Taste Test: The Best Tomato Sauce

We taste-tested dozens of tomato sauces from the grocery store and picked our favorites.
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BEST CHEESY

Classico Four Cheese Pasta Sauce

This "rich, bold" front-runner perfectly balances the nutty saltiness of parmesan, provolone, ricotta and romano cheeses with the sweetness and acidity of concentrated ripe tomatoes. One taster suggested tossing it with penne for a quick warm-weather dinner. ($2.90 for a 24-ounce jar, at grocery stores)

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BEST GARLIC

Trader Joe's Roasted Garlic Marinara

No need for breath mints here! The garlic in this affordable option is slow-roasted, giving it a "subtle and sweet flavor," according to one taster. Blended with a hearty tomato base -- the result of tomatoes cooked down for hours in olive oil -- this "thick, aromatic" winner would be the ultimate dipping sauce for garlic knots. ($1.99 for a 26-ounce jar, at Trader Joe's stores)

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BEST VEGETABLE

La Famiglia DelGrosso Uncle Jim's Late Night Puttanesca

"Loaded with fresh-tasting mushrooms and onions," this sauce gets its tangy flavor from white wine, olives and capers. "It's so delicious, you could eat it straight from the jar!" gushed one panelist. And unlike in some puttanesca sauces, the anchovy "isn't overpowering." ($7.99 for a 26-ounce jar, at grocery stores)

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BEST TRADITIONAL

365 Everyday Value Organic Classic Pasta Sauce

Simple and perfectly seasoned with the classics (oregano, basil and garlic), this "little black dress" of a pasta sauce would pair well with meatballs, pizza or ravioli. As one panelist said, "It's slightly sweet, but the herby flavors keep it balanced." ($2.99 for a 25-ounce jar, at Whole Foods Markets)

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BEST SPICY

Rao's Homemade Arrabbiata Sauce

This "intensely red and not-too-spicy" sauce is flecked with basil, oregano and a touch of crushed red pepper. The "soft chunks of tomato melt in your mouth," enthused one panelist, and another noted that it would be a "wicked" match for seafood and rigatoni. ($8.99 for a 24-ounce jar, at grocery stores)

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Prices and other details were accurate when we published this article in May 2010.

 

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