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If you're making a quick, painless, and delicious pasta dish at home, your first step is to pick the type of pasta you're going to eat. The second step, though, is the most important one. That's when you pick the brand of pasta sauce to use. If you pick the proper brand, you're destined for a scrumptious meal that didn't necessitate a lot of effort to make.
While Italians are known for their mastery of pasta, it can be argued that Americans adore it just as much. Each year in the United States, nearly 6 billion pounds of pasta is gobbled up. Covering a lot of that pasta is store-bought pasta sauce.
Although there are a lot of tasty pasta sauce brands, there are also a few duds. To help you separate the yummy brands from the brands that should be skipped, we've listed pasta sauce brands in order from worst to best. While not every possible option available in America is in this ranking, we've made sure to include all the most popular pasta sauce brands.
When you're purchasing pasta, Barilla is a trustworthy name. Its pasta comes in an iconic blue box and in more than 35 shapes. From delicate angel hair pasta to jumbo shells, you can find the pasta you're looking for from this brand. While you shouldn't think twice about buying Barilla's pasta, the pasta sauce is a completely different story. Your best bet is to avoid it completely.
Despite Barilla's proud statement of "no sugar added," the overriding problem with Barilla pasta sauce is a sickening sweetness that is impossible to ignore. It's so sweet that it'll be the first and the last thing you'll taste while trying to eat your pasta. Even if you have a demanding sweet tooth, you still won't enjoy the taste after a few mouthfuls. To make matters worse, the consistency of Barilla's sauces is watery. Save yourself the heartache and pick any of the other brands of pasta sauce on this list.
The Ragu brand has a long and storied history that can be traced back to a pair of married Italian immigrants who came to the United States in 1914 with a family recipe for pasta sauce. In 1937, Assunta and Giovanni started selling their beloved pasta sauce from their home. By the 1950s, sales flourished and Ragu upgraded its packaging, adding the now iconic Venice-inspired gondola to the jars.
At one point in time, there's a good chance that you really liked Ragu pasta sauce. Tragically, the quality has gone downhill over the years. Originally, Ragu pasta sauces had authentic Italian flavoring. But these days, it tastes over-processed and has lost most of its former magic. If Ragu is the only brand you buy because that's what you've always done, spread your wings and try other brands. You're bound to find another brand of pasta sauce you like better.
Bertolli pasta sauce is the perfect example of why you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. Many of the Bertolli jars have a fancy shape, the labels look dignified, and the descriptions are enough to make your mouth water. It's difficult not to fall in love with what you see. Unfortunately, once you open the jar, you'll soon realize that your expectations are much too high. By the end of the jar, you'll be wanting your money back.
Simply put, the red Bertolli pasta sauces taste like watered-down ketchup and the white ones have a faint milk-like taste. While the white sauces are subpar, it's the red pasta sauces that are especially yawn-inducing and tasteless. Unless your idea of good pasta sauce is light tomato paste, you'll be completely underwhelmed. For example, Tomato & Basil is one of its most popular sauces but the basil flavor is barely present.
Prego is another big name in the universe of commercial pasta sauces that doesn't deserve a spot at the top of this ranking. Prego is the second-largest seller of tomato sauces in the entire world but you shouldn't purchase anything this brand offers even if it's the only jar on the shelf. The good news is that its sauces don't taste processed, which is often a problem for the worse brands. The bad news, though, is that buying these pasta sauces is a waste of money.
Instead of tasting authentically Italian, Prego's pasta sauces taste Americanized and lack character. The tomato flavor is muted and Prego has a bad habit of including way too much garlic in its sauces. It's almost as if there's hope that the garlic will camouflage all the shortcomings. Picking this brand when better brands are available would be like going to Italy and ignoring the country's legendary pizza and instead opting for a Big Mac from McDonald's.
The first pasta sauce brand on this list that can be classified as average is Cucina Antica. If you use this brand, you'll be pleased with your meal. Cucina Antica uses imported tomatoes from Southern Italy, which is a difference your taste buds will surely notice. That fact alone gives these sauces an authentic Italian flavor. The brand also uses no added sugar and artificial ingredients in the recipes.
Regrettably, not all the news is positive regarding Cucina Antica. What stops this brand from climbing higher in the rankings is its expensive price tag, coming in at $23.76 for a 25-ounce jar. This is some fine pasta sauce but it's not excellent enough to justify shelling out extra money. If you want to maximize the bang for your pasta sauce buck, pick a different brand. Additionally, Cucina Antica pasta sauce has a rather limited flavor profile compared to the competition. You'll love the tomato flavor — but that's about it.
From yummy salad dressing to delectable cookies, Newman's Own is a reliable brand that does a lot of good in the world. This brand donates 100% of the company's net profits and royalties to charity, which has generated more than $550 million since 1982. When it comes to its pasta sauces, Newman's Own has many varieties to pick from.
