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What's Your Favorite Bottled Pasta Sauce?


awbrig
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I buy sauce in jars.  I sometimes use it as a base to which I add canned tomatoes and my own seasonings  (with about 1 part jar sauce to four or five parts of my own ingredients). But I also like having it around as a quick fix when I'm tired, arrived home late and need a quick dinner without a lot of fuss (that means every week Monday through Thursday!).

Having experimented with different brands my conclusions are as follows:

1) avoid those with corn syrup or other sweeeteners

2) avoid those with oils other than olive oil

3) avoid sauces with pre-added meat and avoid at all costs  those with pre-added cheese(s)

4) seek brands in which the primary ingredient is crushed or diced tomatoes rather than water and tomato paste

5) $6 - $10 jar sauces are  rarely if ever superior to a carefully chosen $2 - $3 jar

Like Jason, my experiences have usually been best with simple marinara sauce but I do opt for tomato and basil at time.  And I've found Barilla to be very consistent and reliable.

These are all excellent points.

The Barilla stuff is very basic particularly if you get their "sugo" or "passata" which really is just tomatoes that are cooked and passed thru a food mill/strainer, perhaps with a small amount of basil and garlic added.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Lynn Rossetto Kasper ( a lady who knows her way around sauce) did a blind tasting of jarred sauces on The Splendid Table a few years ago. Although most were deemed awful, Classico got high marks for taste and texture. I switched then and there.

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According to "encyclopizza", it is near impossible to make a great sauce at home from tomatoes.  The reason being that the manufacturer's can use lower temperatures at higher pressures to bottle/can the product, and the time from field to finished product is very short...

Hmmm, sous vide sauce!

Who'd'a thunk it?

As tomato sauce is only a small part of the items in the distributor's line up (it's a distributor with an immense list of companies represented, the bulk of which are 'ethnic' foods), I don't know how much information they will have for me immediately. I just want to be upfront about how I became curious about jarred sauces, and that I can't be a judge of them in any public capacity now, although, I AM really looking forward to trying them!

Believe me, though, there are over a hundred companies in the stable, and I will be intrepidly studying every one of them, as time permits!

I am very excited to be working again, and I hope that I can keep up the pace, physically!

A funny bit, one of the corporate folk told me that learning the products would be 'a cinch' for ME, because I cook so much! Guess he doesn't realize that since I actually DO cook, and from scratch, I rarely need most of the items from the 'middle' aisles! Coffee in a pouch, drink bases, powdered soups and mousses, some of this is a whole new world! :raz:

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According to "encyclopizza", it is near impossible to make a great sauce at home from tomatoes.  The reason being that the manufacturer's can use lower temperatures at higher pressures to bottle/can the product, and the time from field to finished product is very short...

Harrumph! Growing tomatoes doesn't take that much effort, really. Three tomato plants, even the patio variety, can provide quite a large amount of tomatoes for one to eat, even if one doesn't have true garden-space.

Time and willingess (mostly willingness) is another question, though.

When I make the baked tomato sauce, garden to jar time is frightfully low, probably 3 hours or less. It really is doable.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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The source you mention also neglects the produce purchased at farm stands and farmers's markets. When there's a good year for plum tomatoes, there's nothing better.

Regarding Classico, I wonder how many years back Lynne R Kasper did her show. The early line was fine, but the company swtiched to tomato puree (water & tomato paste) and made a few other cost-cutting moves. I thought Barillo also went through a similar process recently; I find Phaelon5's list sound, too.

Whole Foods carried a medium-expensive brand for a while with a photograph of a dreamy-eyed young Italian woman on the label. I'm not sure if the Paesano brand is the one I am thinking about, but when the Diavolo type was on sale, I picked up jars and found I liked it with sausage or meatballs.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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We keep Classico with Basil and use it as a base when we are in a hurry. To me it's like a canvas--you can turn it into an arrabiata, puttanesca, a ragu or your own creation. We grow fresh herbs and they make anything taste good. I know he fell from grace, but "the Frugal Gourmet" had a great homemade fresh tomato sauce recipe. We make some each year and freeze it--when we get low or run out the Classico helps fill the void.

Cooking is chemistry, baking is alchemy.

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According to "encyclopizza", it is near impossible to make a great sauce at home from tomatoes.  The reason being that the manufacturer's can use lower temperatures at higher pressures to bottle/can the product, and the time from field to finished product is very short...

Harrumph! Growing tomatoes doesn't take that much effort, really. Three tomato plants, even the patio variety, can provide quite a large amount of tomatoes for one to eat, even if one doesn't have true garden-space.

Time and willingess (mostly willingness) is another question, though.

When I make the baked tomato sauce, garden to jar time is frightfully low, probably 3 hours or less. It really is doable.

I think the point was that you lose a lot of the taste by having to reduce the tomato juice down to a sauce at home cooking temperatures as compared the significantly lower temperatures that the manufacturer's process provides.

doc

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I've never really noticed that you do... and I have close to 20 years' experience doing this at home...

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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Since I didn't see it mentioned, and since Mario came up, what about Mario Batali's Sugo? I picked some up out of curiosity and was pretty impressed - good tomato taste, and actual chunks of flavoring agents in the sauce, which to me is pretty gutsy in this world of whiny consumers. My favorite was the "SUGO FINOCCHIATO – Tomato Sauce with Sweet Garlic & Toasted Fennel

with whole cloves of caramelized fresh garlic and crunchy, toasted fennel seeds." Yum. But not an everyday sauce for me, which is more likely to be Barilla.

I'm guessing while it seemed reasonably priced at TJ's, it's probably now one the fancier brands at Whole Paycheck. Rebecca, your party sounds like it'll be super fun! Congratulations on the new job, and careful of those processed-food-induced salt levels :cool:

To hell with poverty! We'll get drunk on cheap wine - Gang of Four

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Since I didn't see it mentioned, and since Mario came up, what about Mario Batali's Sugo?...  Rebecca, your party sounds like it'll be super fun!  Congratulations on the new job, and careful of those processed-food-induced salt levels  :cool:

I'm adding Batali to the list, if I can find it. I'm not sure where TJ's and Whole Foods are up here in the New Jersey Tundra :rolleyes: .

If the budget allowed, we COULD go as high as 40 or so brands, it seems, without a problem. There's so much jarred sauce out there! Wow!

Regarding the salt, well, honestly, I think that this job will be good for my diet, as I'm not really interested in starting on packaged stuff at this time in my life(I'm already 43, you know! :shock: ). Besides, lucky me, extremely LOW blood pressure; salt is my friend! :wub:

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I keep Classico Spicy Red Pepper in the pantry at all times. Thin it out with a little chicken broth and some more chili flakes.

Why not make my own with canned whole plums? Because I can't find a can opener I can use. My electric jar opener is a dream. But even electric can openers (which are a pain to clean -- and look out if you don't) require either some manual dexterity or wrist strength.

Sometimes even simple stuff is hard!

Edited by ingridsf (log)

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I hope you can find some Mom's. I think it's the best by far.

On one of the other jarred pasta sauce threads, I waxed rhapsodic about it, even listing the ingredients, which include no added sugars, or fillers, or any of the other usual unsavory suspects. And several others raved about it as well.

Mom's Pasta Sauces, and Timpone's Foods.

The only negative I've found is that some people that are accustomed to a bunch of starchy fillers and thickeners and added sugars, find Mom's too thin and not sweet enough.

But it's perfect, as far as I'm concerned.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

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I'm another fan of Classico - I like the fire roasted tomato and I think the roasted garlic.

But like others, jarred sauce always gets doctored in some way, even if it's just a little sauteed onion. I figure since I'm mostly incapable of following a recipe exactly, I'm not going to just use what's in the jar as is, either.

Marcia.

Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted...he lived happily ever after. -- Willy Wonka

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Classico used to be my fallback in the past, but it's been a few years. I'm not surprised to read that they changed the quality of their ingredients a bit- I just thought I was getting more picky. :biggrin: I do keep a few jars in the pantry though, especially the spicy red pepper version.

I think Rao's and Mom's are both really good, although I've only sprung for them a few times. In fact Mom's garlic and basil was on sale at Whole Foods yesterday for $4 something. I love the big pieces of garlic and basil. Seeing they go for $6.00 on their website, maybe I should go back and buy a few more...

-Kelly

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According to "encyclopizza", it is near impossible to make a great sauce at home from tomatoes.  The reason being that the manufacturer's can use lower temperatures at higher pressures to bottle/can the product, and the time from field to finished product is very short.

Therefore, we've stopped buying Roma tomatoes at the farmer's market and canning mass quantities at home.  I get Hunt's Paste in 6 lb cans for $2-3 at Sam's Warehouse, and can dilute that down to puree, sauce or juice and make my sauces from that.

However, if I'm in a pinch, I've used Newman's Own Marinara, and Muir Glen Pizza Sauce with pretty good results.

doc

I have not purchased sauce in a jar.. But are you saying, a person with fresh tomatos cant beat a jarred sauce? I cant believe it..

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I have not purchased sauce in a jar.. But are you saying, a person with fresh tomatos cant beat a jarred sauce?  I cant believe it..

You and me both.

I also can't believe the argument of "no access to tomatoes" and "no time".

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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Daniel- I interpreted that pretty much in terms of 'pizza sauce' rather than pasta sauce, but either way I'd take issue with it as well.

aka Michael

Chi mangia bene, vive bene!

"...And bring us the finest food you've got, stuffed with the second finest."

"Excellent, sir. Lobster stuffed with tacos."

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Well, quite frankly, even when I make "fresh" marinara from tomatoes we grow here in our own garden over the summer, I still end up adding -some- tomato paste product to it, because you really can't get that concentrated tomato concasse-like flavor strictly from cooking down fresh tomatoes in the home kitchen.

Most of the pasta sauces I make have a combination of fresh tomatoes, canned as well as paste to balance out the texture, mouthfeel and flavor. Its only when I want a completely fresh barlely cooked tomato sauce made from just plain chopped up tomatoes and some garlic and basil added do I only use fresh tomatoes.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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As far as cheap sauces, the Grandessa line of sauces at Aldi are actually pretty good. No sugar, no corn syrup. The "Grandessa" label stuff is the one given to their higher-end products - some of which I believe are made in Canada (maybe by the same company that makes President's Choice product lines?). Since Aldi is the company that owns Trader Joe's I have no idea if some of the products are the same with a different label...

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Ever since discovering San Marzano tomatoes, I've stopped buying jarred sauce.

Its sooooooo easy to make your own. I chop and onion, a few cloves of garlic. Throw in some oregano. Dump in the tomatoes, simmer and then use the immersion blender.

Now, if I could only find SM's locally, Id be set. ( I shlep them back from Ann Arbor).

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Tomato sauce and pureed soups are the MAIN reasons I am contemplating purchase of an immersion blender. This is what I don't understand! I mean, yes, we're an instant culture in a lot of ways, but boiling pasta takes, what 30 minutes from start to finish? That's enough time to make any number of quick toppers. So, how are there so many jarred sauces? I never realized how popular an item this is!

And, I can't figure out why! I'm really excited to be trying jarred sauce. I'm picturing a sweet, basil filled Sicilian style sauce coming out of those jars, judging by th ingredient lists.

This week is pretty hectic, too, with the new job, one of my boys arriving on friday for a nice long visit, and kiddle having three Sweet 16's to attend. A jarred sauce tasting for the FT Gang (Freehold Township) is just the thing! :biggrin::biggrin:

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I normally make my own sauce but was intrigued by something I saw yesterday at Costco. Lucini (Label: MADE IN ITALY!) brand rustic tomato and hearty artichoke tomato flavors. Ingredients start with San Marzano plum tomatoes. Then evoo, carrots, onions, basil and salt/artichokes, evoo, onions, carrots, basil, parsley and salt. The labels feature both a pasta and wine recommendation for each sauce. We'll see how they taste - the marketing is well done. (I know that is an indication of NOTHING good but they followed me home anyway.)

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Well, quite frankly, even when I make "fresh" marinara from tomatoes we grow here in our own garden over the summer, I still end up adding -some- tomato paste product to it, because you really can't get that concentrated tomato concasse-like flavor strictly from cooking down fresh tomatoes in the home kitchen.

Most of the pasta sauces I make have a combination of fresh tomatoes, canned as well as paste to balance out the texture, mouthfeel and flavor. Its only when I want a completely fresh barlely cooked tomato sauce made from just plain chopped up tomatoes and some garlic and basil added do I only use fresh tomatoes.

As you have alluded, there is a spectrum of approaches to tomato sauces from caramelized and concentrated to fresh and lively. To say that "it is near impossible to make a great sauce at home from tomatoes" implies that there is only one approach that is worthwhile. I personally love the sweet, zippy quality that my homegrown tomato sauce has (particularly with yellow tomatoes) and wouldn't dream of cooking it any further. When I want something more mellow I use canned tomatoes. But most jarred sauce that I have tried has an institutional quality that I just can't get past.

And, if you haven't already, try these.

aka Michael

Chi mangia bene, vive bene!

"...And bring us the finest food you've got, stuffed with the second finest."

"Excellent, sir. Lobster stuffed with tacos."

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Tomato sauce and pureed soups are the MAIN reasons I am contemplating purchase of an immersion blender. This is what I don't understand! I mean, yes, we're an instant culture in a lot of ways, but boiling pasta takes, what 30 minutes from start to finish? That's enough time to make any number of quick toppers. So, how are there so many jarred sauces? I never realized how popular an item this is!

I usually make my own sauce as well - as with anything in the kitchen I feel it's always good to get down to the basic ingredients, and put your heart and soul into what you're making. Honestly, though, I've resorted to the jarred stuff more often than not lately though - on some days the effort of opening cans and chopping stuff seems like a chore for my lazy ass. And when I've partied too much on the weekend (as I still do way too often), by Sunday night, I'm too knackered to do much more than hit buttons on the microwave and open packaged foods... On those days 30 minutes in the kitchen seems like a chore, delivery is too expensive, so stuff like jarred sauce is perfect.

Most people I know my age use the jarred stuff - sure, they can brown meat and open packaged stuff and make Sandra Lee-type recipes, but making sauce is beyond what they feel they can do in the kitchen. It seems a lot of people are afraid of their instincts in the kitchen, even with simple things like being able to "eye" the right amount to pour from a spice jar. The shear number of pasta sauces on American supermarket shelves does keep me wondering, though. You'd think there would be some serious market saturation by now!

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