Hit Or Skip: Which Rao's Homemade Frozen Entrees Are Worth The Price

If Rao's Homemade tastes exactly like your great, great, great Gammy made it, that's because this biz is well-seasoned, with roots reaching all the way back to 1890s New York City. Hey, it takes time to perfect the Sunday gravy! 

The Rao's [RAY-ohz] Homemade brand also dominates grocery shelves across the nation (maybe you've seen it, like, everywhere) with a full line of pastas, sauces, soups, pesto, and balsamic vinegar. Over in the freezer aisle, Rao's Homemade fan-favorite Made For Home entrees chill out while they wait for their favorite shoppers. Well, that is, if you can snag them before they're gone.

Is it possible to fall in love with a bolognese? Crush on an alfredo? Or make it really awkward with a marinara? From penne arrabbiata, to meaty lasagna, and ultra creamy mushroom risotto, we taste-tested these Rao's Homemade frozen entrees like it was our job. So, also, yeah, it is totally our job. Which dishes are worth adding to your cart? These are the ones to definitely hit — and the ones you'll want to skip!

Some recommendations are based on first-hand impressions of promotional materials and products provided by a representative for Rao's Specialty Foods.

How the moon hit our eye like a big pizza pie

After mustering up a little elbow grease, and the eagle-eyed determination to cook up a storm ... we're really glad we didn't have to use any of that. It's Rao's Homemade, you guys! And each meal is frozen at the ultimate moment to capture everything you love about the restaurant, with none of the putting on pants.

We won the package-getting lottery, and sweet-talked our way into being gifted the full line of Rao's Homemade frozen entrees — minus the Four Cheese Ravioli, which remains an elusive Sasquatch riding a unicorn — delivered right to our doorstep. That's about 7 tons of pasta, sauce, and dry ice. Y'know, give or take.

From there, we did the hard work of turning on the oven, and remembering to set a timer. For nearly every dish, that was the extent of the necessary effort. Unless you count the 30 to 60 minutes spent salivating over the aroma of toasty meatballs floating on the breeze. Too much? You can also microwave all of these dishes! Still, whether it was a single-serving, or enough for a crowd, we wanted that baked-in goodness to really shine, so we went old school with the heat. (Nonna. Never. Nukes.) It was amore at first sight of that beautiful bubbly marinara. Let's mangia!

Hit: Penne Arrabbiata with Spicy Sausage

Get outta here with that spicy sausage! This one was a home run straight out of the oven. (Well, we did let it rest on the counter for a minute because we wanted to maintain the structure of the roof of our mouths.) Stop whatever it is you're cooking, and go get Rao's Homemade penne arrabbiata with spicy sausage. It's divine.

If there is one surefire way to pump up the jam on a pasta dish, it's by adding savory, baked sausage crumbles. Yello, ma? Ya not gonna believe it. We made our own supper tonite! Gabagool!

This pasta is like, you know, kissing the tips of our fingers because it's excellent and the basil-y, oregano seasoned marinara sauce is totally perfect. The mozzarella cheese on the other hand formed a bit of a rat king that took some separating with a couple of forks. But other than that, this is one of those iconic-feeling New York Italian dishes you could happily chow on while rewatching "The Sopranos," or even the new season of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey."

Hit: Mushroom Risotto

Step aside, perfect pasta. We're all about al dente arborio rice with a deeply luxurious 'shroom situation going on. Rao's Homemade mushroom risotto for one, please — and nah, we're not sharing.

We imagine this as the comfort food of Italian households at the turn of the century. Eh, maybe our history is a little off. But after one bite of this risotto, we decided we can exist in nothing but a bath of parmesan, white wine, chicken stock, milk, and ultra buttery sauce. And, we're off to start the mushroom risotto aesthetic trend on TikTok.

This dish features a wonderfully balanced mushroom flavored sauce that doesn't feel overly creamy — but certainly not too light. And despite being what amounts to a reheated meal, the visible portion of brown mushroom slices maintains a tender bite that's a pleasure to eat. Still not sharing. Get your own fork. Better yet, get your own Rao's Homemade mushroom risotto.

Skip: Four Cheese Pasta Bake

Yes, we realize this is basically fancy macaroni and cheese, which — yes — is one of the greatest gifts the cheesy pasta gods have ever bestowed upon us. And OMG, those cavatappi pasta spirals are super fun to chew. But this one didn't quite make the cut when it came to that magical X factor. (And that factor is cheese, you guys. It's always cheese. Even if there are four different kinds of them.)

Rao's Homemade four cheese pasta bake clocks in at a family-sized 1.5 pounds. That's a whole lotta pasta coming straight outta the oven. And while the noodles are cooked perfectly — with those delightful crusty edges mixed into the bake, thanks to a recommended mid-cook stir — our problem lies with the cheese sauce. That means you, parmesan. And also you three: mozzarella, fontina, and Romano.

This dish demands a second stir once you pull it out of the oven, which kind of ruins the look of the light browning on top. Without mixing everything again, all of that delicious cheese sauce disappears into the bottom of the pan, leaving semi-naked cavatappi on top just flapping in the breeze. The flavor is satisfying and the seasoning is right on. But this dish might work best as part of a buffet ensemble. On its own, we're left thinking ... is that all there is?

Hit: Meat Lasagna

It's lasagna. With meat in it. Get. In. Our. Bellies. We didn't realize how many screwed-up lasagnas we've eaten over the years, until we tried this one. (So, it's not supposed to be flavorless and also swimming in several inches of watery sauce? Who knew!) This family style stunner makes an easy meal in 60 minutes. And nobody has to wrangle waterlogged zucchini or slimy lasagna noodles.

Beautiful, al dente pasta gets delicately layered with hearty, savory meat sauce made of a blend of well-seasoned beef and pork. Ricotta and Romano cheeses make up the filling, with the entire dish being topped with mozzarella (that didn't stick to itself. Bless). Pay attention to the directions that suggest letting the whole thing stand for five minutes after the bake, and you'll cut into all those layers of saucy, creamy goodness like they were made of straight up butter.

Still, the shining gem of this succulent dish was hands-down the flavor of the fresh-tasting and vibrant Italian herbs. We couldn't get enough. It was as if they were picked from the garden 30 seconds before going into the oven. Had we ever tasted basil like this before? (Siri, is there "crack basil"?) It was the perfect bright note atop ridiculously comforting lasagnarama.

Hit: Chicken Alfredo

Ooh, Rao's Homemade certainly didn't do us dirty on the chicken Alfredo! It might seem tough to mess up a classic, but after you taste this version, you quickly realize how great this creamy, noodly, chicken dish can really be. Join us. And elevate your 'fredo.

A solo serving features a relatively generous portion of chargrilled, white meat chicken that's as tender as the cavatappi pasta is spirally. And the creamy, savory Alfredo sauce packs just the right amount of seasoning to complement the dish without overpowering the grilled chicken flavor.

Definitely let the sauce stand for a few minutes to come to its senses (or thicken up). This one feels like a mac and cheese for adults who want their comfort food with a helping of protein. Want to make it for yourself? Lucky you, Rao's Homemade offers their jarred Alfredo sauce by the case, available online at their store. This is totally the kind of relationship Taylor Swift would write a song about.

Hit: Chicken Parmesan

Okay, this is getting freaky. Somehow, Rao's Homemade (if that's really its name) made chicken parmesan, covered it in marinara sauce, sandwiched it between spaghetti, topped it with shredded mozzarella cheese, stuck it in the freezer, and then had us bake it for a whole hour ... and the breading on the chicken is still crispy?! What kind of sorcery is this! Now that we think about it, if you read Rao's Homemade backwards, you get ... SOAR. Well that turned into nothing, but this Rao's Homemade chicken parmesan is errrthang you could ever want.

