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Any good tomato sauce in a jar?

  • a

I have always hated pre-made sauces, but there is the occasion I have no time to make the homemade stuff. Has anyone discovered a decent jarred sauce?

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  1. I LOVE,LOVE, LOVE Mario batali's jarred sauce...I use his recipe to make my own, and this stuff tastes *just* like the recipe...No extra nuthin', just tomatoes, EVOO, garlic, onions, thyme and carrot...Problem is, I don't know how wide-spread their distribution is...I know they have it at Trader Joe's, but someone told me it may be an exclusive arrangement. Anyone know if this is true?

    2 Replies
    1. re: galleygirl

      I find any supermarket brand can be decent if you doctor it up a bit. Throw in some fresh herbs after reheating, and maybe some grated Parmasean cheese too.

      1. re: galleygirl

        don't know about the exclusivity part (I've never seen it anywhere else, either) but I concurr: LOVE IT.

      2. a
        Allie D'Augustine

        Right now, I like Trader Joe's tomato basil sauce best -- it's garlicky and pretty oily and not sweet. (And, as I posted earlier today, it keeps forever in the fridge, although I've been informed that keeping it for three weeks might kill me.)

        I still can't eat it plain, but I do like to use it about half and half with fresh ricotta and sometimes some mozzarella melted in. The cheese so dominates the flavor that it really doesn't make a difference.

        Although you can take canned diced tomatoes -- Del Monte makes a kind called "fresh cut" or something like that are already diced in juice but are still very good quality -- add those to some garlic sauted in oil, salt and whatever seasonings are handy, a splash of vinegar maybe, and simmer it for ten minutes. It'll be ready by the time your water has boiled for pasta. It's not the same as a ragu, certainly, but it's good. My current favorite sauce takes that base, adds a lot of diced olives and a can of anchovies and balsamic vinegar. It's not a matter of time, it's a matter of having the ingredients -- and all of the necessary ones are shelf stable.

        Of course, I also sometimes am so strapped for time that I need my ten minutes of water-boiling time to take care of other small errands... but that's rare for me.

        Let us know if you find another good bottled sauce!

        2 Replies
        1. re: Allie D'Augustine

          yes, a really good arrabiatta sauce is ridiculously easy to prepare with a few key players - canned tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and salt (and a bit of fresh parsley on top)- in less time than it takes to finish the pasta. i use bittman's version in "how to cook everything."

          1. re: apple
            Allie D'Augustine

            Just remembered: for arrabiata, must add some hot pepper flakes. And no grated cheese. (I'm a purist when it suits me.)


        2. One hint: never buy a sauce made with corn syrup (or much sugar, for that matter), as it is a great way to mask the poor flavor of inferior tomatoes.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Karl S.

            And it tastes too sweet anyway.

          2. Being an olive lover, I do enjoy Barilla's green and black olive tomato sauce (I believe it has capers in it too). Some may find it too salty, but I really like it. While it's simmering, I splash in a bit of dry red wine - adds flavor and cuts the saltiness too. Then, I pour it over my pasta, sprinkle w/red pepper flakes and parmesan or romano, and presto - a simple pleasure.

            3 Replies
            1. re: LisaM

              You should taste the European version of this Barilla sauce. Far, far better than the American version.

              I wrote Barilla about that. But they were evasive and gave me coupons to buy more sauce.

              1. re: LisaM

                Yeah, baby! I usually start by sauteeing some coarse-chopped garlic in a little olive and a splash of whatever wine I happen to be drinking. The wine is also good for rinsing the rest of the sauce out of the jar. Have it over angelhair w/shredded parm and a salad. Mighty decent mid-week meal, mostly from out of the cupboard.

                1. re: LisaM

                  That is also my favorite. Am chasing around to all the different kinds of grocery stores where I live now trying to track it down. Classico olive and mushroom is my fallback--but not as olivey.

                2. I like the Muir Glen tomato products. The jar sauces are decent.

                  But, truth be told, I usually just buy the cans of Muir Glen whole peeled tomatoes and crush them by hand for sauce. Add some garlic, onion and basil and you've got a decent sauce from a can.

                  1. I like the Victoria Vodka Sauce, just add fresh ground pepper and some dried basil and oregano. Their Marinara and Tomato Basil sauces are good, too, but I usually just doctor canned tomatoes instead.

                    I also like Classico's tomato and basil sauce, though more as a pizza sauce that mimics what you get at Bertucci's. I doctor that with pepper, basil, and oregano as well.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Erika

                      if you must go can- i like BARILLA

                      1. re: Erika

                        I haven't looked at the Barilla ingredients but what I like about Classico is that there is no corn syrup added and the ingredient list is pretty simple. Is Barilla the same?

                      2. Raos Homemade, expensive but the best I have found. Pomi is also good. Mario Batali arabiatta is good, super spicy.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: ciaolette

                          I agree, those 3 are tops. Sometimes you can find Rao's on sale at King Kullen, but still like $5-6. I like to add a little grated cheese.

                          1. re: Halbert

                            completely agree about Rao's, it's the best jarred sauce I've had.

                        2. How about making a batch of homemade and freezing it?

                          1. Epicurious just tested Marinara sauces. I received an email about it, though I'd imagine it's on their website too. I'll ruin the ending for you:

                            Best Price to Taste ratio was awarded to 'Pomi' which is actually boxed (not canned or jarred) sauce. At $1.50 for 26.5 ounces it's pretty damn affordable and, to quote Epi: "The closest to homemade available on a store shelf."

                            1. I keep some of the simpler Classico sauces on hand -- whatever comes in cheap 3-packs at Costco -- for those nights when I just can't deal with cooking (I can't expect *every* meal to be a chowlinary revelation). Plus, the kids can be counted to whip up dinner if it's pasta and sauce. For a few more sheckels, Bove's out of Burlington, VT, is quite good, though I don't know how widely distributed it is.

                              1. m
                                Michael Kleinman

                                Cara Nonna Arrabiata is exceptional, Gia Russa Puttanesca is also very good, Ruustichella d' Arbuzzo can be excellent but is not consistant.www.agferrari.com does mail order out of California and has a line of sauces I have not tried yet but just ordered today. Rosengarten says they are the best jared sauces he has ever had.

                                1. Barilla "Tomato and Basil"

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: Tatyana

                                    I like the Barilla sauce w/black and green olives. Goes especially well w/hot Italian sausage.

                                    1. re: flavrmeistr

                                      flavrmeistr--where can I get Barilla green and black olive tomato sauce in FL? Have been hunting all over.

                                      1. re: Coyote

                                        Before I left there a few months back, I was buying it at the Publix at Southern and Parker in West Palm Beach. Sometimes they wouldn't have it and people (myself included) would complain to the manager. This is a tactic I would recommend employing at your local Publix as they are sensitive to "customer needs".

                                        1. re: flavrmeistr

                                          Thanks. Will have a chat with my local Publix manager in Clearwater.

                                  2. I don't know if its regional (Houston) but Aldos line of bottled sauces are excellent. Expensive but well worth it.

                                    1. don't know if they're all over the country, but Rao's is the best jarred sauce i have found, particularly the arrabiata. it's pricey, but if it's not a staple in your house it's affordable for those nights when you just can't hack making sauce. i like to pour it over cooked cheese or meat ravioli, grate some parmesan on top and then stick the whole thing under the broiler for a few minutes to gratinee. one of our lazy night staples.

                                      i suspect that mario batalli's sauce is good but i have never seen it here in the NYC area.

                                      the pomi sauce is what italians used when i lived in rome if they didn't want to make their own. it was pretty good.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Missmasala

                                        Rao's dried pasta is excellent, as well.

                                        1. re: Emma

                                          We generally make our own sauce but my husband loves to have Rao's on hand for quick meals.

                                      2. For my money, there are only two that I'd consider to be any good.

                                        Timpone's (best) and Mom's (second).

                                        They may be regional, I don't know, but they've won lots of awards. They are available online. No extra ingredients like sugar or other fillers. Timpone's regular sauce has organic Italian tomatoes (grown in Tuscany), fresh organic onions, EVOO, fresh organic basil, sea salt, herbs. The Puttanesca has whole Kalamata olives.

                                        I order them by the case from timpones.com

                                        1. I like Mom's best. Can't beat all that basil and the whole cloves of garlic.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Cathy Elton

                                            Have you tried Timpone's? It's put out by the same people. It's supposedly an organic upscale version of Mom's. I didn't really think anything could be any better than Mom's, but did a side-by-side taste test, and I think it is a little bit better.

                                            You might want to try it if you haven't already.

                                          2. My vote has to go to Bove's Of Vermont. (One of the best mom&pop Italian restaurants on the planet in Burlington that started marketing their own sauces a couple of months ago)