Tomato Sauce

Tuesday, 4 November 2008 | Tags:

When you donít have the time to prepare a fresh batch of homemade tomato sauce, one of the quickest ways to top off your pasta is with a jar or can of pre-made sauce. We went in search of the tastiest, most nutritious option.

The Basics

  • The first ingredient on the label should be tomatoes.

  • Look for sauces with a simple ingredients list. For example: tomatoes, olive oil, onion, fresh garlic and fresh basil.

  • Fresh herbs provide much better flavour than dry or powdered spices.

  • Avoid sauces that use fillers like cornstarch, which takes away from the tomato flavour in the sauce.

  • The best sauces come from the sweetest, vine-ripened tomatoes.

  • Many tomato sauces have sweetener added, usually sugar. This is ok as long as it’s not near the top of the ingredients list.

  • The fewer chemical preservatives the better. If you don’t know what an ingredient is then you probably don’t want it.

Other Considerations

  • Tomato sauces come in a variety of containers:
    • Cans are available from major brands in a variety of flavours. Some people feel the sauce can take on the metallic taste from the can; if this is the case, then the sauce is probably not very good quality.

    • Many brands come in bottles or jars, often giving them that homemade look. They also make for easy self-storage of any leftovers too.

    • Plastic pouches or containers are the freshest types of store-bought sauces, found in the refrigerated sections of your grocery store. Usually, they have no preservatives but check the label to be sure. Most of these sauces can be frozen for up to 6 months.

  • Lycopene gives tomatoes their rich, red hue. Studies have shown that lycopene actively inhibits the development of many types of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Be Aware

  • Avoid tomato sauces featuring cheese, which is quite perishable and loses its flavour quickly. If you want cheese, grate it over your pasta just before serving.


We put six commercially prepared sauces in front of the experts: a group of Italian women who make their own tomato sauces from scratch.

  • No Name Tomato Sauce (can): 17¢ /100 ml
  • Hunt’s Thick & Rich Original (can): 18¢ /100 ml
  • Prego (jar): 52¢ /100 ml
  • Classico (jar): 64¢/100 ml
  • Olivieri Marinara (plastic pouch): $1.36/100 ml.
  • Dean & Delucca’s (bottled gourmet sauce): $2.57/100 ml. ($19 per jar!)

Our tests and results include:

Taste Test

We don’t think our testers will stop making their own sauces given their reactions to these products! Only Prego got our panel’s vote of approval.


The Prego had the best overall tomato-y flavour despite the fact that it contains powdered seasonings.

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