HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


What's your favorite jared tomato sauce?

I usually make my own, but there are the times when you need to open a jar and eat. I like Rao's but it's so expensive, even when they go on sale. Other than that I'll buy Trader Joe's Organic tomato sauce just to have on hand or something from Whole Foods if it's on sale. What do you like to keep around?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. During the late summer DW makes sauce from our tomatoes and herbs and cans it so I've got a supply of that handy to use all year. Apart from that, somebody gave me a jar of M. Batali's that I thought was pretty good. Then there was a sauce called Frank's, I think, and I liked their Fra Diabolo, but that might have been local or regional to CT or Northeast.

    1. Never thought I'd love a jarred sauce, but Silver Palate is really good. I buy a few when they're on sale, which is often.

      4 Replies
      1. re: coll

        Love Silver Palate Marinara. Very light sauce, good in a pinch.

        1. re: coll

          I got some Silver Palate marinaras on closeout for like $3.50 a jar. I should have bought them all....it was so good. Nornally, they are $8+ in Austin. My Italian Sicilian wife said it was the best marinara she's ever had.

          For a cheap sauce, I hate to admit, but I like Emeril's Extra Gaaahhhlic. Go figure......I heat it up with a baby back bone, if I have one.

          1. re: rudeboy

            for those of us that live in southern california, the GELSON'S chain of supermarkets normally runs a $4 sale on the silver palate marinara about 3 times a year. . .

            1. re: westsidegal

              I've bought it for $2 or $2.50 here in NY, one grocery chain is really pushing the whole Silver Palate line. Works for me!

        2. I once asked a native Italian woman I worked with this question. I'll never forget the look on her face. Real horror movie reaction minus the scream. I like Classico tomato and basil though it is simple enough to open a can of good tomatoes, season, and add to sauted onions and garlic.

            1. If you live near Englewood N.J. go to "JERRY'S" they make their own sauce, in jars, it is the best prepared sauce I have tasted.

              1. I'm not certain how far their distribution reaches, but Mid's, out of the Youngstown area on Ohio, is a great sauce, as jarred sauces go. A sicilian recipe, very similar to what the guys I worked for many years ago, Mid's has spice, sweet, and great tomato taste.

                3 Replies
                1. re: VeggieHead

                  For a truly "Special Occasion" sauce; Gustiamo has imported the products of a small Sicilian farmer who makes organic sauce in four versions. They are a little more than commercial sauces , but worth the extra dollars, in over the top taste! San Matteo Farm on the slopes of Mt Etna.

                  1. re: ospreycove

                    Sounds like a good one Osprey! Through high school, I worked for a family who came over from Southern Sicily who entrusted me to make huge batches of sauce. If only I had paid more attention all those years ago. Mid's is as close to that Spadaro recipe as I have found.

                  2. re: VeggieHead

                    Mid's is very good....none of that sweet taste. I believe their headquarters is in Navarre, Ohio.

                  3. Rao's. Pricey but handy in an emergency.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: nvcook

                      I find that no other jarred tomato sauce even comes close to Rao's, but I must confess that I haven't read any of the other threads. I would love to have different options because of the price tag.

                      1. re: lilgi

                        I sometimes catch Rao's on sale at Stew Leonard's -- 2 jars (32 oz.) for $10. I stock up since I agree...nothing else even comes close.

                        1. re: valerie

                          Definitely keeping my eye out for that, didn't know they go on sale there. Thanks for the heads up!

                          1. re: lilgi

                            Just saw an ad for Stew's...32 oz. jar of Rao's is $4.99 until 1/25.

                    2. Alessi puttanesca sauce. Out of this world.

                      1. Barilla. No weird ingredients, very simple, tastes nice. The roasted garlic is really good. I also love Muir Glen Garlic Garlic. But, Barilla is really inexpensive. We've tried Rao's, but were not impressed at all. We felt that it was really overrated for the price.

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                          I'm wondering if you've tried Bertollis and what you thought, because it's in the same category as Barilla but has gotten better reviews over all.

                          1. re: lilgi

                            I can't even say exactly why, but any brand owned by Unilever gives me pause. Not sure that our best interests are at heart.

                            1. re: coll

                              I'll have to take your word for it, I'm usually in the dark with this sort of thing.

                              1. re: lilgi

                                I've worked for companies that were taken over by giant corporations, and the things they would do to save a penny were shocking. At least Barilla still only does Italian food, and not pet food and detergent and so on; from what I've seen, they care about the actual product and not just the bottom line of their acquisitions. And companies can be so devious when they change the ingredients as a corporate money saving measure soon after they take over. Maybe I'm just prejudiced though. Glad I have the luxury to pick and choose.

                                I rarely use canned sauce anyway, Barilla I stock up on in the fall when it's $1, for "emergencies". At that price, it's hard not to!

                                1. re: coll

                                  I see. I don't buy either one, but at $1 a jar I'd find it hard to leave behind, especially for emergencies right?

                                  1. re: lilgi

                                    And they come in really nice jars, like Mason jars with ounce markings on them, great for other leftovers. I used to exclusively use my own sauce but found out husband doesn't mind junky Italian food occasionally...probably because he only got the real stuff since he was born! So it's great for the parmigiana and baked ziti stuff that I can live without.

                                    1. re: coll

                                      One other peeve that I have (besides the acidity) is that they tend to overcook the sauce, and the lower the quality the more noticeable it is.

                                      We cook our sauce very little here before jarring, and very little afterwards as well. When we use it over pasta, we only flavor the pasta with it with very little sauce.

                          2. re: sisterfunkhaus

                            I'll buy Barilla, and I also think Rao's is nothing to write home about. The most traditional tasting marinara I've ever found in a jar is Enrico's, so I use it most often for lasagna.

