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Aug 26, 2009 09:48 PM

Jarred pasta sauces?

So I was just reading the Serious Eats food blog ( and there was a quick review on a jarred pasta sauce made by / endorsed by Maria Batali.

In a nutshell, the author reports it is 'perfect.'

My questions to fellow CHers are: Can this sauce be found anywhere in Montreal? There were also some reports of a delicious jarred sauce called "Rao's" - can THIS be found anywhere?

And finally, what is YOUR favorite jarred pasta sauce.

I too prefer fresh made sauces, but sometimes you just want something quick, dirty, and delicious.

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  1. I'm not really a "sauce in my pasta" kind of guy; but when in need, I go half-way and buy a can of the best tomatoes available and just heat them up with some herbs and garlic and that do the job.

    But recently, I found the products from "Maison Le Grand" and their basil pesto is very, very good.

    12 Replies
    1. re: Maximilien

      I also really like the Maison LeGrand products, they have original pestos with preserved lemons or pumpkin seeds for example. Delicious smeared on a piece of fish before roasting it, or to make original bruschettas or sandwiches. Their new pouches (rather than heavy glass jars) also help keep the product longer.

      In terms of pasta sauces available, I also prefer the homemade version but don't always have that on hand; I keep a few Classico jars around as a backup. I took the time once to compare ingredients between different brands found in grocery stores. To me, Classico was a better choice because most of their products have no/little water (as opposed to some other brands with water as the first ingredient... what a rip-off!), as well as a reasonable salt /fat content and 'real' ingredients. It still doesn't taste homemade, but I often customize it with onions, garlic or other ingredients to make it my own and tone down that jarred taste.

      I haven't made a taste comparison with other brands, so am intested too in what others are using!

      1. re: Chocolatine

        I use Classico in the exact same way. The sausage one is good in a pinch, but I generally buy the mushroom one and jazz it up.

        It's the only one I can tolerate. The others are sweet and the herbs are always wrong. Admittedly, I haven't tried anything like in the original post- a more expensive, "gourmet"/ not mass-market product.

        1. re: Chocolatine

          I third Classico. Tastes really good, and quite fresh even after months in the pantry.
          I keep jars of Mushroom Alfredo and Sun-Dried Tomato Alfredo on hand.
          The tomato-based ones are good. C70 mentioned the sausage one; I'm skeptical of pre-made sauces with meat, but I was in a pinch for something hearty and even that one was really good.

          1. re: Chocolatine

            I bought a jar of Classico a few months ago thinking it couldn't be that bad, and when I opened it, it made me really sad. When I tasted it, it made me even sadder. Why buy this stuff when you can make something from scratch that's way better and cheaper than anything from a jar in the time it takes to boil water and cook your pasta?

            1. re: SnackHappy

              For my part, what I like about tomato sauce is that long, slow cooked taste and concentration of flavors, without the acidity of the tomato. I don't get that from a can of tomatoes, just chopped and heated with a few seasonnings. Even San Marzano tomatoes have that acidity to them... what brand do you use?

              The Classico sauces aren't perfect by any means, but can be a good base for a quick meal.

              As far as price goes, I disagree that (good) canned tomatoes are cheaper. A big San marzano can is about 4$, while a Classico sauce jar is about the same price and less when on special (there is a regular IGA special on these, about 2 for 5$). There's of course other canned tomatoes available, but some have a whopping amount of salt in them, Aylmer in particular:

              1. re: Chocolatine

                I use Pastene tomatoes and I find they give good results. I only use San Marzanos for pizza. I don't do a lot of tomato based pasta dishes when I'm in a hurry anyway. I find that onions, garlic, some sort of cured pork, and fresh herbs go a long way and are way more satisfying than some cream or tomato based bottled sauce.

                1. re: Chocolatine

                  Aurora diced tomatoes, in the small can with peel-off lid, are my go-to for quick cook sauces. Friends from Italy recommended them, and I've yet to find better. There is no salt added, the flavour is fairly bright and non-acidic (IMHO). Just saute a bit of garlic in olive oil, toss in a can, maybe add some basil or Italian parsley, a touch of salt and pepper, and simmer, and you have a sauce ready in well under the time it takes to boil the water and make pasta. Way way better than anything you'll find in a jar, and at around $1.29/can, way cheaper too.
                  One weird thing to note, though, is that the large-sized cans of Aurora diced do have salt added - but the small ones don't. I have no idea why this is.

                2. re: SnackHappy

                  exhaustion coupled with hunger, snackhappy

                  1. re: C70

                    I completely understand that. I find that cooking after coming home from work helps me wind down, but that's obviously not everybody's case. My aversion to jarred pasta sauce means that I've developed strategies like making batches of ragu or pesto and freezing them, or always having ingredients around to whip up quick and dirty pasta dishes.

                    1. re: SnackHappy

                      oh, I have the aversion too... like I said I can 'tolerate' Classico, but having grown up with an Italian stepdad, he'd be molto disappointed in me..

                      I do freeze meat sauce, but like anything, I run out, and crave a quick pasta sometimes.

                      1. re: C70

                        Since this thread was revived, I'll add an update.

                        I've tried the Newman's Own jarred sauce from Costco and found it passable. It needs some seasoning adjustments, but it's good when you're in a hurry. It's certainly better than Classico.

              2. re: Maximilien

                While the water for the pasta is heating, I take canned tomatoes from Italy, strain and chop them and then heat them up. I then add a bit of salt and that it! With pasta and parmigiano reggiano, it's much better than any jarred sauce.

