The Best And The Worst Pasta Sauce

August 29, 2013   62 Comments

Have you ever tried to go down the aisle in your supermarket and there is some strange woman with her cart in the center blocking everything?

Best and Worst Pasta Sauce

Yes, that was me for about 30 minutes as I waded through the liquid jungle of pasta sauce. Wow. There are so many choices!!

I went back in 2017 and wrote this post - Low Sugar Tomato Sauce - check it out for a review of the latest brands.

(I also could be found in the pasta aisle when I compared whole wheat versus regular pasta.)

A few things about my picks:

  1. I compared jars (not cans and not the fresher products in the coolers).
  2. I tried to pick ones that are available nationwide.
  3. I aimed for a low price point ($2-$3.50 per jar).

Now for the best sauce that I could find in my very scientific search:

Why did I like this? I hate sugar in pasta sauce. It makes it taste like ketchup. When you don’t add sugar, it tastes better AND it makes it lower in calories. This one was lower in fat as well and the amount of sodium was a good 50-100 mg per serving less than many of the other brands.

For ½ cup:

60 calories, 1 g fat, 10 g carbohydrates, 6 g sugar, 2 g protein, 2 g fiber, 320 mg sodium, 1 Points+


I wish they used actual garlic instead of garlic powder, but what can you do? This tasted good to me and I am glad that I found it (because I will use it).

Now for the worst sauce. My criteria was too many calories, grams of saturated fat, and milligrams of sodium. We could all use less of these, no?

Paul, I know you are dead, but what is going on? Your philanthropic food company just made Snack Girl’s worst list. Check this out:

The serving size here is ¼ cup. Get out your ¼ cup measure and ask yourself if this is how much alfredo sauce you would eat. I HATE comparing stuff like this because I have to do math in my head.

Here are the nutrition facts for ½ cup:

180 calories, 16 g fat, 6 g carbohydrates, 2 g sugar, 2 g protein, 0 g fiber, 820 mg sodium, 5 Points+

Obviously, comparing a tomato based sauce to cream based sauce wasn’t really fair (sorry, Paul). Newman’s Own was the worst of the alfredo sauces.

Perhaps, I will stand there again and find the worst tomato sauce (too many grams of sugar, fat, and sodium). I definitely will not wear heels because it will take a while.

Check out my Pasta and Zucchini Recipe if you want to skip bottled sauce all together and create a fast, delicious option.

What is your favorite pasta sauce?

Other posts you might like:

Whole Wheat vs Regular Pasta

Super Easy Homemade Spaghetti O’s

Snack Girl rarely eats her pasta from a can. Pasta is one of those foods that is ridiculously easy to cook....

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Your too funny! Poor Paul!! I didn't know they made a Light Ragu pasta sauce. I'll have to look for it at the store.

Wow! I haven't bought sauce in a while, we make our own tomato sauce. But I do buy alfredo. I'm thinking I should add that to my list of things to try to make from scratch.

I actually am a big fan of Francesco Rinaldi No Salt Added Traditional sauce. It's got 70 calories for a serving plus a gram or two more of carbs and fat -- but only 40 mg of sodium. I'd say its another healthy choice -- comparable to your Ragu choice, but a better option for those watching their sodium

Really in all fairness you are comparing tomatoes to cheese.

I've recently discovered Muir Glen pasta sauces, and while I do make my own I really like these. They taste great. How healthy they are? Well, for the one I have right now, Garlic Roasted Garlic, the ingredients are pretty good and the numbers look good too. Try them, at least it is organic.

Making your own sauce is the way to go. It tastes way better and freezes well. We make big batches of it and store it in wide mouth mason jars or bags in the freezer. I admit though if I'm in a pinch on a week night and don't have any I reach for store bought, but what a difference in taste!

I have used the Ragu light for years and we love it.

You forgot a rather important criterion: taste. Ragu tastes like sh__.

I have used the Ragu No Sugar Tomato and Basil since it came to our shelves a few years back. I LOVE it. Great choice.

First, I like you reviews and recipes. In regard to pastas sauces. I found that no matter what sauce brand I bought, I would get them home and doctor them up with my own spices and veggies so now I just buy canned tomatoes and -make it from scratch. Just healthier I think, and no appreciable time difference to prepare

First I need to say I love getting your emails.

Now for sauce. I make my own. I start with 28 oz of tomato puree and go from there. It's 1 pointsplus for 1/2 cup and tastes just like my grandfathers.

