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Prepared Pasta Sauce ... WHY???

While I understand the convenience of buying pasta sauce in a jar to prepare a meal in a pinch, what I don't understand is why so many people do it regularly. Making a great pasta sauce is not rocket science, and, if it's a meatless sauce you want, it doesn't take long to prepare or cook, either. Furthermore, sauce can be made in quantity and frozen in smaller portions, so it's convenient and far less costly than the "celebrity" brands -- Rao's, Patsy's, etc. Can someone explain to me why you buy the prepared stuff?

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  1. Marketing maybe? Some might say laziness... but I'm inclined to say ignorance of how easy and how much better home prepared stuff is.

    Heck, I can't understand why people buy tubs of mashed potatoes either

    1 Reply
    1. re: Jimmy Buffet

      I actually didn't know that making pasta sauce was even an option (not to mention straightforward). Basically, if you wanted pasta, you'd buy noodles and jarred sauce - that was just the way it was. I never even thought to make my own. I can imagine this is the case for a lot of people.

    2. I buy Cento sauces for $3.99. The cost breakdown of putting together San Marzano tomatos, evo, basil, etc. for an equivalent home sauce would not be much less - if at all (certainly not "far less costly") - and it heats up while the pasta's cooking, which is very convenient for a working couple. We like to cook on weekends, and have made our own marinara sauce on occasion, but Cento's price is reasonable, the product is excellent (as good as any we've made or had elsewhere - and we've eaten a lot of red sauce over the decades), and the convenience is unbeatable.

      It's not marketing and it's not laziness - and I daresay it's not ignorance (which is a condescending remark, to say the least). It's a great sauce at a fair price. Simple as that.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Striver

        I fully agree with the Cento sauce. Am I less of a "foodie" because I open a jar rather than a can of tomatoes ? Give me a break ! I'll put up my Cento based sauce (to wich I add a few ingredients up against any "homemade" anyday. It's not about time, it's about the quality of the ingredients, the value (I pay $2.99 when it is on sale), and most importantly, the taste.

        1. re: Striver

          Where can I find Cento tomato sauce by the way? I live in Westchester County, but anywhere in the NYC area is fine.

          1. re: jeanki

            Fairway. The Harlem branch is the one I shop at; there's a rack of Cento products in the pasta section.

        2. The same reason peolple buy salad in a bag, pre cut up veggies, cans of soup...too busy or too lazy to cook real food I guess.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Eric in NJ

            I'm curious about your terminology - what exactly is not "real" about pre-cut vegetables? Does that also mean that a container of fresh-squeezed orange juice is not real because you didn't squeeze the oranges? Or how about buying a loaf of bread from a bakery - is that loaf not "real" because you didn't bake it yourself?

            Actually, if you make your own sauce, you generally use canned or store-bought tomatos, jarred or canned olive oil, and sometimes canned tomato paste - none of which you made/grew/canned or otherwise prepared yourself. So is that "homemade" sauce not real? We used to buy marinara sauce from a small grocery where the owners grew their own tomatos and basil and made a sauce which they sold in the store (they did use imported olive oil). How "real" was that?

            1. re: Striver

              I agree with Striver on this one. My sister is always giving me grief because she see me use bottled sauce on ocassion. She claims her family only eats homemade sauce. I shoot back at her, "Oh yeah, opening that can of tomatoes really makes it homemade!"

              1. re: Eric in NJ

                Add me to the "what's not real about cut up veggies" camp. Unless you plow the field, pick the ingredients, milk the cow and cook the meal someone has help in the food chain from plant to tongue.

                Does that mean going out to dinner is lazy, someone else prepared the food. And i betcha you will find some cans and paper cartons in those restos as well.

              2. I buy a jar once in a while so my Husband can/will actually cook dinner (not order take-out!) when I'm sick/late/out of town. Other than that? It's not in our house. I buy cans of tomatoes when they're on sale, and boxes at the farmers market from a vendor who will sell them to me by the bushel v. pound. The latter are blanched and frozen for later sauce-making... sometimes I make sauce at the time, depends on how much time I have.

                1. Some days I make my own pasta from scratch and sauce from home grown tomatoes and basil. Some days I'm too tired to pull out a cutting board and chop everything and clean so I open a can and a box of pasta. Some days I'm even too tired to even do that and we order pizza.

                  1 Reply
                  1. Cause I am a single mom with a 10 year old boy and picky eater. During the week working two jobs, I don't have the leisure time to make pasta sauce. I feel no guilt or shame about using salad in the bag, precut carrots other relatively healthy stuff.

