sweet & savory

40 Best and Worst Pasta Sauces—Ranked!

Attention, pasta lovers! It's possible to eat the staple while maintaining a trim physique—you just have to top your plate of penne with the right sauce.

40 Best and Worst Pasta Sauces—Ranked!

Attention, pasta lovers! It's possible to eat the staple while maintaining a trim physique—you just have to top your plate of penne with the right sauce.

Even though research done in Italy has shown that eating pasta isn’t associated with a higher BMI, something tells us most Italians aren’t eating at Olive Garden. And while the Mediterranean diet has been getting plenty of buzz, we know those residents most likely whip up their own fresh sauce rather than pour one out of a jar like most Americans.

Our point? Pasta’s not really that bad—it’s the processed American pasta sauces loaded with excess calories, mounds of salt, and buckets of added sugar that give your plate of carby heaven such a bad reputation. These jarred, ready-to-eat sauces from the grocery store are often made with oils that are full of inflammatory omega-6s—a stark contrast to the oleic acid found in extra virgin olive oil that actually helps you lose belly fat, not gain it.

By the end of this list, you’ll be able to eat like the Europeans eat and still keep the weight off. Here, we’ve found the 40 most popular plain tomato sauces (which include marinara, “traditional,” and tomato basil), and ranked them according to ingredients and nutrition. Simply use our simple swaps and you can whip up tasty, guilt-free pasta dishes that you can even feel good about! And when you’ve picked out the best sauce, cover all your carb-loving bases by checking out these 40 Ultimate Pasta Tips to Stay Skinny. Buon appetito!

First… The Worst

Pasta sauce ranked

Not only do each of these pasta sauces contain added sugar—some with more than a bowl of Frosted Flakes!—but many also contain canola or soybean oil in lieu of or in addition to the more traditional extra virgin olive oil. This is a costly switch, as studies have shown that EVOO contains the highest amount of disease-fighting polyphenols and fat-blasting oleic acid of all plant oils. Contrarily, the seed- and bean-derived oils are full of unhealthy fats like omega-6s, a group of fatty acids that have been connected to increased levels of inflammation and weight gain.

20

Bertolli Organic Traditional Olive Oil, Basil & Garlic

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup, 125 g: 80 calories, 3.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 510 mg sodium, 10 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 2 g protein

Pasta sauce is one of the top sources of cancer-fighting lycopene in the American diet thanks to the Italian gravy’s use of cooked tomatoes. Bertolli doubles down on the benefits by using organic tomatoes, a variety that research suggests may have higher levels of these disease-fighting polyphenols and vitamin C than conventionally-grown varieties. That’s why we’re even more disappointed Bertolli chose to bog down this sauce with sugar—even if it is organic.

19

Ragu Old World Style Organic Traditional

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup, 125 g: 70 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 470 mg sodium, 12 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 2 g protein

Like Bertolli, Ragu does right by using all organic products in their Traditional sauce. (In case you didn’t know, Ragu’s “Traditional” sauces differ from their “Marinara” sauces because of the addition of Romano cheese). Unfortunately, their attempt to do right is foiled by their offenses of adding inflammatory soybean oil—which, we’re happy to say is at least organic, and thus pesticide- and carcinogen-free—and sugar to the sauce.

17 & 18

Prego Farmer’s Market

Pasta sauce ranked

Tomato & Basil
Per 1/2 cup: 80 calories, 4 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 430 mg sodium, 10 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 2 g protein

Classic Marinara
Per 1/2 cup: 90 calories, 4.5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 430 mg sodium, 10 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 2 g protein

Prego Farmer’s Market sauces are definitely a step up from their conventional varieties. While there are no organic products—as you may have been led to believe by the “Farmer’s Market” labelling—the ingredient list is short and without any questionable additives. That is, except for sugar. Go with the Tomato & Basil jar if you’re looking for more ways to cut calories.

16

Ragu Hearty Traditional

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup, 125 g: 80 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 410 mg sodium, 12 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 2 g protein

We approve of a short ingredient list, but we’re skeptical of Ragu’s inclusion of the always-ambiguous additive, “Natural Flavor,” one or many chemical compounds derived from “natural sources” which can include anywhere between 1-100 different ingredients.

15

Ragu Old World Style Marinara

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup, 125 g: 80 calories, 2.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 480 mg sodium, 11 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 2 g protein

Here’s where it starts to get dicey—and we’re not just referring to the diced tomatoes. Ragu adds something called “Calcium Chloride” to their crushed tomatoes as a “firming acid.” The additive is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by the FDA, but we’re assuming Ragu uses it to thicken up their otherwise watery sauces instead of adding more tomato meat. They also use more soybean oil than extra virgin and, like in many Ragu sauces, natural flavor.