I agree that Ragu isn't the best tasting sauce. We use Prego Marinara (NOT PREGO TRADITIONAL which is more widely available). Ingredients: Tomato Puree, Diced tomatoes in tomato juice, canola oil, salt, dehydrated onions, dehydrated garlic, spice, citric acid. Nutrition: Calories 80, Fat 3g, Sodium 480mg, Fiber 3g, Sugars 7g, Protein 2g. It tastes delicious, the kids love it and it is reasonably healthy. I urge everyone to give it a try.

Another vote for Ragu Light. When I buy sauce it's my go to brand.

I don't really like Ragu so much because the consistancy is too thin,like watered down tomato juice with Italian season. I like thicker or chunkier kinds like Prego. If I make my own I just use low sodium or no salt added canned diced tomatoes in juice,tomato paste,fresh basil,roasted garlic,roasted red pepper in the jars(not packed in oil,red pepper flake& Italian seasoning and puree it slighly. I then cut up some onions finely & simmer over low heat. It's not hard to come up with your own sauce

When I don't make my own I use Francesco Rinaldi/Tomato and Basil. I like it's fresh tomato taste.

Bwahahahaha Pamela, I thought the same thing to myself. No matter what the numbers on the label say, I will have to pass.

We used to favor Francisco Rinaldi - no salt added, but since we don't eat cheese anymore (and it contains Romano), we've taken to making our own sauce.

My favorite is the Emeril line- my #1 is his tomato and basil! So delicious!

Often, natural flavor is a cover name for MSG.

Nice review of sauces. I usually keep a jar of Ragu Light as an emergency meal ingredient (sudden arrival of guests at meal time.) For planned meals, I make my own. I grow tomatoes and make large batches, and freeze meal-sized quantities in Ziploc bags. Almost no sodium, and very little fat (only the amount used to saute the onions and garlic)

I'll keep this to mind, Ragu as just a good basic sauce, when I make spaghetti or lasagna (I mix beef and spinach). Alas, Paul, I'll always love you, but how your sauce-star has fallen.

Really not fair to compare tomato sauce to Alfredo. I wish you had compared apples to apples here or should I say tomatoes to tomatoes. #alittledisapointed

In all honesty, if we are having alfredo, .... I go for the FAT! It is SO good - homemade is awesome! I would not skimp on my alfredo.... which is why we have it so seldom! ;-)… Clasico Tomato Sauce is the best sauce hands sugar natural ingredients.

Not a big fan of Ragu. I often get the Hunt's pasta sauce in a can. Otherwise, I love getting a big can of crushed tomatoes and making it myself, real garlic and all!

I appreciate the info but I really think it would have been so much more effective to make a best and worst pasta sauce series. Compare 1) tomato based, 2)pesto, 3)white/dream based sauces all in separate posts. I realize there's a disclaimer towards the end but still...

Can some of you who say you make your own sauce share your recipes? I'm always a bit daunted by the process, but if it's as easy as you make it sound, I'd be willing to try it out!

The best jar sauce by far we have found (and my Dad is Italian and likes it) is from Costco called White Linen Marinara. It's so good! I don't know calorie content on it but I am sure it's the norm for 1/4 and who is going to do that on a cup of pasta? My Mom makes homemade sauce but when she doesn't unfreeze it or have it we use White Linen.

Newman's Sockaroni -

Giada DeLaurentis sauce (available only at Target I believe) is good, otherwise Muir Glen is my go-to jarred sauce.

I buy Classico (no sugar added) Tomato & Basil only has 45 cal & .5 g fat....VERY good tasting!!!! And if I can find it here in WY, it is probably available everywhere!!!

Prego. It probably has more sugar than it should but I like the flavor. I actually roast garlic, onions, carrots, and red peppers that I blend in with the Prego and then add cans of fire roasted diced tomatoes to make it more my own.

I also did a search for a good tasting, low calorie, low fat, low sodium pasta sauce and I found that Classico beat them all, especially for taste. I just happen to have Spicy Red Pepper on hand, so stats for 1/2 cup: fat 1.5 g - sodium 310mg - carbs 8g - fiber 2 - sugars 4g - protein 2 g. No sugar just pretty much the same all natural ingredients as above. I'm really surprised you missed it as it is a national brand. I sometimes buy the equally healthy Pizza Sauce, just because it's a smaller jar, to have on hand for flatbread pizza. So if like me, you don't like the taste of Ragu, try Classico.

The problem with making one's own sauce from canned tomatoes is that most of the canned tomato products are in cans lined with BPA. In manufacturing the hot tomatoes are put into these cans. I worry that the BPA is leaching into the tomatoes. I'd rather use fresh tomatoes, or buy organic sauce in glass bottles.

