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Finding Jarred Sauce That Comes Close To Restaurant Quality

Few people expect the jar of marinara sauce in their cabinet to be as good as the sauce at their favorite Italian restaurant. But, most people also don't realize that you can find pretty good jars of marinara in the grocery store – you just have to know what to look out for. Reading the ingredients list on jars can help you find sauce that is actually pretty good. Look for the following ingredients and make your decision based on what you find:

Imported Whole Italian Plum Tomatoes

These are the main ingredient in the best jarred sauces. Most of the flavor in a good sauce comes from the tomatoes. They should be sweet and acidic in equal proportion, and should never taste of metal from the can. The lower the quality of the sauce, the less likely it will be that it uses whole tomatoes. It may use tomato puree, which is just water combined with tomato paste, or it may use crushed tomatoes with citric acid to preserve texture, but it won't use whole.

Fresh Garlic and Herbs

High-grade sauces will use fresh garlic and herbs as opposed to dried. This really makes a difference in the flavor of the sauce. While dried herbs are fine in a pinch, and they do last a long time on the shelf, they do not deliver the same flavor as their fresh counterparts. Their affordability is why you see them in the bargain sauces.


More expensive sauces will have less sugar in them. This is because the quality of the tomatoes used is so much higher. The better the tomatoes, the less need for sugar to amp up the sweetness. If you compare cheap sauces to expensive ones, the sugar content will be one of the first things you notice. It is much higher the lower the price of the sauce.


Like sugar, salt is a flavor enhancer. It can be used to cover up a poorly made dish, giving it a semblance of flavor even when it isn't very good. You will notice higher salt content in cheaper sauces.

Have Realistic Expectations

Your food will definitely taste better when you use a higher quality sauce. However, you should keep your expectations in check. Even the best jarred sauce is not going to live up to the sauce from your favorite pasta place. Fresh sauce made at an Italian restaurant inevitably trumps preserved sauce in a jar. But if you look at the ingredients list when shopping, you can know you have the best sauce possible at your own dinner table.