We're not sure where the idea of putting crab meat in marinara sauce came from, though it's been around for a while. The makers of Grandmom Concetta's Original Crab-inara Pasta Sauce say they use a recipe that dates to 1929, from a grandmother who used to serve it to relatives visiting the New Jersey shore.
Some Marylanders like to give these bottled sauces as gifts, and Chesapeake Bay expatriates order them for a taste of home. But which crab marinara tastes best over pasta? We boiled a batch of penne and conducted a blind tasting of three sauces to find out.
DON VITO OLD WORLD CLASSICS CRAB MARINARA
Price: $9 for 24 ounces.
Available at: Executive Sweet in Roland Park
What we thought: This dark, thick sauce, made with blue crab, won us over with its robust flavor. We didn't taste a lot of crab, but the crab meat was nicely balanced with the other elements, including a lingering heat.
THE CRAB PLACE MARINARA SAUCE WITH MARYLAND CRAB MEAT
Price: $36 for four 16-ounce bottles (offered in bulk orders only)
Available at: crabplace.com
What we thought: If you like a thin pasta sauce with lots of crab meat, this version, from a Crisfield-based company, might appeal. But we found the flavor too mild to stand up to the pasta we paired with it.
GRANDMOM CONCETTA'S ORIGINAL CRAB-INARA PASTA SAUCE
Price: $7.99 for 16 ounces
Available at: Whole Foods markets and at crabinara.com
What we thought: We tasted a little too much sweetness and wine in this sauce, and not enough tomato and crab meat.