There’s something about a pandemic that draws out the bulk meal-making capacity in my household like no other. Lately, a frequent dish on the menu has been various forms of pasta, and that means bulk spaghetti sauce, loaded with as many vegetables and spices we can possibly slice in. Jarred spaghetti sauce, particularly classic marinara and basil variations, are especially handy in speeding along the process of making large portions that can be easily heated and served when you’re too stressed to cook.
Since others are likely also stocking up on canned sauces of late, we figured we’d test out six varieties of tomato-based pasta sauces in marinara and basil flavors, all of which are available online or in stores. Here are our rankings, from best to worst.
Mezzetta’s Napa Valley Homemade Spicy Marinara ($6.99 for 25 oz)
If you’re not a fan of intensely spicy food, don’t let the label fool you. This marinara has just a touch of heat to it. It’s needed, though, and it sets Mezzetta’s sauce above our other picks in terms of flavor. It’s definitely a little pricey, but if you have the money to spend, it’s worth a try.
Classico’s Traditional Sweet Basil Pasta Sauce ($4.19 for 24 oz)
If you’re a bigger fan of basil-heavy tomato sauce than you are marinara, then this will be the pick for you. Classico’s offering is not too sweet, and includes a fair amount of garlic. The basil flavor is also generous, though we wouldn’t judge you for using some fresh basil to enhance this sauce.
Best Budget Sauce
Bertolli’s Marinara Sauce with Burgundy Wine ($3.22 for 24 oz)
This marinara is potentially a controversial pick. The wine taste in this variety is strong, and some of our testers didn’t care for it. However, it was the better-tasting option among our cheaper picks. If you haven’t had a wine-heavy marinara sauce before, give Bertolli’s a shot.
Best Low Sodium Sauce
Engine 2’s Organic Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce ($4.99 for 25 oz)
Most of the sauces we tried for this taste test contained a whopping 20 percent or more of the recommended daily amount of sodium per serving. Engine 2, however, managed to put together a sauce containing only 7 percent of the recommended amount.. Better yet, Engine 2’s sauce also tasted the most like homemade to our tongues. The brand packs in a ton of veggies, many of which still have some crunch to them, and the tomato and basil taste is perfectly balanced. If you just want a simple sauce without too many additions, this is a good choice.
Not Our Favorites
Rao’s Tomato Basil Sauce ($8.09 for 24 oz)
There’s nothing particularly wrong with Rao’s basil sauce, but nothing really stands out about either. So since the flavor is nothing special, the main objection then goes to the price, which is already more than a dollar over the already pricey sauce that is our top pick. The nutritional facts don’t give any clue on what, if anything, makes Rao’s worth more than twice that of Bertolli’s offering, which undoubtedly has more flavor. Save your money and pick some other brand willing to impart their ingredients with more seasoning.
Prego’s Italian Pasta Sauce, Roasted Garlic & Herb ($2.19 for 24 oz)
For some, this complaint might be a selling point. But for our testers, this sauce was simply far too sweet, to the point that its flavor profile leaned toward ketchup. On the plus side, we can say that Prego was kind enough to put sizable chunks of garlic in its sauce. We’d be grateful, however, if they’d tone down the sugar.
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