14

Emeril’s Tomato & Basil

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup, 124 g: 80 calories, 3 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 430 mg sodium, 12 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 2 g protein

We were shocked to discover the celebrity chef made famous for his Italian dishes uses more soybean oil than extra virgin olive oil in his recipe.

13

Barilla Marinara

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup, 125 g: 70 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 400 mg sodium, 15 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 2 g protein

We wished Barilla could have made it higher on the list thanks to its low-fat content, average sodium levels, and use of only extra virgin olive oil. But unfortunately, they were a little too heavy-handed with the sugar shaker, racking up nearly as much sweet stuff as a bowl of Trix.

12

Ragu Old World Style Traditional

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup, 125 g: 80 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 480 mg sodium, 13 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 2 g protein

Ragu’s Traditional sauce sinks down below their Marinara offering because of their excess use of sugar and soybean oil.

11

Francesco Rinaldi Hearty Tomato & Basil

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup, 124 g: 80 calories, 2.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 540 mg sodium, 13 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 2 g protein

Despite working for Ragu while growing up, the founder of Francesco Rinaldi somehow manages to make nutritionally-inferior options to the well-recognized brand. This sauce falls short because it’s high in sodium and full of extra sugar.

10

Emeril’s Chunky Marinara Sauce

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup, 124 g: 80 calories, 3 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 430 mg sodium, 12 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 2 g protein

Thanks to an extra gram of sugar, Emeril’s Chunky Marinara falls below its Tomato & Basil cousin.

9

Emeril’s Homestyle Marinara

Pasta sauce ranked

*Per 1/2 cup, 124 g: 90 calories, 3 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 430 mg sodium, 14 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 2 g protein

Homestyle refers to the way you’d make a stewed sauce at home, but we’d bet you wouldn’t add as much soybean oil or sugar as Emeril does. This sauce falls below the chunky one above because it’s higher in calories and carbs, which won’t help you melt away that stomach fat.

8

Francesco Rinaldi Traditional Flavors

Pasta sauce ranked

Marinara Per 1/2 cup, 124): 80 calories, 3 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 540 mg sodium, 13 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 2 g protein

Original Per 1/2 cup, 124 g: 80 calories, 3 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 540 mg sodium, 14 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 2 g protein

Francesco’s Traditional flavors, both Original, which includes an imported Pecorino Romano cheese, and Marinara are made with similar ingredients and are thus nutritionally similar in that they’re high in sodium and sugar.

7

Bertolli Organic Traditional Tomato Basil

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup, 125 g: 90 calories, 4.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 510 mg sodium, 11 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 2 g protein

Sure it’s organic, but that isn’t enough of a reason to buy Bertolli’s Tomato Basil, which is high in calories, fat, sodium, and sugar compared to other conventional brands. Here’s a weight loss tip: don’t grab this jar off the shelf.

6

Prego Heart Smart Traditional

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup): 70 calories, 1.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 360 mg sodium, 13 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 10 g sugar, 2 g protein

It might be good for your heart because it’s lower in sodium—compared to the other Prego sauces, that is. But if you’re looking for low sodium, check out our best list below for an “Eat This”-approved recipe. Because between the excess amount of sugar and inflammatory omega-6s from the canola oil, this sauce really isn’t as heart-friendly as we’d like.

5

Prego Traditional

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup): 70 calories, 1.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 480 mg sodium, 13 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 10 g sugar, 2 g protein

This “Traditional” sauce is far from traditional, as it is completely free of any extra virgin olive oil and only contains canola oil. That’s not the only problem—the sauce also boasts as much sugar as a French Cruller donut from Dunkin Donuts. Find out which other sneaky foods are hiding sugar in our exclusive report, 14 “Health” Foods Worse Than a Donut.

4

Prego Tomato Basil Garlic

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup): 80 calories, 2.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 480 mg sodium, 12 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 2 g protein

Although lower by a single gram of sugar than the Prego before it, the Tomato, Basil, Garlic version is higher in fats—all from canola oil—and higher in calories.

3

Bertolli Tomato Basil

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup, 125 g: 70 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 460 mg sodium, 13 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 12 g sugar, 3 g protein

Reading Bertolli’s Tomato Basil nutrition label is like walking on a sidewalk during an ice storm. Everything is fine for a while until BAM you hit black ice and are sprawled on the floor. That’s how we felt when we saw relatively healthy nutritionals and then glanced at how much sugar was in this sauce — 12 grams!

