7 Chef-Approved Jarred Pasta Sauces to Keep in Your Pantry at All Times

published Oct 24, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

For busy weeknights when I can’t be bothered to spend hours simmering sauce from scratch, the stuff in a jar is my best friend. Even though I know I shouldn’t, sometimes I feel a little ashamed that I’m taking the easy way out. To quiet the voice inside my head, I remind myself that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using jarred pasta sauce — especially when there are supermarket sauces that are so good, they practically taste homemade!

Despite giving myself this friendly reminder, I still need a little extra validation every now and then. And who better to help me stop questioning my love of jarred sauce than professional chefs who admit to using (and loving) it too?

Of course, not just any jarred sauce is fit for a chef. Here are their top suggestions.

Credit: Courtesy of Rao's Homemade

1. Rao’s Homemade Tomato Basil Sauce

“I find that many of the simpler craft tomato sauces lack salt and taste bland. Big-name brands, on the other hand, often contain too much salt and a bunch of unwanted additives. Rao’s, however, has a very short ingredient list and just the right balance of flavor and sweetness. Rao’s is just right and tastes just like something you’d find on your grandma’s stove. My go-to, post-workout, 15-minute dinner is pasta with chicken sausage, broccoli, and Rao’s Tomato Basil.” — Field Failing, CEO and founder of Fields Good Chicken in New York City

Buy: Rao’s Homemade Tomato Basil Sauce, $6.98 for 24 ounces at Walmart

Credit: Amazon

2. Rao’s Homemade Marinara Sauce 

“When I’m buying jarred sauce, I always look for one that either has little to no sugar listed in the ingredients and one that uses olive oil (no other fats). Rao’s Homemade Marinara checks off both of those boxes and also has a great consistency and flavor.” — Olivia Williamson, chef and founder of Olivia Cooks For You

Buy: Rao’s Homemade Marinara Sauce, $6.98 for 24 ounces at Walmart

Credit: Carmine's

3. Carmine’s Marinara Sauce

“I love going to Carmine’s with family, especially around the holidays. During the pandemic, they started packaging their signature marinara sauce to benefit their employees. It makes me feel like I’m enjoying some of their classic dishes in my own home! The sauce ships nationwide and 100 percent of profits benefit their employee relief fund. It’s important to me that we support the industry during this difficult time.” — Jason Goldstein, recipe developer for Chop Happy

Buy: Carmine’s Marinara Sauce, $45 for three 32-ounce jars

Credit: Target

4. Prego Roasted Garlic & Herb Italian Sauce

“If I have to use a pasta sauce from the shelf, I go with Prego’s Roasted Garlic and liven it up a bit by adding some fresh basil, oregano, and other spices. Prego is a great alternative to homemade sauce because it always has a nice thick consistency.” — Kraig Hansen, executive chef of Fable Lounge in Nashville, Tennessee

Buy: Prego Roasted Garlic & Herb Italian Sauce, $1.89 for 24 ounces at Target

Credit: Safeway

5. Safeway Signature Select Marinara Sauce

“I think Safeway’s jarred marinara sauce is as good, if not better, than any name-brand sauce I’ve tried (and it’s cheaper). Not only is it perfect on any pasta, but it’s also a great foundation for more complex pasta sauces. I also use it in soups and it’s terrific for making braised brisket. I always have a jar of it in my pantry.” — Mark Ellman, chef and owner of Honu Seafood & Pizza and Frida’s Mexican Beach House in Maui

Buy: Safeway Signature Select Marinara Sauce, $1.79 for 25 ounces

Credit: Amazon

6. Classico Mushroom & Ripe Olives

“I grew up loving the Mushroom & Ripe Olives pasta sauce from Classico. To this day, if I’m making pasta at home and don’t have the time to make my own sauce, it remains my go-to.” — Phillip Frankland Lee, founder and executive chef of Scratch Restaurants group

Buy: Classico Mushroom & Ripe Olives, $3.66 for 24 ounces

Credit: St. Killian's Cheese Shop and Market

7. Casina Rossa Sugo al Tartufo

“For a quick and awesome dinner at home, my wife and I have fallen in love with the Sugo al Tartufo jarred sauce by Casina Rossa. It’s made in small batches in Italy and you can find it at specialty stores or online. The truffle flavor in the sauce isn’t overbearing at all — it tastes like you just shaved fresh black truffles over your pasta.” — Dave Anoia, owner of DiAnoia’s Eatery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Buy: Casina Rossa Sugo al Tartufo, $7.50 for 17.6 ounces

Did your favorite pasta sauce make the list? Ours did!