The $3.99 ALDI Find That I Only Wish I Would Have Bought Sooner

I’ve been a Rao’s purist for years, with my whole family singing the jarred marinara sauce’s praises. That is, until I found this ALDI sauce that costs half the price.

The $3.99 ALDI Find That I Only Wish I Would Have Bought Sooner
Aldi store front
Simply Recipes / Getty Images

I didn’t set out to replace my family’s favorite pasta sauce, but rushing through ALDI one night between school pick-up and soccer I couldn’t find our beloved Rao’s. Priano’s pasta and a loaf of bread in one hand and broccoli in the other, I quickly grabbed the jar next to the Rao's shaped hole—a jar of ALDI’s Specially Selected Premium Marinara Sauce. It was half the price of the Rao’s and worth a shot. 

At dinnertime, I worried a little bit. Would my selective, Rao’s-loving daughter notice that tonight’s pasta was different? To both my delight and surprise, she not only went back for seconds, she complimented dinner! And it was delicious. In fact, it tasted almost identical to the pasta nights I had insisted were good purely because of Rao’s marinara. 

Many jars of ALDI’s Specially Selected Premium Marinara later, I feel confident that it makes a near-perfect dupe for Rao’s and is regularly less than $4 at my local ALDI. There are even some Rao’s purists who swear this half-the-price jar is actually Rao’s in disguise. 

someone holding up a jar of specially selected marinara sauce over a skillet of cooked pasta
Simply Recipes / Meghan Splawn

Why I Love ALDI’s Specially Selected Premium Marinara

Like Rao’s, Specially Selected Premium Marinara is primarily made of tomatoes (both whole and crushed), olive oil, onion, and some seasonings like salt, pepper, and oregano. There’s no sugar for sweetness (a no for me) or big herby flavors (a no for the kids). The taste is purely tomato in the very best way and the sauce has a texture that is neither too fine nor too chunky. It tastes like the kind of tomato sauce I enjoy making from canned tomatoes when I have the time. 

We regularly use it for pasta night, both with and without meaty additions like sausage or ground beef. It also makes its way into pizza rolls for lunch boxes and English muffin pizzas (when we run out of our favorite ALDI pizza crusts). I even turned it into a quick tomato soup to accompany grilled cheese on a night when we were between grocery runs.

Is Specially Selected Premium Marinara Actually Rao’s in Disguise? 

Despite the many Reddit threads that insist that ALDI sauce is just Rao’s with a different label, there is no definitive proof that this is the case. One Redditor cited shared manufacturers as evidence, saying that Rao’s and ALDI used the same company to pack their recipes and distribute the sauces.

Last year, that company, Sovos Brand, was acquired by Campbell’s. So it is unlikely that ALDI and Rao’s are still bottled in the same facilities, and neither ALDI nor Rao’s have ever addressed this theory. 

Whether it’s Rao’s in disguise or just a top-notch replica, for my grocery money and my family’s preferences, ALDI’s Specially Selected Premium Marinara is where I’ll be spending my pasta sauce dollars. 

Specially selected marinara sauce jar next to a rao's homemade tomato basil sauce jar on the store shelves
Simply Recipes / Meghan Splawn