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The best store-bought tomato sauce

Consumer Reports taste testers sampled 41 jarred sauces.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Few of us have time to make one of those delicious Sunday sauces when the tomatoes and other ingredients simmer all day long. Instead, we grab a jar of store-bought sauce for a quick pasta meal. But with so many of them, which ones are best for taste and nutrition? Consumer Reports tried more than three dozen sauces to find the best ones for your family.

When tasting tomato sauces, CR’s testers were looking for a bold tomato flavor and well-balanced herbs that were fresh-tasting, and they didn’t want any one ingredient to overpower all the others.

Not surprisingly, brands with tomato purée or tomato paste as the main ingredient tended to score lower for taste. Also not surprising: The pricier jars tended to offer tastier sauce. 

When it comes to nutrition, tomato sauces can be healthy. A healthier pasta sauce will use olive oil as its main type of fat, which is heart-healthy, and it will have little or no added sugars. And you’ll want to watch the sodium content.

CR’s top sauces deliver on taste without overdoing it on sodium. Both The Silver Palate Low Sodium Marinara 25-ounce jar for $6.40 and Victoria Low Sodium Marinara 24-ounce jar for $8.55 are low in sodium and have no added sugars.  

If you want a sauce that’s closest to homemade, taster testers said Rao’s Homemade Marinara 24-ounce jar for $7.90 delivers. For garlic lovers, try Lidia’s Marinara 25-ounce jar for $7.90 or Cucina Antica Garlic Marinara 25-ounce jar for $8.60. And if you prefer a basil hit, consider the Monte Bene Tomato Basil Sauce 24-ounce jar for $4.70. 

CR says you can jazz up your jarred sauce by adding ground meat, mushrooms, onions, fresh basil, or even wine. Head over to our website for a video that shows you how to enhance the flavor of your jarred sauce with those ingredients.

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