Our Pros Found the Best Jarred Pasta Sauce to Stock Your Pantry
Our team of pro cooks and marinara experts sampled 11 options to find the best jarred pasta sauce. Find out which brands had our cooks saying mangia!
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Who Makes the Best Jarred Pasta Sauce?
We all agree that nothing can top Nonna’s homemade pasta sauce. But we also know that getting that amazing flavor takes a lot of time—time we don’t always have.
That’s why knowing a good store-bought brand is so crucial. Keeping a few jars of marinara on hand is an easy way to make weeknight dinners easy and delicious. But do you know what’s really the best jarred pasta sauce?
How Our Pros Sampled Jarred Pasta Sauce Brands
For this taste test, our crew raided the aisles to find the most popular brands of marinara. In the end, our Test Kitchen team snagged 11 brands to sample in a blind taste test. As each panelist tasted, they scored each brand on these criteria:
- Appearance: A good sauce should be a rich red color with visible herbs and even garlic. It should look great heaped over a pile of spaghetti with meatballs or spooned into a casserole with stuffed shells.
- Texture: What was the texture like? Rustic and a bit chunky? Thin and smooth?
- Flavor: The right combination of tomato, garlic, herbs and olive oil is what makes a marinara sauce so satisfying. The best sauce should have all these ingredients in perfect harmony.
While we started with 11, just four can be called the best jarred pasta sauce options. Check out what our team calls Test Kitchen-Preferred.
Best Almost-Homemade Jarred Pasta Sauce
Mezzetta Napa Valley Homemade Marinara
It takes a lot for our team of expert cooks to call a store-bought product good as homemade, but Mezzetta Napa Valley Homemade Marinara has earned that honor!
Mezzetta’s marinara sauce has a vibrant red color and you’ll find bits of tomato, onion and pepper flakes as you spoon it over your pasta. All those flavors come through wonderfully along with black pepper and a ribbon of olive oil—and not just any old olive oil: the good stuff. Our team says something comparable to their favorite olive oil brands.
Overall, this sauce is perfectly balanced. It’s bright, flavorful and fresh—all the qualities home cooks are looking for. A bit of this Mezzetta sauce will instantly elevate these easy recipes that start with a jar of marinara.
Best Rustic Jarred Pasta Sauce
Rao’s Homemade Marinara
When our Test Kitchen envisions a rustic marinara, it’s slightly chunky and tomato-forward. Those tomatoes, of course, taste fresh from the garden. That’s exactly what Rao’s Homemade Marinara delivers.
“It’s very fresh tasting,” says Shannon. The vibrant tomato flavor here is slightly acidic but mellowed out by onion and a hint of basil. Feel free to add more herbs to the party if you like your sauce with oregano or rosemary.
What makes Rao’s so appealing, though, is the texture. “This is the sort of sauce I want to enjoy with a good crusty bread.” Who doesn’t love to swoop up every bit of tasty sauce with some homemade garlic bread?
Best Jarred Pasta Sauce for Herb Lovers
Barilla’s marinara sauce sings with plenty of garlic, basil and oregano. This combination gives the sauce some really wonderful earthy notes, according to Shannon, that pair well with the bright tomato flavor.
Texturally, this marinara walks the line well between smooth and rustic. Inside the jar, there’s plenty of rich sauce with just enough chunks of tomato to make it interesting.
With all these wonderful herbs inside the jar, there’s no need to doctor up this sauce. However, if you want to, here are the best ways to make store-bought sauce taste homemade.
Best Smooth Jarred Pasta Sauce
Just like there are smooth and chunky peanut butter folks and smooth and chunky salsa lovers, there are also two camps in the world of marinara. The best jarred pasta sauce for smooth marinara fans is Victoria Marinara.
Victoria has a stunning brick red color with just the right amount of acidity. “I’m tasting fire-roasted tomatoes,” says Sarah Tramonte in the Test Kitchen.
Pop open a jar of this sauce for your next lasagna recipe. It has a smoother consistency (definitely not fully pureed) which works so well for spreading between layers of pasta and cheese.
Check Out More Test Kitchen-Preferred Products
Our Test Kitchen is constantly testing food, kitchen gadgets and cleaning gear looking for brands that deserve the right to be called Test Kitchen-Preferred.
If you want to fill your pantry and fridge with the best products, check out these tests: