Carbone, the Michelin-starred restaurant by chef Mario Carbone, sits on Thompson St. in Manhattan's West Village neighborhood. The hard-to-get-into Italian restaurant is known for its spicy rigatoni and veal Parmesan dishes, and has become a hotbed for celebrity sightings. Rao's in East Harlem is known as New York's most exclusive restaurant — you have to know someone with a connection to get a reservation. Luckily, those of us who haven't been able to dine at either eatery can still get a taste at home with their respective retail sauces. When I reach for a jar of sauce at the supermarket to replenish my pantry stock, I almost always pick up tomato basil sauce. I think it's multipurpose and versatile while also being more robust in flavor than marinara. So when it was time to compare these two labels, I thought this variety would be the best and the most wide-reaching. To keep things consistent, I tasted both sauces at room temperature. The suggested retail price for a jar of Rao's tomato basil sauce is $8.99, according to a company representative. While that's not an outrageous price tag, it's still on the higher end of the spectrum (for comparison, this jar of Rao's is $7 more than widely-recognized Ragú sauce). However, sauce is something I'm willing to pay more for when I know I'm getting a tastier product.That being said, I usually wait until it goes on sale to stock up — I've once gotten a jar for as low as $6. The first thing I noticed about the Rao's sauce was that it was definitely wet in texture as opposed to paste-like. When I tasted it, I noticed how it felt more like hand-crushed tomatoes instead of a purée because of the inconsistencies of liquid and chunky bits. I could see tiny specks of basil along with tomato seeds just by looking at the sauce. It was acidic, but not overwhelmingly so, and it tasted like I could dip fried calamari or mozzarella sticks directly into the jar without doctoring it up at all or heating it. I thought it was delicious and perfect at room temperature. I noticed how loose this sauce was when I spooned it over my freshly-cooked pasta. While it pooled at the bottom of the bowl, it didn't separate into liquid and tomato chunks, which was a plus. The sauce coated each noodle nicely, added a tanginess to the flavor of the pasta, and felt like a complete dish while I was eating it. It's simple and delicious. I started seeing the restaurant's jars pop up on shelves over the past year. I had never been to the restaurant, and I never saw the sauce on sale from its suggested retail price of $9.99, so I always stuck to buying a sauce I knew I already liked. But after I made Mario Carbone's meatball recipe at home using Rao's sauce, he mailed me a few jars of his namesake brand to try, and I started with the spicy Arrabbiata.For this article, I purchased a jar of the Carbone tomato basil sauce, and this was my first time tasting it. I also noticed a similar oil sheen on this sauce, along with basil flecks and tomato seeds. A visual difference I picked up on was that the Carbone sauce was more orange in color than Rao's, which had a deeper red hue. This sauce was thicker than Rao's — I noticed that right when I dipped my spoon into the jar — and the texture was more like puréed tomatoes with its pasty consistency. The flavors here were also acidic but less sweet, which meant it was a little more of a biting acidity that I felt could be mellowed with other dish ingredients.I could see myself cooking with this sauce from Carbone. I'd use it in an eggplant or chicken parm, a baked pasta dish, or another special recipe I wanted to invest time in. But I don't think I'd use it as-is for dipping. I thought this sauce gave a slightly better eating experience. It really stuck to each piece of pasta and also remained intact. In terms of flavors, I thought the Carbone sauce tasted better on pasta than it did when I tried it plain. That made me more confident in my theory that this sauce should be used with intention. I don't think it would suit the needs I have for a pantry-staple sauce, but I would purchase it to use for a special, specific recipe. Both sauces are delicious, but they are definitely very different in taste and texture. After spending probably too much time thinking about them both, I realized that Rao's sauce reminds me more of a classic red-sauce joint, while Carbone's sauce transports me to a fancy pasta restaurant. I take my pantry staples seriously, and I need items that are versatile but also reliable. I keep a jar of sauce on hand for things like last-minute pasta nights, but also for fortifying beef stews, making Sunday gravy, and salvaging vegetables that are close to going bad. The Carbone sauce I tried would not fit those needs. It's too distinct in its flavor, in my opinion. Rao's sauce, however, is more malleable, takes on other flavors well, and boils down nicely. I wouldn't want to alter the Carbone sauce like that. While I feel Rao's is ready to go at room temperature, I wouldn't dip a mozzarella stick into the jar from Carbone. So if you're looking for an all-purpose sauce to keep in your kitchen, I'd recommend purchasing Rao's. But if you're buying jarred sauce for a pasta recipe or to make a dish like Carbone's meatballs, I'd recommend trying his namesake sauce.