If you're in the market for an Alfredo pasta sauce, Newman's Own has you covered. The Alfredo sauce is outstanding, especially when you factor in the reasonable price. It has a deep, rich flavor and an enjoyable texture. On the other hand, Newman's Own marinara sauce is only average. It has a pleasant taste but its consistency is so lackluster that it almost ruins the entire experience. If you already have a jar of this marinara sauce, be sure that you boil the pasta in the sauce. That's the only way you'll end up satisfied with your meal.
Want a super simple solution to all your pasta sauce needs? Classico Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce is a selection you practically can't go wrong with. First of all, it's widely available, appearing at major retailers like Target and Kroger. Secondly, its price tag is usually one of the lowest you'll see on the shelf (Walmart features it at $2.24 for a 24-ounce jar). Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, it tastes delicious. This sauce has the optimal balance between the tomato and basil flavors. Specifically, the tomato has a satisfying tanginess, while the basil has an unmistakable kick.
As a brand, Classico doesn't have an exciting origin story and there's nothing particularly eye-catching about its jars. However, if you want really good pasta sauce at a really good price, they can deliver exactly what you want again and again. This brand also has a lot of other pasta sauce flavors but just know that none of them hold a candle to its marvelous tomato and basil version.
For those willing to do research prior to their trip to the grocery store, Trader Joe's is a great place to go for pasta sauce. You can stick to the store brand sauces and you'll be overjoyed with what you receive. But not all the offerings are created equal. Trader Joe's has some great pasta sauces — but this grocery store chain also has a few that can ruin your meal in an instant.
Looking for something different? Try Trader Joe's Organic Vodka Sauce. Don't worry, you can't get drunk by eating too much vodka sauce because a lot of the alcohol burns off during the cooking process. What's left behind is a tomato sauce that is amazingly creamy and the perfect thing to put on your favorite pasta dish. The Trader Joe's version is not only certified USADA organic, it also tastes as good as any vodka sauce you can find in the culinary world.
Whole Foods is a place you can go to for incredible store brand pasta sauce. This grocery chain specializes in organic food and boasts of having more than 20,000 organic products, so its best pasta sauce shouldn't surprise you. Whole Foods 365 Organic Pasta Sauce is healthier for you, yet somehow no flavor was sacrificed. Not only is it completely organic, the sauce is vegetarian-friendly, vegan-friendly, paleo-friendly, dairy-free, and low-fat. It also has no added sugar, making this sauce a good choice if you're following a keto diet. Whole Foods' organic sauce line also features a variety of flavors from classic marinara to plant-based Bolognese and even pumpkin cardamom.
Whole Foods also sells a store brand of pasta sauce that isn't organic. While you can save a few pennies going with this other version, stick with the organic pasta sauce. It tastes better and eating organic has real, tangible health benefits. In fact, if eating healthy is your No. 1 concern when picking a pasta sauce, this is the brand you should stick with.
The next time you're in New York City, be sure to eat a meal at The Meatball Shop. Even though the first restaurant opened its doors in 2010, it's already a big-time success. Reviews are nearly flawless and there are now three locations of The Meatball Shop. After your visit, you'll love the pasta sauce so much that you may be tempted to ask for more of the sauce to go. Thankfully, you don't need to do that. Instead, you can easily order the pasta sauce online. Pick the variety pack and you'll receive all five flavors including Spicy-ish Arrabbiata and Creamy Tomato Basil.
Spicy-ish Arrabbiata is unique because it has a little bit of heat thanks to the inclusion of dried red pepper flakes. Creamy Tomato Basil has parmesan cheese mixed in with the tomato and basil to create a sauce that can bless virtually any pasta dish.
Because most pasta sauces don't contain many ingredients, it's especially important that high-quality ingredients are used in the recipe. If a brand takes shortcuts and opts for cheap ingredients, it's instantly noticeable. Victoria is a brand that obviously understands this truth and that's why the company is so picky about what is in its pasta sauces. The tomatoes and the olive oil used are imported straight from Italy, while the basil is locally sourced to ensure freshness.
Victoria pasta sauces have an unrivaled fresh taste. In addition to the pristine ingredients that are used, this brand also kettle-cooks its sauces for hours, giving the finished product more of a homemade taste compared to other major sauce brands (via Victoria Pasta Sauces). Add up all the care and effort put into its products and you'll fall in love with Victoria pasta sauces the moment they touch your tongue. It'll remind you of the sauce your Italian grandmother used to make.
From the moment you lay eyes on pasta sauces made by Rao's Homemade, you can tell something is different. As its brand name suggests, these sauces look homemade. Most pasta sauces are uniform in color and consistency. Conversely, Rao's Homemade pasta sauces are thick, chunky, and colorful. When you open a jar, the aroma is otherworldly. Once you dip your finger to give it a taste, you'll be 100% convinced that this is the best pasta sauce on the market.
Like Victoria, Rao's Homemade uses imported tomatoes and olive oil from Italy. Its sauces are also simmered in small batches over a long period of time (via Rao's Homemade). By the time it reaches your kitchen, it's unquestionably the best of the best. You might hesitate when you see how expensive a jar of Rao's Homemade pasta sauce can be — but buy it once and you'll be thoroughly convinced that it was money well spent. At the end of the day, you can't put a value on heavenly pasta sauce.