                    That Hamburger Helper and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese stuff doesn't cross my little dude's lips:) Although he has a taste for transfats and fast food, the prepackaged dry or frozen stuff doesn't float his boat.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: drmimi

                      Amen. I have two young kids, a ft job, and a commute. If my kids have pre-packaged salad and spaghetti with Cento, what's so wrong with that? Seems like a fine dinner for us-- and far better than the McDonald's drive thru.

                    2. Because when I make Bolognese Sauce it takes a lot of work to chop things, cook things etc and having the 2 cups of tomato sauce (RAo's Marinara) already made makes this doable for me. As I get older I find it difficult to stand in the kitchen all day and frankly, I think Rao's sauce is just delicious.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: emilief

                        Me too! This has been discussed on other threads! I don't see Centro around where I shop, and will check out Whole Foods to give this a try, however Rao's works grand for me and my family, we all love it...including picky kids! I have posted before, there should be no shame in buying anything in a jar that works, that makes life easier, that tastes good.

                        1. re: Jesdamala

                          go to their web site and send them an email. that's how i found where they sell cento near me. or you can order on-line.

                      2. I'm the one who posted about Rao's sauce. I'm Italian and sometimes it's just a nice change from having to do all the work yourself..If you don't feel in the mood say. I too make my own sauce, however, every good chef deserves a little "help" now and then! That's why I always keep a good bottle or two on hand.......

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: flipkeat

                          Do you use it straight out of the jar, or do you "enhance" it? I have a friend who usually starts with a good bottled sauce, then adds browned meat, sausage, oregano, garlic, whatever suits her fancy that day.

                          1. re: CindyJ

                            We like the spicy one, my sister prefers the simple Marinara, I keep Kalamata olives and capers and pancetta around, and often use with either...also frozen TJ artichoke hearts which I like to carmelize a bit....lots of things...but just simple out of the jar with some grated cheese works!

                          2. re: flipkeat

                            Sometimes you just get sick of eatng your own sauce. having so many options gives you a break and saves lots of time. One of my favorites is the chunky vegetable style,sold at Walmart of all places, Of course I enhance it. For a buck a bottle you can't go wrong!

                          3. I once ragged on my brother about this and he explained that he just doesn't find the effort worth it, because he finds getting the seasoning right a challenge. Also, he cited the cost reason that Striver has noted.

                            1. I think a decent jarred suace with some fresh herbs thrown in tastes just fine and takes almost no time. You have to make a big batch at home to make it that much less expensive, and I don't have that much room in my freezer.

                              1. I make nothing because it's cheaper, I make it because it tastes better. I haven't had a bottled sauce in at least 10 years. I make my own in huge batches and freeze it. Nonetheless, I understand the convenience factor of the bottled sauces. Before I started making my own sauce I used to "doctor up" the bottled sauce and ended up with some pretty good stuff. I think that helped me learn what I liked and make me realize I could make my own sauce.

                                1. Because it can be cheaper when all monetary and non-monetary costs/values are considered. Not everyone has room to freeze sauce or time to make the kind they want on the spot.

                                  And, it CAN even be cheaper even on a purely monetary basis when many variables are taken into account.

                                  1. I'm with you Karl. Time and convenience and also freezer space. We have a full size side by side with the narrowest freezer in the world so making a big pot and freezing batches of it for later convenience really won't work here. I do however have quite a bit of cabinet space and Trader Joe's has very good sauces for about $2 jar so...

                                    By the way, I'm in NY, anyone know where you can buy this highly touted Cento other than Whole Foods?

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: laylag

                                      go to their web site and send an email. they will respond in a few days. this is how i did it.

                                      1. Okay, okay, so now I'm curious about Cento. I know I've seen that brand in my local supermarkets, so I'll give it a try. You folks will make a prepared-sauce user of me yet!

                                        1. Not everyone likes to cook from scratch (if at all).

                                          It really is as simple as that.

                                          The OP's question never challenges the quality of store-bought sauces, just their omnipresence in home-cooked meals. From that perspective, why limit this discussion to jarred sauces? Really, why buy anything prepared that can be made at home relatively quickly with your own fresh ingredients? Why stand in line for a lunchtime sandwich when you could have easily brown-bagged one? Heck, if some here consider it lazy to buy packaged prepared foods, couldn't it also be called laziness when you let someone else wash your car, launder your shirts, or do your taxes?

