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We Tasted 10 Rao's Frozen Entrees And This Is Our Favorite One

Boxes of Rao's frozen meals
Boxes of Rao's frozen meals - Jenn Carnevale / Static Media

Who says you can't enjoy Italian greatness in the freezer aisle? Enter Rao's. Rao's homemade pasta sauces have wowed shoppers for years and given the brand a reputation for culinary excellence, quality ingredients, and authentic flavors. With the introduction of its latest line of frozen entrees, Rao's has once again captured the attention of discerning diners seeking convenience without compromise.

After enjoying Rao's Made for Home frozen pizza launch, I decided to seek out the brand's new selection of frozen meals, to see which one is the best. Each of these 10 entrees promises a harmonious blend of traditional recipes and modern convenience, seeking to transport diners to the heart of Italian tradition with every bite, via stove or microwave -– eater's choice. But which of these frozen entrees truly succeed ... and which fail? Join me as I reveal the ultimate ranking of Rao's frozen entrees, discovering the hidden gems, total triumphs, and fatal flaws within each meticulously prepared dish. The very best will have you yelling "mangia" in the freezer aisle, guaranteed!

Some recommendations are based on first-hand impressions of promotional materials and products provided by the manufacturer/distributor/etc.

Read more: The 15 Best Frozen Chicken Nuggets, Ranked

10. Rigatoni Bolognese

Rao's Rigatoni Bolognese
Rao's Rigatoni Bolognese - Jenn Carnevale / Static Media

Last on my ultimate ranking is Rao's Rigatoni Bolognese, featuring rigatoni pasta in a classic Bolognese sauce made with Italian tomatoes, beef, and pork. Since I could only procure the family-size version, I decided to pop this one in the oven instead of the microwave. The result was deeply below par.

From the pasta to the sauce, this meal was underwhelming. The sauce at the bottom was watery, and the sauce on top was a chunky mess. I tried mixing it together and letting it sit in the hope it would congeal, but it never solidified in the right ways. There wasn't much flavor in the sauce either, even with the mixture of proteins. The pasta cooked up fine, but that's really the only positive I took away from this experience. This frozen meal was bland and not worth the oven wait time.

Rao's Rigatoni Bolognese was an overall disappointment, and is the only item on the list I wouldn't eat again. Thankfully, the rest of this adventure was a solid culinary endeavor.

9. Frozen Meatballs & Sauce

Rao's Frozen Meatballs & Sauce
Rao's Frozen Meatballs & Sauce - Jenn Carnevale / Static Media

Up next was Rao's Frozen Meatballs and Sauce. This one isn't necessarily a meal, but it could be depending on your day and preferences. The meatballs are made with beef and pork, and are tucked into Rao's signature marinara sauce. I decided to put this one in the oven to let the sauce heat more naturally and allow the meatballs to soak up that tomato-y goodness.

Regarding taste, I was a little underwhelmed. The sauce was savory, but the meat itself wasn't anything to write home about. I didn't find a lot of herbs in the flavor profile, and while the sauce was good, it didn't make up for the lack of taste within the meatballs.

However, I liked the size of the meatballs, as they were pretty big. Their texture was great, too. Be that as it may, you can definitely tell they aren't homemade, what with their congealed consistency and that perfectly spherical shape. At the end of the day, these frozen meatballs were decent. I didn't love them, but there were no serious drawbacks to report.

8. Penne Alla Vodka

Rao's Penne Alla Vodka
Rao's Penne Alla Vodka - Jenn Carnevale / Static Media

Rao's Penne Alla Vodka ranked next, with its penne pasta in a creamy tomato vodka sauce. For this option, I used the microwave instructions, but after tasting it, I wonder if the oven would have been better.

There were some good flavors in the sauce, which featured all the traditional layers of penne alla vodka. It had that nice balance of sweetness, mixed with the tang of the vodka. However, the sauce was a little watery, and that consistency cut the depth in the flavor profile. I let it sit longer to see if it would thicken up in texture and flavor, but unfortunately, it didn't.