Barilla all the way!!!!!

Is it fair to evaluate sodium content when there have been new studies released recently showing that salt intake actually isn't a problem?

I agree that it's not fair to compare alfredo and tomato sauces.

Part of my objections are also that I love Newman's Own as a company and generally find their products to be all-natural, healthy, and good tasting, but to be fair, they're not going to lay off the fat in an alfredo.

I usually eat Trader Joe's low fat organic spaghetti sauce, for what it's worth. The calories are similar to the Light Ragu, and they use real garlic.

I usually love all your articles, but I have to say, I was a bit disappointed to see your worst pick was an Alfredo. Is

t's comparing apples to oranges. I was hoping to see your worst pick of tomato sauces...ijs ;)

The great thing about Paul's products is that 100% of the proceeds go to charity. His daughter Nell has a line of organic products. Alfredo can easily be made at home by making a white sauce and adding herbs and spices and cheese. A lot of the fat comes from the cheese in the Alfredo just like making macaroni and cheese.

I don't understand the reference to MSG by a poster. I don't recall seeing MSG or glutamic acid in any pasta sauce. Has anyone else seen this? And, classy using offensive words and leaving off the last letters. Deceptive? Not really. Offensive? Yes.

So did you compare the taste or just the numbers on the jar and price? Because I'd pay more (money and calorie-wise) if it actually tastes better. You don't mention how they taste!

I enjoy the jarred sauces by Giada if I'm going to buy jarred. It's always gotten great reviews:…

As you said, comparing Newman's Own "Alfredo" sauce to tomato-based sauces isn't fair, so I'm not sure why you would do that in the first place. From my memory, Newman's Own tomato sauces aren't that bad.

Alfredo is cheese and cream, of course it's going to be bad, no matter who makes it.

Also, did you try the sauces? It's one thing to compare based on just the label, and quite another to actually taste them.

Trevor, get rid of the fat by sauteing them in a small amount of water or veggie broth and you'll have no fat. I do and it's so much better. The whole sauce is cleaner.

I don't buy jarred sauces at all. I make mine so I can add roasted red peppers to it as well as some other veggies. It's a great way to boost up your kids veggie intake without all the excess salt and sugar.

It is so easy to make your own!

I agree Clasico is a great brand. Also I like Trader Joe's marinara sauce.

Hey BF, Here's MY favorite marinara [which fills the house with an incredible aroma]:

1 28oz can puree,

1 28oz can San Marzano whole tomatoes [I find Sclafani brand here in CT to be the best tasting tomatoes esp. the ones labeled San Marzano],

5-8 cloves minced garlic,
2 Tbsp ital. seasoning,
pinch of sugar.

Have both cans opened and ready near the stove,

Add a healthy squiggle [3 Tbsp] of evoo to a 2-3qt. sauce pan and saute garlic. When garlic sizzles and becomes fragrant, add puree and 1/3 can of water [stirred well to rinse can]. Stir and cook on medium. Meanwhile add can of whole tom. to blender and pulse [or squish each tomato with your hands, but I happen to prefer the blender]. Add these and all juices plus another 1/3 can of water. Now add seasonings, stir and simmer 30 minutes. Sauce thickens by simmering longer but I prefer it just when it coats a wooden spoon slightly.

This makes about 1.5 qts so I get to freeze a pint or so.

My MIL used to add a pinch of baking soda rather than sugar; either one will cut the acidic taste and smooth it out. I like one sugar cube [1/2 tsp] for this recipe.

I hope this helps! It's really easy once you do it a few times. :)

Whats a better choice pasta sauce or marnara sauce

I buy Paul Newman because of the chariity gift.

All my life, my family has made sauce from scratch! That's the way I was taught to make it. However, as a married homeschooling momma of 2, when I don't have time or don't have a batch of my sisters with her homegrown tomatoes and basil, I grab Classico Tomato Basil but I add my own herbs and spices plus chunks of zuchinni and mushrooms! My kids love it but there's nothing like homemade sauce! I make beschamel sauce as well. I make it with unsweetened organic coconut milk and corn starch! Wonderful :-) If I want the Alfredo flavor, I toss in some fresh parm and enjoy!

Walnut Acres Organic Pasta sauce is the best low sodium organic out there. Sodium is worse than sugar in my mind.

If you have Victoria's pasta sauce in your area.. you have to try it! It tastes like homemade and it is made with real tomatoes instead of puree. Best jarred sauce in my opinion! It's pretty light in calories too! :)

I'd be interested in a true comparison of some of the more popular tomato-based sauces, as you're right: the options are overwhelming!

