. Sure, the likes of Ragú, Prego and a string of organic tomato sauces I can't remember the names of made very brief appearances over the years, but Rao's has always been our family's stalwart.
Today, it's quite literally the only sauce she will buy.
There are two reasons for this: The first has to do with the quality of the sauce itself. "It's just that good," my mom told me recently over text. "It has the perfect amount of flavor and seasoning, and the consistency is nice"—as in, not too thick, not too soupy. Basically, it's her "super sauce."
The ingredients are simple, and the lineup is exactly what you'd find in a recipe for most homemade marinaras: Italian tomatoes, olive oil, onions, garlic, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper. Unlike a lot of canned tomato sauces out there, this one is free of added sugar, preservatives, or coloring, so each small-but-mighty ingredient in the sauce gets its moment in the spotlight.
She likes to mix it with al dente penne or fusili, along with warmed-up frozen peas and tiny hunks of fresh mozzarella—it's the most sublimely comforting weeknight dinner. You could also use it to make manicotti, tomato soup, or as a dip for melty mozzarella sticks. (Sky's the limit here, people.)
Watch: How to Make Rao's Meatballs
The other reason it's such a hit with my mom (and this is important) has to do with the mysterious allure of the legendary restaurant from which the sauce originated: Rao's in New York City's East Harlem neighborhood.
Keeping with the theme of impeccable taste, she has been dying to get a table at this notoriously impossible-to-get-into spot for years. (One 1996 New York Times article summed it up best: "A Table at Rao's? Forgetaboutit.")
But, practically speaking, a jar of the Marinara Sauce (which was inspired by the original recipe used in the restaurant, a senior brand manager for the company confirmed) is the closest my mom and I will probably ever get to dining at Rao's. And honestly, that's fine by me. I'd much rather be sitting comfy at home in my pj's, anyway—with a hot bowl of pasta and the latest episode of Outlander most nights.
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