                          3. Cats, I normally don't go to Trader Joe's but I will certainly try Joe's Organic since we also make our own sauce here once a year but run out so quickly.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: lilgi

                              I'm not a huge jarred sauce fan, but the Trader Joe's sauce is definitely one of the better ones I've tried, and it's pretty cheap too.

                              1. re: whitneybee

                                I know, I only get them when I must and it's usually to use as more of an ingredient. I find most jarred sauces very acidic, with too much sugar added in efforts to balance, so I've given up on any other one. Additionally, I never liked preparing cans of crushed tomatoes either (I can taste how it's stored, I can't describe it).

                                I haven't tried TJ's so will pick some up on my next run :)

                              2. re: lilgi

                                i've never tried the organic, but i always have a can of the tj marinara on hand, which has has a clean fresh flavor.

                                and last year, i picked up a couple of jars of bertolli on sale, which was actually pretty good.

                                1. re: wonderwoman

                                  Bertolli always gets good reviews, but now I'll feel the wrath of Coll if I pick this up lol. I'm willing to try; good to know about tj marinara :)

                                  1. re: lilgi

                                    Nah keep telling me it's good and I might just buy it next time it's on sale. Money talks and BS walks as we like to say around here!

                                  2. re: wonderwoman

                                    if you doctor the tj regular canned marinara sauce with fresh garlic and a little good-quality olive oil, you can fool almost everyone.
                                    I know because i've done it.
                                    (the only person who identified any canned/jarred flavor was privvy to the secret)

                                2. I know I'm in the minority, but I think Rao's sauce is horrible. While I rarely eat tomato sauce, Newman's Own Five Cheese is probably the best jar tomato sauce I've had.

                                  2 Replies
                                    1. Gia Russa. Expensive, but good.The price inspired me to try and make it myself. I have only bought one or two jars in the last few years. We eat pasta couple times a month.


                                      1. I think Newman's Own is pretty good. Everything I've had from them (dressing, salsa, etc.) has been quality. Will it replace my Wife's sauce--no, but better than most bottled.

                                        1. The only reason Rao's is any better than any other high quality tomato sauce is because of the large quantities of EVOO they use. That's why you pay more for it, too. No other jarred sauce comes close to their oil content, so when I want to turn some lesser brand (TJ's, for example) into something better, I'll add some good EVOO.

                                          But if I'm using a pre-made sauce, I'll use Sauces n Love from the refrigerated section.

                                          1. Barilla Marinara. We tried several from TJ's but liked the Barilla better. The price always kept me away from Rao's

                                            1. If you can find it, Alessi is head and shoulders above all others. Practically as good as home made. Imported from Sicily:


                                              Ingredients: Sicilian Pear-Shaped Tomatoes, Alessi Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Onion, Garlic, Alessi Sea Salt, Basil

                                              That's it...real stuff.

                                              If you can't find Alessi, look at the ingredients on the brands in store. First, avoid any sauce which lists tomato paste or puree as a main ingredient. Also check the oil...if it says canola or anything, there is probably no olive oil in it. Spices, too, look for basil, specifically, and stay away from dried spices. Finally, if it is an ingredient you can't identify, or wouldn't have in your own kitchen, its probably junk. Just for kicks, pick up a jar of Ragu or Prego, and compare the ingredient list to the one above (I'd post the ingredients myself, but interestingly, neither brand website seems to include this info...make ya go hmmm...

                                              It might be tough to find a good one, but if you can find one with a simple, normal ingredient list, that's the one I'd go with...

                                              1. I haven't purchased a jar of tomato sauce since Aunt Millie's was around.....but if I had to, I would try a brand named *Victoria*. Convenience or not, out of principle I could not purchase Rao's due to the cost..... I rather go to a local Pizzeria and give them the business for nearly the same amount it would cost to make Rao's jarred sauce at home.


                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: fourunder

                                                  I, too, have never bought a jarred sauce since Aunt Millie's was discontinued. There is nothing that compare's with that beautiful, thick, red color and fresh, authentic taste. Let's petition Heinz; we want Aunt Millie's back!

                                                2. Nada..Zero...If I need 'sauce'..reach into the freezer for home grown peeled tomatoes...I never have found a commercial 'sauce' that matches real tomatoes, basil from my windowsill and fresh garlic.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: DawneeBabe

                                                    ummmm - that wasn't really the original question. I think we'd all like bushels of fresh peeled organic tomatoes, fresh basil, and organic heirloom garlic bulbs more than sauce from a jar......and a Sicilian grandmother to prepare it.

                                                    Funny, though, if that grandmother made it from scratch, and then put it in mason jars, would then it be ruined?

                                                    1. re: DawneeBabe

                                                      Are these brands using 'fake' tomatoes?

                                                    2. Boxed Pomi strained tomatoes, then add some dried spices and garlic, splash of olive oil, teaspoon of sugar and maybe some olives, and you're good to go. Adds like 1-2 minutes of prep time compared to prefab marinara, and has a whole lot less salt, which is an issue for the mister.

                                                      1. Circle's marinara and arabiatta, over Barilla and Newman's. I'm in the Northeast, don't know if the brand is available in other regions.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: pasuga

                                                          I'll use any on sale but usually get Del Monte in a can, Barilla or Bertolli.
                                                          I doctor it with extra chopped garlic, dried or fresh basil, parsley, evoo,
                                                          and rinse the jar out with about a 1/4 cup of red wine. Sometimes a can
                                                          of paste is added if I use an extra jar of my home canned tomatoes.

                                                          I usually can 30 quarts of Yakima tomatoes every year that are used
                                                          for making sauce, chili and the like.