Our favorite (in terms of both nutrition AND taste. Amazing, right!?) is Classico Tomato & Basil. Check out these stats (for 1/4 cup):

45 calories, .5 g fat, 8g carbohydrates, 5g sugar, 2g protein, 2g fiber, 400mg sodium

INGREDIENTS: Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), Diced Tomatoes (Tomatoes, Tomato Juice, Citric Acid, Calcium Chloride), Contains <2% Of: Salt, Garlic, Basil, Olive Oil, Granulated Garlic, Spices

No added sugar, and less calories, fat, carbs and sugar than Ragu Light. It's also chunky and delicious.…

I'm genuinely interested as to why this didn't beat out Ragu Light in your choice. Sodium content? Flavor? Just curious.

When my husband started Atkins years ago Ragu light was our go to for sauce. Just yesterday my daughter forced me to buy the Trader Joe's vodka sauce. A 3/4 c serving was 2 pts I think and worth it. It was delicious. When we have the time we make our sauce with chopped tomatoes and tomato paste. And throw everything in their but the kitchen sink. Mushrooms, garlic, parsley, Italian seasonings, anchovy paste. Yum!!!!

@Nicole - it was the sodium. I wish I had a budget where I could buy them all and taste them. Classico does sound better. Thanks for the thoughtful question.

of the can sauces the Muir Glen is the only one I have found not to have BPA lined cans. I hope Muir Glen will soon use glass instead of the aluminum cans. I have also heard of some company's using a chemical in the water baths to easily remove the peelings of the tomatoes. Organic is the way to go.

This review was absolutely ridiculous. Comparing an Alfredo sauce to a tomato sauce is like comparing a pickup truck to a Prius for fuel economy -give me a break! And by the way..anybody who really knows commercial pasta sauces will tell you Newman makes one of the best..if not THE best pasta sauce..which is called Sockarooni..and which has won numerous taste tests. You may not like the ingredients in his Alfredo sauce..but as any real chef will tell you REAL alfredo sauce is has to be..and when eating do NOT..I repeat DO NOT worry about fat, salt, and other diet non-sense. And please get educated as well with the latest nutritional facts instead of buying into what big pharma companies tell you to avoid. REAL food such as salt and butter and fat are NOT things you need to worry about. What you need to worry about is the processed junk made with tons of chemicals, preservatives and cheap flour and sugar. Our grandparents ate tons of fat, butter, and salt..and they lived long and healthy lives. But once we started incorporating tons of chemicals, preservatives and cheap flour and sugar ladened garbage that passes for food..our health went downhill quickly. You are doing a disservice to all the good the Newman company has done for charity..and this was not a fair comparison or review. Shame on you!

If Paul's was the worst for you it must be the best tasting. Or so I am guessing because TASTE was never a consideration. I think I will make some Paul Newman alfredo tonight and test my theory

Comparing a tomato based vs a cream based sauce is an unfair comparison. Compare apples to apples. Newman's has low calories options as well, in a tomato sauce, not Alfredo.

I am by myself now so I don't make a pot of gravy very often. I wish you wouldn't stop at $3.50. I agree that Glenn Muir is very good, especially their organic San Marzano Roma tomato, fire roasted. But now I just go for taste and the best is Mid's. A little pricey but it taste like pasta sauce is suppose to taste. Keep up the good work.

We really like Victoria Pasta Sauce.

Thanks for your research on products and your recipes !! Just a comment on can tomatoes, I know the Muir Glen does not use BPA in their cans. When you find something you like may want to check with the company to see if BPA in their cans. Also cat and dog food cans a lot use BPA cans. Purina does not. So many of pets have human diseases now makes me wonder. The vets that sell specialty can cat foods for low protein kidney failure in pets has BPA in most. Sorry for maybe off the subject but y'all continue...

I too only bought the Ragu No sugar added, until I could no longer find it on the shelves!! Now I make my own and absolutely love it. It's quick & easy and I flavor it to my own taste without the crazy amount of added sugars.

While I very much agree with the no sugar sentiment, Ragu is way too soupy. Classico tomato & basil (avoid “tomato & sweet basil” because it does have some added sugar), is much better. It still much be slowly simmered, preferably with a short rib or Italian sausage link, to taste right.

Silver Palate low sodium sauce is fabulous. Also, Ragu marinara, but no other ragu sauces. Ragu is rather thin; simmer it til thickened to your liking. I would rather have a balanced sweetness. Sour sauce is horrible..

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