5 of the Best Jarred Pasta Sauces That Aren’t Tomato-Based

published Feb 1, 2022
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Whether it’s a basic marinara or a truffle-infused specialty offering, chances are high I’ve got at least two jarred tomato sauces in my pantry at any given time. However, I also like to switch things up every once in a while. It keeps the romance alive, you know? Like many of you, I cook pretty much daily, so I find it helpful to keep my pantry stocked with a variety of shortcuts and dinner-helpers to inspire me when I’m stuck in a rut.

Lately, I’ve been really into alternative jarred sauces. That’s right: Stuff that isn’t your basic marinara. I highly recommend also keeping a few different pasta shapes on hand, so you can mix and match when dinnertime creativity strikes. Here are the best jarred pasta sauces that aren’t marinara. 

Credit: Amazon

1. Rao’s Homemade Alfredo Sauce

Is Alfredo an Italian classic? That’s a hotly debated topic, but one thing’s for sure: Creamy, sweet Alfredo sauce is absolutely delicious. At its most basic, Alfredo is cheese and butter, although jarred varieties will contain a few more ingredients. I’m a fan of Rao’s version — honestly, everything they make is good — which keeps things simple, but I also won’t turn down a jar of Classico’s Four Cheese Alfredo, because sometimes more is better. I like my Alfredo best with flat fettuccine noodles, or miniature shells.

Buy: Rao’s Homemade Alfredo Sauce, $21.39 for 2 (15-ounce jars) at Amazon

Credit: Instacart

2. Giovanni Rana Basil Pesto

Although we often eat it in the height of summer, bright, cheesy, and herbaceous pesto is a bonafide mood-booster anytime of year. Kitchn’s Executive Lifestyle Director, Lisa Freedman, recommended this pesto made by Giovanni Rana, and I’ve been a fan ever since. You can find it in the refrigerated section at grocery stores, and Lisa recommends keeping a backup container in your freezer for pasta emergencies. I concur.

Buy: Giovanni Rana Basil Pesto, $4.99 for 7 ounces at Instacart

Credit: World Market

3. World Market Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce

I’m an unabashed pumpkin fan, and I don’t care who knows it. Last year, I taste-tested my way through a haul of pumpkin pasta sauces, and I’ve been buying the winner on repeat. (It’s actually made with butternut squash, and it was also the cheapest of the bunch!) This is the jar I reach for when I want a big bowl of pasta with creamy, just-sweet-enough pumpkin sauce.

Buy: World Market Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce, $5.99 for 23.6 ounces at World Market

Credit: World Market

4. Dave’s Gourmet Wild Mushroom Pasta Sauce

Mushrooms add earthy depth to pasta dishes, and there is no shortage of jarred options. I’m a fan of this one, by Dave’s Gourmet, which combines mushrooms and cream with just a touch of tomato for a really well-rounded sauce. It’s awesome in baked pasta dishes.

Buy: Dave’s Gourmet Wild Mushroom Pasta Sauce, $5.99 for 25.5 ounces at World Market

Credit: Amazon

5. Agostino Recca Flat Fillets of Anchovies

Okay, hear me out on this one. While tinned or jarred fish are technically not sauces, they’re almost as easy as opening a jar of marinara. Thomas McNaughton, the co-chef at Flour+Water Hospitality Group in San Francisco, shared his technique for turning tinned fish, like anchovies or sardines, into a sauce: “Simply combine julienned roasted peppers with drained fish in a sauté pan. Gently heat with a small ladle of pasta water, fold the pasta into the pan with a squeeze of lemon.” Seriously, that’s it — it’s delicious and inexpensive.

Buy: Agostino Recca Flat Fillets of Anchovies, $12.09 for 3 (2-ounce) tins at Amazon

What’s your go-to jarred pasta sauce? Tell us in the comments below!