11 Best Jarred Tomato Sauces 2021 | The Strategist

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Any pasta lover will tell you that the best tomato sauce is homemade — preferably by a grandma. My own grandmother Myrtle Corsillo made some of the best tomato sauce I have ever tasted. It featured giant meatballs, lots of Parmesan cheese, and no onions, and she made it (with help from my aunts and cousins) in huge quantities so there were always leftovers to pass around after family gatherings. I have tried to copy it, with some success, but it takes all day to make correctly. For the times when I can’t wait that long, a tasty dupe in a jar is the next best thing. But which jarred tomato sauces are the best? To find out, we asked five chefs and a food editor to tell us about the actually delicious and surprisingly inexpensive jarred tomato sauces they stock up on for quick meals in their own homes.

Rao’s marinara was by far the most recommended tomato sauce, with four of our six experts calling it their go-to sauce in a jar. The brand is also a favorite of Strategist junior writer Leah Muncy, who buys its sensitive marinara because it doesn’t mess with her IBS. “Rao’s is so much better than everything else,” says Maile Carpenter, Food Network Magazine’s editor-in-chief, who sometimes uses it to stretch her homemade sauce. “It just tastes so good. I put in everything.” At the start of lockdown, when other people were stocking up on canned beans, she “freaked out” and bought 30 jars of Rao’s. “Costco sells a set of two jars for cheaper than I can get a single small jar in the city. So I really went nuts, and you know what? We went through it all,” she says.

Chef Nyesha Arrington, who was recently featured on HBO Max’s Selena + Chef, Erin Shambura, chef and owner of Fausto in Brooklyn, and chef Keesha O’Galdez are also fans. Shambura and Arrington say they like Rao’s marinara for its balance of flavors, and O’Galdez likes that it’s made without any added sugars or preservatives. “It definitely has an authentic taste and the sweet, delicate flavor comes solely from the tomatoes. I can eat it straight out of the jar,” she says. According to Shambura, “The marinara is wonderful on its own, but sometimes, when I have some extra ingredients in the refrigerator, I like to elevate the flavors.” She says this could be as simple as sautéing thinly sliced garlic or adding a dash of Calabrian chili.

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