              3. I like the President's choice (Loblaw's, if anyone still goes there after today's blog) Rosé Sauce. I add some vodka (also gin when desperate) and fresh garlic...not bad but it'll do in a pinch.

                1 Reply
                1. re: bistrobabe

                  Was at Loblaw's a few weeks ago and there was a woman offering testers of a new (new to me anyway) jarred pasta sauce, made locally, and their meat/sausage flavour was actually delicious. Didn't need anything added to it, it was really tasty on it's own and it was very meaty. Bought a jar and served it with rigatoni and the whole family loved it. The name escapes me but it's the only jarred pasta sauce in the refrigerated section next to where they sell hotdogs, etc. Hope that helps!

                2. The original comment has been removed
                  1. since I tried the 3-ingredient marcella hazan recipe for tomato sauce, I haven't bought a jar. I use less butter, imported tomatoes, and garlic in mine. ridiculously good and cheaper than any jar.


                    1. Have you tried the "drogheria" next to Fairmount Bagel? This place is quite intriguing.

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: Whygee

                        I've had the marinara sauce there as well. Very good but $$$$.

                        1. re: Whygee

                          I just bought myself a jar of "naturale" sauce and I can't wait to try it. It was 10$ for the bottle (as per satana_666 kind pricey) but the owner said that this was the sauce that started his business so I'm going to give it a try and report back. I was on such a high from my blueberry sorbet at KemCoBa that I would have bought anything really!

                          1. re: Whygee

                            I also got a jar of the (plain tomato) sauce ... cooking with it now, and it is a nice sauce.

                            I'm doing this (with sauce instead of fresh tomatoes) :

                              1. re: SnackHappy

                                It's sauce, ingredients are tomatoes, olive oil, caramelized garlic and a couple of other "real" items.

                                  1. re: Maximilien

                                    I tried it over the weekend and it is indeed delicous. Tastes like my friend's nonna's sauce. Great tomato taste and nice dose of olive oil which really makes the sauce truly onctuous.

                                    1. re: mtlmaven

                                      A little late to the party...
                                      Mrs. Porker wanted some bagels yesterday, so we parked on Fairmont. We passed this peculiar place called Drogheria but peering in (the windows were steamed due to cold), could not figure out what it was.
                                      Happy with a dozen bagels in hand, we began our walk back to the car - again this peculiar place with shelves of sauce and olive oil in the window...
                                      An apparent friend holds the door open as he leaves, saying his extended goodbye to the man inside. The aroma envelopping me in the cold was enough to make me snap straight up.
                                      "You smell that?!" I ask the wife.
                                      "You don't smell that?"
                                      "Oh yeah, oh my god that smells good"
                                      I don't have a nonna, but if I did, that aroma would have reminded me of her.
                                      We shuffle in.
                                      Whygee hit the nail on the head "This place is intriguing."
                                      A cramped two-room set-up. The closet sized front room is his showcase of jarred sauces, pepperonata, and olive oil. The slightly larger back room is his work area where he cooks and jars the sauces.
                                      I bought a liter jar of his Sugo al Peperoncino (spicy tomato sauce - $12. reg sauce is $10) and a 250ml jar of his Pesto di Peperoncino (spicy pepperonata -$10).
                                      Expensive? Darn tooting. I told Mrs. Porker if I was in a specialty shop and came across these items, I would never buy them. But seeing this guy and his phone booth sized shop, smelling his work (he just finished a batch of sauce), I just had to try his wares.
                                      Will this replace our homemade sauce? No. Will it be a sauce that we occasionally buy to dip crusty bread and talk about that crazy Italian guy on Fairmont? Maybe. Will let you know when we open the jar.

                                      1. re: porker

                                        Please do post when you try it - I have been intrigued by their sauces, which I noticed on my frequent visits to KemCoBa - in the summer, they have a small table outdoors with some sauces displayed on it - but wasn't prepared to drop $10 or $12 unless I knew they were worth it.

                                        1. re: cherylmtl

                                          We look at that jar lovingly every day. Like I said, when we crack that bad boy, it ain't likely going to top a pasta, but rather tested by alternately dipping a fresh piece of crusty bread and sipping wine...
                                          Will definitely post.

                                          1. re: cherylmtl

                                            You know, I wanted to crack that puppy, gently heat on a low fire until bubbling. Rip some good crusty bread, dip, taste, sip wine, repeat.
                                            Then I wanted to tell my fellow hounds how sublime it was, worth the trek and expense, and help the guy's endeavors.
                                            Well, we did the first part (the heating, the dipping, the sipping), but I can't follow through with the second part...
                                            Usually, if I don't have something good to say, I don't like saying anything at all....but we've come this far...
                                            I didn't like the sauce. The cooking of it smelled *much* better than the taste. Sure theres plenty of olive oil in it (a good thing, right?), but I feel it made the sauce too acrid. Personally, I didn't like it and wouldn't buy it even if the price was much much lower.
                                            I didn't like the hot pepper either...
                                            But this is me.
                                            The place is certainly intriguing and I want to like his wares...but alas, it isn't so.
                                            Maybe you can give it a try and see?

                                            1. re: porker

                                              I tried that sauce recently because it was offered through Lufa (for 12$ like you said) and I have to say I found it quite disappointing too...I thought it would be better and had high hopes but I found it had a strange taste and peppers just didnt work. Acrid is definitely the right word to describe it.