                                          Truth be told, I know people who actually do try to put in all that effort even though they can afford not to, and more power and kudos to them for their personal choices and preferences. But at the same time, and with all due respect, I think those who cannot comprehend (let alone embrace) the attractive simplicity of a ready-to-heat-and-eat jar of good pasta sauce may simply have a problem with, of all things, simplicity itself.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Arthur

                                            I posted the question, and I was asking specifically about jarred pasta sauce, NOT prepared foods in general. I suppose, implicit in my question, was my opinion that a really high quality pasta sauce can be made at home with minimal fuss at minimal cost.

                                            Personally, there are LOTS of foods that I buy already made, either because I've had little luck making them myself (pastries), they require more time or effort than I have at a particular time (bread), or I have a source that makes the product way better than I can. But for me, pasta sauce isn't in any of those categories. Also, I LOVE the smell of onions and garlic sauteeing in olive oil, and I can't get that from a prepared sauce.

                                            I think, for me, there's also something psychologically rewarding about cooking a great sauce for pasta, serving it to my family, and watching them enjoy it. Yes, they enjoy most of what I cook for them, but maybe it's that home-cooking, comfort food quality that I attach to pasta. It's a labor of love. And I can't say that about ALL the home cooking I do. Go figure!

                                            1. re: Arthur

                                              ...and I'd like to add that "lazy" isn't a word that I'd ever attach to anyone who chose to buy prepared food -- ANY prepared food -- rather than make it themselves. I'm the first to admit that there are MANY good reasons -- look at those cited here -- for doing so. It's specifically the pasta sauce thing I was questioning.

                                            2. I would love to see what you would make if you had to work 14 hour days and an 8 hour day on Saturday, with a 30-45 minute commute each way.

                                              Just because I use bottled Cento vodka sauce that I "doctor" up doesn't make me "lazy"- it makes me a professional woman who doesn't have the time to cook from scratch because I have a demanding job.

                                              10 Replies
                                              1. re: JABDDD

                                                I am in exactly the same situation, plus I'm a single mom. Now that my son is away at college, I don't have to cook dinner anymore. When he comes home, I gladly make his favorites.

                                                When I was much younger, married and without a child, I made pasta sauce from scratch, and portioned it into small containers and froze it. That stopped cold when my son was born, and truth be told, once I found a brand I liked, I never made it from scratch again. A few months ago I started using the canned/chopped tomato process, and that was fine but it makes more than I need.

                                                1. re: JABDDD

                                                  to everyone that says they don't have time to make homemade sauce, this takes as much time as doctoring up the jar:
                                                  add olive oil and smashed garlic cloves to pan.
                                                  add Pomi or bio-organica strained tomatoes in about 2/3 -3/4 ratio to the oil. it should look oily so that there's enough flavor.\
                                                  add basil leaves, salt, pepper, and the tiniest bit of sugar.
                                                  cook about 5-10 min while the pasta is boiling.

                                                  if you want a meat sauce, just brown the meat at the beginning before tomatoes. if vodka sauce, add cream and parsley instead of basil.

                                                  pasta is the easiest thing, most sauces are cooked in less time than the pasta, and they taste much fresher/better than jarred!

                                                  1. re: fara

                                                    That sugo crudo is not necessarily the kind of sauce people want when they are opting for a jarred sauce. Replicating the good jarred sauces (like Cento) would take more time (shopping - not everyone has fresh basil ready every day - and making). Many fine sauces take longer to simmer to get them to the desired consistency and flavor, and those jars come closer to that. And the jarred can taste better because they use more consistent ingredients.

                                                    1. re: Karl S

                                                      i have never had a sauce that compared to what i described above. it's not a sugo crudo because you start with "strained tomatoes" which already have the consistency of sauce. what makes it better than canned sauce is that the tomatoes are preserved by their own acidity, not salt. plus all of the other ingredients you use will be higher quality than the jar.
                                                      trust me, i know what sauce is supposed to taste like, and it is impossible to duplicate in a jar.

                                                      1. re: fara

                                                        So do I, and there are certain types of jarred sauces that are superior to certain homemade sauces that would take the same amount of time and effort.

                                                    2. re: fara

                                                      How about I just don't want to.

                                                      Come home put some hot water in a pot with salt. Go upstairs to change and wash up, come down stairs, water boiling. Throw pasta in. Set timer. Open jar of sauce and place in second pot, place on low heat. Grab the mail and throw away the junk. Feed the dog. Let the dog out. Watch the dog. Let the dog in. Give dog a cookie. Timer at 2 minutes. Set the table. Take some pasta water out of pot. Timer beeps. Pour into strainer. Pasta water into sauce. Bring to temp. Pasta and sauce to pot #1. Mix. Serve. Very efficient, mindless and now for the 11 o'clock news.