2

Ragu Homestyle Thick & Hearty Traditional

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup, 129 g: 100 calories, 2.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 430 mg sodium, 16 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 10 g sugar, 3 g protein

High in calories, inflammatory fats, and sugar mean this Homestyle sauce will blunt your efforts to lose 10 pounds.

AND THE #1 WORST PASTA SAUCE IS… Ragu Chunky Tomato, Garlic & Onion

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup, 128 g: 90 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 460 mg sodium, 16 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 12 g sugar, 2 g protein

A glance at the name gives you an idea of how you’ll look after spooning this sauce over your pasta: chunky. Full of more sugar than a bowl of Froot Loops cereal and fats entirely from likely pesticide-laden soybean oil, this pick is definitely a Not That!

And Now… The Best

Pasta sauce ranked

We gave preference to brand with organic ingredients, those who used only extra virgin olive oil, and those without added sugar. From there, we sorted by nutrition, primarily looking at calories, sodium, fat, and added sugar.

20

Newman’s Own Tomato & Basil Bombolina

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup, 125 g: 80 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 460 mg sodium, 13 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 3 g protein

Although similar to the Marinara listed below, this Bombolina sauce has an extra gram of fat and carb and an extra 10 calories. It also ranked higher because we’re skeptical of Newman’s Own’s use of “Natural Flavor.”

19

Newman’s Own Marinara

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup, 125 g: 70 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 460 mg sodium, 12 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 3 g protein

Newman’s Own is a good option nutrition-wise for your basic marinara. Unfortunately, Newman’s adds cane sugar to the sauce, an unnecessary addition.

18

Prego Light Smart Traditional Italian Sauce

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup: 45 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 410 mg sodium, 11 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 1 g protein

We’re pleased by the low-calorie option out of Prego, but they still add sugar as a stand in for fat—an unfortunate substitution as the vitamin A found in tomatoes is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means your body won’t be able to reap its free-radical-fighting benefits without a little drizzle of EVOO. Find out more about how you can eat foods to reap the most nutritional benefits by checking out these 18 Foods You’re Eating Wrong.

17

Classico Tomato Basil

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup, 125 g: 60 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 410 mg sodium, 8 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 2 g protein

For a sauce that adds sugar to the mix, this Tomato Basil by Classico is still impressively low in sugar, and contains even less sweet stuff than some brand with no sugar added! They rank farther back compared to some of the sugar-added varieties below because Classico isn’t organic, which has been connected with a greater concentration of vitamin C and polyphenols in tomatoes. They also use “calcium chloride” a thickening agent and just plain old “olive oil,” which has fewer antioxidants than the extra virgin variety.

16

Ragu Old World Style Light Tomato Basil

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup, 125 g: 50 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 320 mg sodium, 10 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 2 g protein

There’s no sugar added, but there’s also no fat added, which means you won’t be able to absorb all those fat-soluble vitamin A antioxidants. Ragu also adds a firming acid to thicken the watery sauce as well as a yeast extract (which typically offers a source of appetite-revving MSG) to make up for the lost meaty, umami flavor found in tomatoes.

15

Amy’s Organic Tomato Basil

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup, 125 g: 110 calories, 6 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 580 mg sodium, 11 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 2 g protein

This sugar-added variety is a little too high in calories, fat, and sodium to be ranked much better. Amy’s did score points for being organic, though, meaning you won’t be slurping up pesticides along with your spaghetti.

14

Rao’s Homemade Sensitive Formula Marinara Sauce

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup, 113 g: 110 calories, 10 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 260 mg sodium, 3 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 1 g protein

This marinara was formulated without onions or garlic for those who suffer from gastric distress or are following a low FODMAP diet, have IBS, or have many food sensitivities. If you don’t suffer from any of these ailments, don’t bother with this sauce. It’s high in calories and high in fat—even if it’s the healthy kind, it should still be eaten in moderation.

13

Newman’s Own “For The Common Good” Organic

Pasta sauce ranked

Marinara
Per 1/2 cup, 123 g: 100 calories, 8 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 390 mg sodium, 8 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 2 g protein

Tomato Basil
Per 1/2 cup, 123 g: 100 calories, 8 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 390 mg sodium, 7 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 2 g protein

“For The Common Good” didn’t consider being good for your waistline. This sauce may be low in sodium and free of added sugars, but it’s a bit too high in calories and fat.

12

Amy’s Organic ‘Light in Sodium’ Tomato Basil

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup, 125 g: 90 calories, 4.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 290 mg sodium, 11 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 2 g protein

It’s “Light in Sodium” but heavy on the sugar. This Tomato Basil sauce from Amy’s contains added cane sugar to sweeten up your sauce and to contribute empty calories.

