On those days when you can't pick fresh tomatoes and basil straight from your backyard garden (sorry, Ina), store-bought is the next best thing. Yes, sometimes you're craving a big, saucy dish of pasta but don't have the time or energy to whip up a homemade batch of tomato sauce. Here's where the supermarket's jarred sauce aisle comes into play.
If you're in a pinch, a big jar of ready-made tomato sauce is exactly what you need to get a delicious dinner on the table. But not all grocery store brands are created equal. Because we can't have you eating spaghetti with just any old tomato topper, we picked up five of the most popular brands on the market and got to tasting. Ranking the brands on texture, flavor and authenticity, we found a few that reign victorious.
Pro tip: Even if you aren't going the from-scratch route, you can easily spruce up these jarred beauties with a sprinkling of sharp Parmesan or a few tears of fresh store-bought basil. Now, grab a fork!
Our Top Picks
① Classico Traditional Sweet Basil, $4, 24 ounces
The runaway favorite of this taste test, Classico is slightly sweet, pleasantly herby and the perfect consistency to grab onto your pasta. Our editors described it as "lovely," saying it could pass for fresh sauce, with chunks of delicious tomato and basil throughout. When you're unable to make your own, Classico is surely the next best thing.
② Barilla Traditional, $3.50, 24 ounces
Though not as universally beloved by our team, Barilla's Traditional sauce is a solid option for a weeknight dinner. It has a much stronger, zestier garlic taste than many of the others, and that certainly isn't a bad thing. With a smoother texture than Classico, editors found themselves liking it the more they tasted, saying, "It has character."
③ Newman's Own Marinara, $3.50, 24 ounces
This jarred option immediately evoked a familiarity and nostalgia for our taste testers. It's quite sweet, which some editors loved, and has a good amount of oregano flavor, as well as a meaty texture. This sauce takes third place, though, because it tastes more like pizza sauce than a good, fresh pasta sauce.
Bertolli Tomato and Basil, $3, 24 ounces
Our taste testers were significantly divided on this sauce, with some calling it their favorite of the bunch and others claiming it had a strange, floral herbiness. It's the least sweet of all the jars, making it the perfect purchase for those who like a dryer tomato sauce. Like Newman's, it also has a familiar taste and reminded some editors of more traditional sauces. All in all, a riskier option but tasty nonetheless.
Prego Traditional, $2, 14 ounces
Sugar lovers, this sauce is for you. The prevailing sweetness of Prego masks much of the other flavors present in the sauce, although some editors claimed to detect a hint of basil. Purchase this jar if you really love a sugary tomato sauce (and trust us: Some of us do).
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