Tasting Table Asks: What's The Best Store-Bought Pasta Sauce? - Exclusive Survey

Homemade pasta sauces, like many gustatory traditions, can bring up lots of feelings. Anyone in need of proof need only witness the recurring theme of Jeremy Allen White's downwardly mobile chef refusing to make his deceased brother's tomato sauce throughout most of the first season of FX's "The Bear" – despite repeated requests from his restaurant staff to do. Store-bought pasta sauce is a relatively new alternative to homemade, according to The New York Times, which points out that national distribution of jarred sauce didn't commence in the U.S. until 1969. As such, it may be surprising to learn that jarred pasta sauces have become just as polarizing.

To wit, in our latest review of 12 supermarket pasta sauce brands, Newman's Own easily made the top 10 — yet Newman's Own doesn't even crack the top 10 biggest pasta sauce brands based on annual revenues, according to Zippia's data from 2021. While Rao's Homemade was our favorite, it barely cleared Zippia's top 10. Likewise, Classico, which we ranked smack in the middle, boasts annual revenues three times higher than the next biggest brand, Prego, which we placed near the bottom of our list.

To make sense of these disparate data points, Tasting Table conducted an exclusive survey asking readers to identify the best store-bought pasta sauce out of the following supermarket brands (listed here in alphabetical order): Bertolli, Classico, Newman's Own, Prego, and Rao's Homemade. As it turns out, one brand emerged as the clear favorite among Tasting Table readers. 

Prego trounces the competition

When Tasting Table asked readers to choose the best store-bought pasta sauce out of five supermarket brands, 626 responded, and 230 chose Prego (37% of all votes cast). None of the other brands even came close. In fact, not a single one garnered so much as half the votes that Prego got. In fact, Classico — whose revenues exceed Prego's by nearly 300% — was the runner-up, but with only 109 votes. That comes out to less than 18% of all votes cast. Coming in at third was Bertolli, with 106 votes, or just under 17% of all votes. 

The two brands getting the least love from our respondents were Rao's Homemade and Newman's Own, which received 91 and 90 votes respectively. Together, that comes to just 181 votes, just under 29% of the total. In other words, more than twice as many feel that Prego is a better sauce than both Rao's Homemade and Newman's Own put together. 

While this is all quite edifying, we are left to speculate as to what makes Prego so pleasing (besides its name, which means "please" in Italian). It may be because Prego not only tastes good (obviously), but it's also notably thick and chunky (via Mensa for Kids). In fact, as A Learning A Day notes, Prego went out of its way to make it so in the late 1980s in response to market research that indicated that's what American pasta lovers wanted.