                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                        Good post jfood. Lately there have been more and more threads wanting people to justify non-cooking, or not loving to cook or not having time to cook, etc. My guess is some posters have had their fill or lack an interest in the bashing to Food Network hosts and Chains/Franchises, so it's time to move on to the posters who don't get all excited at the prospect of cooking...for whatever reason.

                                                        1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                          I have a very simple philosophy. If I have the time, the ingredients and the inclination, I cook. If I do not have all three I fudge it.

                                                          Dinner at Chez Jfood the last two nights. Grilled veal chop with wild mushrooms in a demi glas for DW and seared scallops for moi with a side of wild mushroom risotto. The other night, I threw a chicken breast in the oven for 40 minutes for DW with a side salad and a frozen pizza for me.

                                                          Life is all about playing the spetrum. :-))

                                                        2. re: jfood

                                                          Even faster, I don't even heat the pasta sauce in a separate pan. When the noodles are done, I drain, put back into the pot, pour the sauce over and heat. The pasta absorbs the sauce and tastes good. In between, we're clearing the table, checking homework, etc. Multi-tasking! Also, I have to say if I'm using canned tomatoes, I like it simmered for a long time. Fresh tomatoes taste good either way but canned don't.

                                                      2. re: JABDDD

                                                        A hearty "ME TOO"... I love to cook, and I love eating homemade food, but sometimes it's a matter of priority. I work similar hours to JABDDD and tonight I made a lovely arugula salad to go with my jarred sauce pasta. That's how I used my discretionary time.

                                                      3. I love to cook. My grownup-and-on-their-own grandsons both know how to cook, but really the jar of spaghetti sauce that they can use to fix a meal cheaply and easily after working all day is a great thing and there is so much choice available. I use these too sometimes, I really do not feel like cooking as much now, not lazy just old. I do not know how our great, great, great grandmothers managed and you know that their daily menu choices most of the time could not have had much variety, vegetable in season or canned if they were lucky and all that went with it, preserved foods were not as safe and usually not as good as now.

                                                        1. we used to make sauce every other week and freeze it. now the kids are grown and out and we found bottled sauce we like--Barilla.
                                                          But we still make sauce sometimes, especially when ripe tomatoes are in the garden.
                                                          convenience, but also found the flavor we liked.

                                                          1. Because while it's not hard, it's one extra thing to cook. Last night I made meatballs from scratch, which took me about an hour altogether. Then I had another pot boiling with pasta and another pan with sauteeing spinach. I just couldn't deal with a fourth pot.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Lucia

                                                              I cook my meatballs right in the sauce, without browning them first. I once did a "taste test" -- had both types of meatballs in the sauce. The difference was hardly noticeable and both were yummy.

                                                            2. I love to make sauce from scratch on a lazy Sunday letting it it simmer all day long with the smell making me hungrier with each passing hour.

                                                              But I can stock up on jarred sauce for $1 when the sale comes around. Doctor that sauce up with some fresh ingredients and it's just fine for spur-of-the-moment or quick meals during the week.

                                                              1. When I get home at 8:30 and I need to eat by 9:00, and I eat pasta once a month, and can't afford to spend a lot of money on food I won't eat...it makes a lot more sense to open a jar. I just don't have time to cook a fresh meal from scratch more than once and sometimes I don't even feel like it when I do have the time! Besides I have nobody to impress but myself so what's the point?

                                                                1. Depends on what kind of sauce I want. I love to do fresh-tasting ones from scratch, the simpler the better (and tastier!), but sometimes I want that thick, slow-cooked goopiness, and do you have any idea how hard it is to make just a pint or less of that? Because a cup or so of sauce is all we use for a typical meal. So I'll get a small jar of a basic Classico sauce - usually tomato and basil - and cook up a "bump" of onion, celery, garlic and a couple of fresh Romas to freshen up the flavors, and maybe cook some crumbled Italian sausage from the deli down the street. I'd try some other brands as well if they just came in pint jars.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                                                    It takes as much effort to make a pint of sauce as it does to make a whole pot. So make a pot full and freeze it in pint containers.

                                                                    1. re: CindyJ

                                                                      doesn't work if you lack freezer space...