11

Prego Marinara

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup): 80 calories, 3 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 480 mg sodium, 10 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 2 g protein

We commend Prego for a simple ingredient list with no sketchy additives, but we’re disappointed that traditional extra virgin olive oil is replaced here with canola oil. That doesn’t mean canola oil should never be used, considering the oil has one of the best omega-6 to omega-3 ratios out of many vegetable oils. Read more in our report, 14 Popular Cooking Oils and How to Use Them.

10

Francesco Rinaldi Fortified Tomato & Basil

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup, 123 g: 70 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 330 mg sodium, 10 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 2 g protein

“Fortified” in this context means Francesco Rinaldi adds DHA Algal Oil to the recipe as a source of anti-inflammatory omega-3s. We understand their intention, as a diet with a higher ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s is one of the things making you fatter. Unfortunately, the soybean oil the Italian company uses in addition to EVOO has a good amount of inflammatory omega-6s, so the two will likely cancel out before the DHA can be of any supplemental help to your health.

9

Muir Glen Organic Tomato Basil & Chunky Tomato and Herb

Pasta sauce ranked

Tomato Basil
Per 1/2 cup, 125 g: 50 calories, 0.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 260 mg sodium, 10 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 2 g protein

Chunky Tomato & Herb
Per 1/2 cup, 125 g: 50 calories, 0.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 280 mg sodium, 10 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 2 g protein

For being so low-calorie, low in fat, and low in sodium, we were pretty disappointed to learn that Muir Glen adds sugar to their offering. Because it’s not too high, we ranked them favorably among the no-sugar added crowd, especially since they’re all organic.

THE FOLLOWING SAUCES ARE FREE OF ADDED SUGARS


8

Amy’s Organic Marinara

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup, 125 g: 80 calories, 4.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 590 mg sodium, 9 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 2 g protein

Organic isn’t enough to make Amy’s marinara rank better since it’s a bit higher in fat, sodium, and sugar than other sauces below.

7

Rao’s Homemade Marinara

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup, 113 g: 80 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 340 mg sodium, 4 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 1 g protein

If you’re looking for a lower fat option, Rao’s is a great pick. Not only is it low fat, it’s also low in sugar and sodium. We’re just disappointed they use normal olive oil instead of extra virgin, which means you’re missing out on key belly fat-blasting compounds.

6

Victoria Tomato Basil & Marinara

Pasta sauce ranked

Tomato Basil & Marinara
Per 1/2 cup, 113 g: 70 calories, 4 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 420 mg sodium, 6 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 2 g protein

The only thing that varies between the two brands is the placement of basil on the ingredient list, meaning one just has more basil than the other. (We’re guessing it’s the Tomato Basil version.) Both are great options to top your pasta!

5

Classico Riserva Marinara

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup, 125 g: 80 calories, 4 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 420 mg sodium, 8 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 2 g protein

A new addition to the Classico line, Riserva is a marinara sauce made with no artificial ingredients and no added sugar. Simple, delicious, and low-carb.

4

Newman’s Own Organics Marinara

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup, 125 g: 80 calories, 4 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 380 mg sodium, 9 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 2 g protein

Don’t worry about the higher-than-average sugar content for a no-sugar-added sauce. The sugar comes from au-natural sources like tomatoes and pureed carrots. You won’t be Googling “how to get rid of bloating” after this sauce. Even though they don’t mention anything about low-sodium, this organic marinara is actually a great option for those looking to cut back on salt.

3

Amy’s Organic ‘Light in Sodium’ Marinara

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup, 125 g: 80 calories, 4.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 290 mg sodium, 9 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 2 g protein

Unlike Amy’s Organic Light in Sodium Tomato Basil, this marinara sauce is free of any added sugars and is, of course, low in sodium.

2

Cucina Antica Garlic Marinara

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup, 113 g: 40 calories, 1.5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 240 mg sodium, 6 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 1 g protein

You can’t go wrong with Cucina Antica’s simple pasta sauces, made with the best Italian San Marzano tomatoes and real extra virgin olive oil. This sauce differs from the winner below merely by the presence of garlic and less basil—which, apparently is a secret calorie-cutting ingredient.

AND THE #1 BEST PASTA SAUCE IS…Cucina Antica Tomato Basil!

Pasta sauce ranked

Per 1/2 cup, 113 g: 35 calories, 1.5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 240 mg sodium, 6 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 1 g protein

This pick narrowly edged out its brand brother by being even lower in calories and higher in satiating fiber. Plus, made with all simple ingredients, you could easily whip this recipe up at home—but it may not even be worth it with this option being just a grocery-store trip away. Now that you know how fab your pasta can be, be sure to also avoid these 20 Surprising Foods With More Carbs Than a Bowl of Pasta!