The spaghetti is al dente all day. And that Rao's Homemade signature marinara sauce is a chef's kiss whenever it appears in a recipe. Toasty and tender breaded chicken is not at all soggy — and even tastes like it was freshly baked. Topped with gooey mozzarella, you'll be positively drowning in deliciousness. Don't call for help. This is how we want to go.

Thanks to the thinness of the spaghetti, there might be a few noodles that fly a little too close to the sun, and then morph into dried earthworms in the hot oven. But mamma mia! This is a killer chicken parmesan no matter how you shake (or bake) it. (Also for the record, we're submitting the chicken breading to "Unsolved Mysteries." Fingers crossed.)

Skip: Meatballs & Sauce

Laying all our cards on the table, we have to admit that it's tough to skip on any Rao's Homemade frozen entree. They are all delicious in their own unique ways, and would easily satisfy a wide range of tastes and appetites. We might even put the pasta in a dish from home and pretend we made it ourselves. Who knows how the night will unfold. And how far we're willing to go with this lie we just thought of doing.

But the feeling that bubbles up again with Rao's Homemade meatballs and sauce is this: What are we supposed to do with these things? (Eat them, duh.) But seriously, it feels like another case of an incomplete meal. Hello? Did someone send out an Evite, something about BYO spaghetti?

The beef and pork meatballs are flavorful, tender, and juicy, with a fork-pleasing texture, and plentiful portions. We also see the return of Rao's Homemade marinara, the perfectly-seasoned complement to the rich-tasting protein. They're great. But unless you're planning to bring your own pasta, or a fresh loaf of Italian bread, we might leave these in the freezer for someone else to figure out.

Hit: Penne Alla Vodka

This list is hella meaty. But for all the veggies in the house, Rao's Homemade penne alla vodka offers quite possibly the lightest fare on this list. And you won't be missing out on any of that old-school Italian nonna style seasoning.

This little lady features perfectly al dente penne pasta that you won't want to stop flirting with, simmered in a fresh, savory, creamy Italian tomato vodka sauce. Let yourself float through the luxurious pecorino romano and parmigiano reggiano cheese wonderland. The seasoning is spot on, and totally worth it, leaving you feeling satisfied and light as a feather. A feather that just feasted on some poppin' penne.

Rao's Homemade penne alla vodka could even serve as a complement to a starring dish. Y'know, like the Italians do it! It's common in the mother land to see pasta appear as an appetizer, or even as a small side, as part of the lead-up to a non-pasta main course. It's also common to eat your evening meal later in the day, at around 8 p.m. Which is a long time to wait if you've been thinking about what you're having for dinner ever since you finished lunch at noon.

Hit: Rigatoni Bolognese

Read our saucy lips: Hit that Rao's Homemade rigatoni bolognese like it's going out of style! Punch old ladies (no, don't do that!) to get the last box. Hijack the Rao's Homemade truck in shipping and receiving. Do whatever needs to be done to successfully bolognese your way out of the store. This is your destiny. (It's like you're in "Grand Theft Auto," but instead of doing road rage and crimes, you get yummy pasta.)

Maybe it's because the rigatoni pasta ridges seemingly hold onto hearty sauces like they're best friends leaving on the last day of summer camp. Or that this thick, rich sauce is completely loaded with tender beef, flavorful pork, ripe Italian tomatoes, salty pancetta, and fresh veggies. Either way, this one's gonna stick to your ribs for the rest of the day. Here, drool-worthy seasoning meets decadent meat sauce and bouncy, al dente pasta. Life is short. Treat yourself. Every single fork-full is the freakin' best bite.

While our stance on sharing usually aligns with a 3rd grader who won't split the last cookie (and rightly so if it's a Mega Stuf Oreo), we're more than happy to dish up this 1.5-pounder for some of our favorite people. Is there any affection greater than pasta love? Dig in. There's plenty to go around.