Classic and comforting, a warm bowl of pasta can be one of the simplest dishes to whip up when you don't feel like making an elaborate meal. While most will argue that nothing beats homemade pasta sauce, the jarred options lining the supermarket shelves are still popular for a reason.
In fact, 269.62 million Americans used spaghetti/pasta sauce in 2020, according to Statista. This number is forecasted to grow to 276.84 million in 2024.
Grocery stores carry a wide variety of pasta sauces with all sorts of ingredients made by many different brands. This raises the question: "Which one is the best?"
If you need some assistance when browing the pasta sauce aisle, look no further. We asked multiple dietitians to identify some of the best pasta sauces with the highest quality ingredients. Here are five options to look out for during your next grocery shopping trip.
Barilla Marinara Sauce
When perusing the pasta aisle, you've probably come across numerous products made by Barilla, the largest pasta company in the world. One item that reigns supreme is the Premium Marinara Sauce, according to Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT, and Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT, also known as the Nutrition Twins.
"One of the standout ingredients in this sauce is extra virgin olive oil," the dietitians explain. "Most other sauces simply contain olive oil, but it's the extra virgin olive oil that is packed with phenols and polyphenols, which are potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that help to keep the body healthy and protect against disease."
In addition to extra virgin olive oil, this marinara sauce contains several other notable ingredients like garlic and onions, which contain antioxidants that help lower blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce the risk of cancer. The sauce is also made with basil and oregano. The Nutrition Twins note that basil may improve fasting blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, while oregano holds anti-inflammatory benefits.
Rao's Homemade Marinara
Rao's consistently earns the number-one spot in roundups of the best pasta sauces, so it's no surprise that this jarred item is made with top-notch ingredients. Free of tomato blends, paste, water, starch, fillers, colors, and added sugar, Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce is only made with a handful of ingredients. The recipe includes Italian whole peeled tomatoes, olive oil, onions, and spices.
365 Organic Marinara Pasta Sauce
If you're looking for an organic sauce, Young's recommendation is Whole Foods' 365 Organic Marinara.
"This is a great pasta sauce option, as it is made without any sugars or preservatives," she says. "And the price is right." The Whole Foods website currently lists this 25-ounce jar for just $2.69.
Made with all organic ingredients, including diced tomatoes, tomato purée, garlic, onions, extra virgin olive oil, and spices, this jarred sauce proudly carries the certified USDA Organic label.
Organico Bello Organic Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce
Organico Bello prides itself on using "wholesome ingredients taken straight from nature." Among the brand's USDA-certified organic sauces, the Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce is one that stands out to Sydney Greene, MS, RDN.
Like Whole Foods' Organic Marinara Sauce and Barilla's Marinara Sauce, this variety is also made with extra virgin olive oil, which Greene calls "brain-nourishing."
"In addition, this sauce is free of added sugars and is relatively low in sodium compared to other brands," the dietitian says.
Otamot Organic Essential Sauce
Also loaded with organic ingredients is Otamot's Organic Essential Sauce, which is made with 10 organic vegetables. These range from carrots, red bell peppers, and spinach to less common tomato sauce add-ins like sweet potato, butternut squash, and red beet.
"Otamot uses shiitake mushrooms, which have strong anti-inflammatory benefits and have been shown to powerful immune boosters, while red beets and beet powder have been shown to benefit the heart, brain and even improve athletic performance," according to the Nutrition Twins.
Beyond being non-GMO and free of added sugar and preservatives, Otamot's Essential Sauce contains three grams of soluble fiber, which Greene says "is excellent for digestion and managing cholesterol levels."