The pasta was great, but that sauce didn't do enough to wow me. I feel like this one almost hit the mark, but it just didn't have that wow factor I was looking for. I do feel this Rao's option is worth a try, as you'll find good flavors throughout; it's just not the best.

7. Penne Arrabbiata With Spicy Sausage

Rao's Penne Arrabbiata & Spicy Sausage
Rao's Penne Arrabbiata & Spicy Sausage - Jenn Carnevale / Static Media

Another penne dish in Rao's frozen collection is the brand's Penne Arrabbiata with Spicy Sausage, featuring piquant Italian sausage pieces over pasta in a vibrant sauce, topped with mozzarella. I popped this one in the microwave for the recommended time and was blown away by what I found.

When Rao's said it was spicy, holy bananas, they weren't kidding. The meat was juicy but the heat overtook every other flavor in the dish and left my mouth burning. With that said, I liked that the pieces of sausage were big. They did, however, feel somewhat processed and not fresh when it came to mouthfeel. I also tried the pasta and the sauce sans sausage, and I have to say, those two components were very bland in comparison.

Overall, this was a very tasty dish. If you like spice, it's a must-try. But be warned -- the spice is seeking vengeance and will overtake the dish and your mouth.

6. Chicken Alfredo

Rao's Chicken Alfredo
Rao's Chicken Alfredo - Jenn Carnevale / Static Media

Placing sixth on Rao's ultimate frozen meal list is the Chicken Alfredo option. This one features white meat chicken in a creamy Alfredo sauce. I popped this dish in the microwave and let that magic box do its best.

I really liked the sauce, which can be a tough sell, given how difficult homemade Alfredo is to mimic. But it wasn't too thick or too thin -- Rao's really found the Goldilocks profile. The taste was on point, especially with its Parmesan essence; it successfully balanced the salt from the cheese. The macaroni was cooked perfectly, too, and was a great size. However, this option's downfall was the chicken. It had that processed texture and look that typically sends me running. It was juicy, but it didn't chew or taste like fresh chicken at all.

Overall, I had a hard time ranking this one because the Alfredo sauce and the pasta were great, but the chicken was not. I think this one is fine in a pinch, but it wouldn't be something I'd enjoy on the regular.

5. Four Cheese Ravioli

Rao's Four Cheese Ravioli
Rao's Four Cheese Ravioli - Jenn Carnevale / Static Media

Who doesn't love a good ravioli? I have to say, Rao's Four Cheese Ravioli is a very solid meal option. This one features ravioli made with ricotta, Parmesan, Romano, and mozzarella cheeses in Rao's signature tomato sauce. It also faced the microwave and came out singing on the other side.

Overall, I don't have a lot of negative things to say about Rao's frozen ravioli, but it wasn't anything mind-blowing or innovative. The sauce was pretty balanced -- not too sweet or savory -- which I enjoyed. The ravioli was thick and filled with tasty ricotta; you won't be left wanting with this pasta dish. I could also taste some spices, like parsley and garlic, but nothing overpowering. The cheeses and herbs worked together to create depth and balance. While this one might not be anything special, it's a solid frozen option for long days and late nights.

4. Mushroom Risotto

Rao's Mushroom Risotto
Rao's Mushroom Risotto - Jenn Carnevale / Static Media

My fourth-place pick honestly surprised me, as I never seek out mushroom dishes or risottos within the grocery store or when I'm out at a restaurant. But Rao's Mushroom Risotto was a pleasant surprise, with its Arborio rice in a Parmesan cheese sauce, with, of course, mushrooms.

There was so much flavor to assess in this creamy mushroom risotto. While the mushroom taste was prominent, the herbs provided a great balance without being overpowering. I think the base of the dish is what sold this one, as it featured chicken broth, white wine, butter, and milk. It was savory and decadent, offering complexity and satisfaction with every bite.