                                                                  2. To each his/her own, and I can't speak for the Cento sauces, but many jarred sauces are full of preservatives, sweeteners, and other crap I choose not to eat. It's not about whether one is more "real" than the other, it's about deciding what to put in your body (and the bodies of those you cook for). A can of tomatoes, chopped onion and garlic, some dried herbs/spices, and a little wine and you're done. Yeah it's about 5 minutes more work, but either way it's done before the pasta. Many people do this much work to jarred sauce anyway.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Grubbjunkie

                                                                      Cento's ingredients are all natural and include items like San Marzano tomatos, extra virgin olive oil, and sea salt. No added sweeteners, no filler, no preservatives. AFAIR, Rao's are similar. You can discriminate in your choice of prepared foods and sauces just as you can with anything else (like which brand of canned of tomatos you decide to buy).

                                                                      1. re: Grubbjunkie

                                                                        Or Alessi's marinara sauce ingredients list- Sicilian pear-shaped tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, onion, garlic, sea salt, basil

                                                                      2. Cento Marinara:

                                                                        San Marzano Tomatoes, Onions, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Garlic, Basil, Sea Salt. The quality of the tomatoes is as good or better than any canned out there. I know it has been said before, but this is a great product. Simply pick up a jar (actuallly looks more like a bottle @ 24 oz) and you can see the quality in the color.

                                                                        1. Why, for that matter, do people buy already made pasta?

                                                                          Ultimately, as with everything, it is about time, effort and ability. There are some things that simply can't be duplicated and must be made from scratch and they take forever no matter what you do (coq au vin is an example of such a thing in my mind; good gumbo is another). There are other things that, for whatever reason, other people can simply do a better job making for you than you can yourself. Sushi, for example, usually owing to the ability to even get your hands on the best ingredients. Pasta is a great example of this (not the sauce, necessarily, but the pasta itself). Pasta sauce (especially of the sort many people mention where the ingredient list is pretty much what we'd expect in a "homemade" sauce) is another example where the time/effort calculation could easily swing toward buying the already made variety.

                                                                          We often make our own quick pan sauce with grape tomatoes and garlic and a bit of wine, we toss in some barely al dente angel hair and have a lovely and delicate pasta dish.

                                                                          Of course, about equally as often, we dump a jar of good sauce and a whole bunch of Trader Joe's turkey meatballs in a pot and slap the whole thing on a pile of spaghetti with a bottle of red wine and are very happy with a dinner that took 15 minutes to put together.

                                                                          1. I agree with many others - at the end of the day, I don't have time to whip up sauce from scratch, and I don't really like eating food that's been frozen, so I'd rather use a good-quality purchased sauce, doctor it up with a few herbs, spices and veggies and be sitting at the table by 8.

                                                                            It's just personal choice. :) On weekends, if I have more time and am feeling more martha-esque, I am happy to make my own sauce. But not every day.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: mrbunsrocks

                                                                              I also don't like to eat food in general that has been frozen, especially homemade stuff.

                                                                            2. So we have our answers. People eat jar sauces because there are some really good ones out there, and it's easy. Sounds like a winning combination to me.

                                                                              1. I have jarred sauces in my house, but find they rarely get used these days, mostly because msot of the time I have homemade stuff in the fridge too, and I'd rather eat that (as a single guy, I can usually get at least 3 meals out of a batch.) I find that even a relatively simple meat sauce (a pound of ground beef, a diced onion, a can of the Cento crushed tomatoes, a can of diced tomatoes, and a bit of olive oil, oregano and basil) turns out a lot better than any of the jar stuff I've tried almost all the time. Granted, nobody stocks the Cento sauces around here, and I'm not anxious to spring for Rao's, but I've been largely disappointed with jarred sauces. Mostly I save them for when I need a plain marinara for something or when I just don't feel like cooking.

                                                                                1. What's interesting to me is how snobby people can be about food! I suppose I do fall into that category myself concerning certain items; for instance, I can't understand how anyone can use "cream of (fill in the blank) soup" to make casseroles, gravies, etc. It makes me cringe a bit - I'll admit it! But jarred pasta sauces can be very good. In fact, Cooks Illustrated did a taste test some time back and put several brands on their "highly recommended" list. I do love a homemade marinara, and certainly it's easy to make, but I have no issues admitting that I keep jars of pasta on hand for those rare nights when even making a simple sauce seems like too much (with two small children, those nights are less rare than they used to be).

                                                                                  1. I would like to make my own....room in the freezer is the main reason I don't (or lack of)!