The Reason Jarred Sauce Works So Well In Baked Pasta Dishes

Jarred pasta sauces may stray from the authentic scratch-made recipes your Italian grandmother used to make, but baked pasta dishes make perfect recipients for them. They are the best option for jarred pasta sauces because they enhance the sauce's flavors and fuse them with numerous other ingredients. For example, lasagna, stuffed shells, and chicken parmesan are cohesive meals whose taste is the sum of their parts. Therefore, tomato sauce isn't the focal point but an equal contributor to the dish as a whole. 

Consumers feel like they have to doctor their jarred pasta sauces with additional ingredients to create a more complex or authentic flavor. Baked pasta dishes do this by default, layering sauce with pasta, cheese, cream, vegetables, or meat before throwing it all in the oven. The sauce blends and absorbs their flavors, and when baked, the sauce thickens and concentrates them into a caramelized reduction, which helps bind the other ingredients and keeps them from drying out.

How to choose the best jarred pasta sauce

There's an overwhelming diversity of pasta sauce brands on the shelves. From organic and gourmet to budget-friendly store brands, you'll find something for every dietary preference and taste. The beauty of marinara sauce lies in its simplicity, with a minimal list of ingredients limited to tomatoes, olive oil, herbs, and garlic. Variations may include onion, extra herbs, or even butter, but tomatoes are the focal point. Therefore, the best tomato sauces, jarred or not, use few yet high-quality ingredients that can complement any baked dish you desire.

Along with a short list of ingredients, a good rule of thumb is to look for minimal to zero chemical preservatives. Many longstanding and trusted jarred pasta brands like Ragu and Barilla claim authenticity by asserting its recipes from families brought over from Italy. However, another trend you may see is well-known Italian restaurants to bottle and sell its sauces. These may be more expensive, but they may be worth trying.