The only real issue I faced was cooking. I followed the microwave instructions to a T, and they worked for almost all of the meals. But this one definitely needed more time. It was lukewarm and somewhat watery, though after letting it sit, it did manage to congeal and create a better textural experience. I think this one has potential, as the flavor profile was delicious, but next time, I would try cooking it in the oven instead.

3. Chicken Parmesan

Rao's Chicken Parmesan
Rao's Chicken Parmesan - Jenn Carnevale / Static Media

While fourth place was really good, the greatness of Rao's frozen meals truly began to shine in the top three spots. Taking the bronze was Rao's Chicken Parmesan, and I have to say, I went into this one with a lot of doubt. Microwaving breaded chicken? There was no way it could work. However, the surprises kept on coming.

This option featured breaded chicken breast with marinara sauce and mozzarella over spaghetti. I cannot get over how good this meal was! I tried the chicken first, and immediately tasted the delicious breading on top. It was crispy and filled with flavor. The pasta was typical for spaghetti, and the marinara had a good balance of sweet and savory features. There was nothing notable here, but these two ingredients didn't detract from the overall experience. The chicken was good, too, as it didn't taste processed like the Alfredo option. The best part? A delicious cheese coating on top that I could taste with every bite. It was the true icing on an already stellar cake.

Rao's Chicken Parmesan is a win in my book, featuring delicious ingredients that come together into a quick and easy Italian meal. I would definitely eat this one again and suggest you try it out too.

2. Four Cheese Pasta Bake

Rao's Four Cheese Pasta Bake
Rao's Four Cheese Pasta Bake - Jenn Carnevale / Static Media

Second place on my list is a truly special dish that will forever hold a place within my cheesy, pasta-loving heart. Rao's Four Cheese Pasta Bake really stole the show, featuring cavatappi pasta tossed in a creamy Parmesan cheese sauce, topped with mozzarella, fontina, and Romano cheese. A masterpiece indeed. I put this one in the oven and waited patiently for it to cook. The smells within my kitchen were like a siren song, growing my anticipation until the timer went off.

This one was very cheesy and herbaceous in all the right ways. Those tempting smells translated to a well of flavor, especially when it came to the sauce. The box showcases chicken broth and stock, along with white wine and an array of spices. This made complete sense to me, as this sauce took things to another level compared to the rest. The only issue? While every bite was awesome, those bites got heavy really quickly. Between the cheeses, the pasta, and the sauce base, there was a lot to take in and digest.

You might be wondering why this one didn't make the top spot. While it was truly delicious -- no notes to report -- the Four Cheese Pasta Bake was a simple and rather plain dish compared to my number one contender. But let this be known: This is still a gold medal dish in my book. You have to give it a try.

1. Meat Lasagna

Rao's Meat Lasagna
Rao's Meat Lasagna - Jenn Carnevale / Static Media

Rao's Meat Lasagna earned the top spot in this ranking with a flavor profile that just couldn't be beat. Featuring pasta layered with a beef and pork meat sauce and a ricotta and Romano cheese filling topped with mozzarella, no one aspect of this epic frozen meal missed.

I cannot believe how much flavor was packed into this little dish. The frozen lasagna, unquestionably one of the best on the current market, had a sweet sauce, but the flavors in the meat cut that sweetness to create harmony. The meat was almost undetectable in sight, too, as the beef and pork were ground finely within the sauce. I liked that aspect, because it meant you got an even distribution of meat with each bite. It cooked up perfectly in the microwave, too -- no negative notes here.

From the cheeses to the meat sauce and spices, I could taste every single ingredient. This one was really special, especially for a frozen food product. I can't recommend Rao's Meat Lasagna enough -- this one is a must!

Methodology

Boxes of Rao's frozen meals
Boxes of Rao's frozen meals - Jenn Carnevale / Static Media

For this taste test, I bought most of the items represented. However, I received a few from the company that weren't available in my area, so that I could showcase every Rao's option. I cooked up each meal based on the box instructions and taste-tested for flavor. The quality of ingredients also played a role, especially as they factored into taste and texture.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.