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There’s nothing wrong with spending the day low-and-slow simmering a homemade pasta sauce—whether it’s chock-full of ground meats, vegetarian-friendly and packed with herbs, or not even a red sauce at all. Who wouldn’t want an an-hours-long-simmered sauce piled atop a mound of spaghetti? It’s comfort food at its finest. But, when you’re short on time, having a good jarred pasta sauce in your pantry is a must. You can start with these store-bought sauces and add your own touches, too.
From classic marinara to creamy alfredo, here are the best-jarred pasta sauces.
Best Overall: Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce
This jarred classic, produced by the famous Rao’s restaurants, is what you always want to have on hand in your pantry. According to Rao’s, the sauce has "no tomato blends, no paste, no water, no starch, no filler, no colors, [and] no added sugar.”
Rao’s has many different varieties of sauces, but we especially love the Tomato Herb option, full of onions, garlic, basil, and oregano. It’s versatile, so it pairs well with meat dishes, pasta dishes, and pizza, and is even great for dipping (mozzarella sticks, anyone?). Each 1/2-cup serving contains 420 milligrams of sodium and 4 grams of sugar (0 grams added).
Best Keto-Friendly: Yo Mama's Foods Keto Marinara Pasta Sauce
This sauce by Yo Mama’s is not only keto-friendly and paleo-friendly but also low-sodium, free of preservatives, low-glycemic, and has no added sugar. The ingredient list is relatively short and contains only the ingredients you’d expect of a quality marinara sauce—no excess ingredients as fillers. Each 1/2-cup serving has 130 milligrams of sodium and 2 grams of sugar (0 grams added). In addition to the classic marinara flavor, there's also a spicy option, basil option, and burgundy wine option—if you’re feeling fancy.
Best Alfredo: Stonewall Kitchen Basil Alfredo Sauce
Stonewall Kitchen is well-known for its gourmet packaged foods like crackers, sauces, and mixes, so it comes as no surprise the brand would produce a stellar alfredo sauce. The decadent sauce contains Romano cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano, and Parmesan cheese—plus light cream—so it is the ultimate white sauce with which to toss your pasta or top your pizzas or proteins. Plus, the hint of basil adds a nice touch. A 1/4-cup serving contains 430 milligrams of sodium and 2 grams of sugar.
Best Vegan: Primal Kitchen No Dairy Alfredo Sauce
Vegans rejoice. This Primal Kitchen sauce has no animal ingredients and boasts organic vegetables and herbs, plus avocado oil, making it paleo-friendly, certified organic, GMO-free, gluten-free, and plant-based. As if that’s not enough, it’s also Whole 30-approved and has no added sugar. Each 1/2-cup serving contains 530 milligrams of sodium and 6 grams of sugar (0 grams added). Whether you follow a vegan diet or not, this sauce is a winner; add it to pasta, pizza, or any other application that would benefit from a veggie-forward, high-quality marinara.
Best for Sensitive Stomachs: Rao's Homemade Tomato Sauce, Sensitive Formula
Tomato sauce can be a triggering food to those with sensitive stomachs, thanks to a generous amount of onions and garlic. Lucky for us, Rao’s has developed a marinara formulation that doesn’t contain onions or garlic, but rest assured is still full of the other classic marinara flavors you know, love, and expect in a great pasta sauce. The six-ingredient sauce has no added sugar and is lower in sodium than Rao’s classic marinara. This could be a great option for those following a low FODMAP diet.
Best Lower Sugar: Prego No Sugar Added Traditional Tomato Sauce
Tomato sauce, and plenty of other jarred products, can be sources of hidden sugars. Prego specifically offers a no-sugar-added variety, so if that's what you're looking for, you can be confident the only sugar in the sauce is natural sugar from the tomatoes themselves (no high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, or artificial flavors). This sauce contains all the flavorful ingredients you’d expect of a delicious tomato sauce: tomato puree, diced tomatoes, onions, garlic, and more. A 1/2-cup serving contains 6 grams of sugar and 460 milligrams of sodium.
Best Splurge: Truff Black Truffle Pomodoro Pasta Sauce
If you’re in the mood to seriously dress up your typical spaghetti and meatballs dinner, look no further than Truff’s Black Truffle Pomodoro Sauce, which will infuse your meal with that decadent, rich truffle flavor we know and love to order at fancy restaurants. The sauce contains several truffle-containing ingredients (truffle salt, infused olive oil, and black winter truffle) to give it a complex truffle flavor, as well as the usual tomato sauce suspects, like tomato puree, onion, and herbs and spices.
A 1/2-cup serving contains 7 grams of sugar (3 grams added) and 1030 milligrams of sodium. Keep this product in mind around the holiday season; the sleek jar and steeper price tag will make it a great gift for foodie friends.
If you’re looking for an all-around winning jarred sauce to have in your pantry at all times, we highly recommend stocking up on Rao's Homemade Tomato Herb Pasta Sauce (view at Amazon). If budget is not a concern to you, splurge on Truff’s Black Truffle Pomodoro sauce (view at Amazon), which will dress up any meal you’re making at home and impress your family and friends.
What to Look for When Buying Jarred Pasta Sauce
Tomatoes and other ingredients certainly contain some natural sugar that’s inevitable in jarred sauces, but if you don't want a sweeter taste or added sugars in your sauce, check the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel.
Similarly, jarred/packaged products can be particularly salty, so you’ll want to check the labels. Sodium is to be expected, but the desired amount will vary depending on your personal preference. You can always add salt later if you need to, but you can’t take it out.
How long should you cook jarred pasta sauce?
This will vary by brand, so be sure to check the label to see what the manufacturer recommends, not only for best quality purposes, but for food safety purposes. In most cases, the sauce will likely need to be heated through for a few minutes in the microwave or stovetop, but in certain instances, a sauce may need to reach a certain temperature (if it contains meat, etc.), so always check out the packaging to play it safe.
How long can you keep jarred pasta sauce?
Similarly, this is manufacturer-specific and depends on each sauce’s ingredients and formulation. Our overall winner, Rao’s, for example, suggests that an open jar can be refrigerated and used within 10 to 12 days (to help yourself keep track, write the opening date on the jar with a sharpie before you return the rest to the fridge!). It also suggests that any leftover sauce can be frozen for up to six months (transfer it to a freezer-friendly container first), which is a great idea if you don’t want to waste your remaining sauce and know you’ll be able to use it down the line.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
The Spruce Eats writer Alyssa Langer is a registered dietitian and foodie, always curious about the next food or ingredient craze and hungry to learn, and try more. Having worked in cookbook publishing, CPG label data, nutrition writing, and meal kits, her diverse background and varied interests provide a unique perspective that fosters clear, well-researched and trustworthy reviews.