When it comes to answering the age-old question of ‘what’s for dinner?’ most of us immediately feel a mix of fatigue, terror, and anger. Whether you live alone or you’re cooking for a family of four, making a meal that pleases everyone, is healthy, is relatively quick to cook, and won’t leave you with a kitchen full of dirty dishes at the end of the night seems impossible. Pasta and cooking with the best pasta sauce is a great way to cover the bases and create a dinner that leaves everyone satisfied.
If you grew up in a big Italian family or have traveled to Italy, your standards for what counts as a ‘good’ pasta sauce may differ from others. Pasta sauce, whether it’s tomato-based, pesto, or an Alfredo, can be time-consuming to make from scratch, but thankfully there are several delicious, healthy, and yes, very, very good options available in jars (*insert Nonna gasp here*).
When looking for the best pasta sauce, keep sugar and sodium content in mind. Although many sauces advertise themselves as not having any added sugars, we found in our research that sugar content could still be higher on these sauces compared to others made with more natural, organic ingredients. Sodium can also creep up, so keep this in mind as well.
All the pasta sauces on our list can be used on their own or as a base when you don’t quite have enough time to make your sauce from scratch but still want to add your own flavor. For freezer meals, opt for a pasta sauce like Rao’s, which can stay open in a fridge for up to two weeks and be added to a meal that may have dried out while in the freezer.
Sauces typically do most of the heavy lifting with meals, but starting with a good base, including high-quality pasta or pizza dough, is also important for achieving your desired results. And for those who have given up on pasta sauces due to dietary issues, we’ve included sauces for sensitive stomachs, sauces that are Keto and Paleo-friendly, and sauces that are dairy and Gluten-free.
For nights when you want a meal that is fast and fresh(ish), the best pasta sauces are a must-have in your pantry. Check out our top picks below.
1. Rao’s Homemade Marinara Tomato Sauce
I’m married to a pasta sauce snob and since I don’t have any desire to make homemade pasta sauce on a weekly basis, or frankly ever, Rao’s Homemade Marinara Tomato Sauce is what keeps the peace in our home. Made with Italian tomatoes and simmered in small batches, Rao’s is made without the use of preservatives or added sugars. Even without all the added bad stuff, an open jar of Rao’s can last weeks in the fridge without sacrificing quality or taste. It’s one of the few jar sauces that doesn’t require any added ingredients and the company makes its sauce in several flavors, including a sensitive stomach option. It’s a bit pricey, so make sure you stock up when it goes on sale, because once you go Rao’s, you don’t go back.
2. Keto Marinara Pasta and Pizza Sauce by Yo Mama’s Foods
If a Keto-friendly diet is working for you, finding foods that help you stick to your meal plan is crucial. That’s why we like the Keto Marinara Pasta and Pizza Sauce by Yo Mama’s Foods, which works both on pasta dishes and as a base on pizzas. Available in Marinara and Spicy Marinara, the sauce hits just about every food restriction, including Keto and Paleo-friendly, low-sodium, free from preservatives and low-glycemic with no added sugar. The sauce is made with organic chicken stock along with fresh basil and garlic and is delicious on its own.
3. 365 by Whole Foods Market Organic Pasta Sauce With Four Cheese
FOR CHEESE LOVERS
The 365 line by Whole Foods is a great option for foodies who want affordable, tasty, and organic dishes. Case in point, their Pasta Sauce with Four Cheese. We’ve tested most of the 365 pasta sauces from Whole Foods and found them all to be a great option for quick, guilt-free (organic!) dinners. The Four Cheese sauce delivers a smooth pasta sauce that can be enjoyed on its own or jazzed up with added vegetables or meat. The chunky tomatoes add sweetness to the sauce, which is made without any added sugar.
4. TRUFF Pasta Sauce Bundle
For a fancy night in, the Truff Pasta Sauce Bundle gives food lovers a decadent dinner without having to leave home. The set includes a Black Truffle Arrabbiata and Black Truffle Pomodoro sauce, with both sauces made using black winter truffle, ripe tomatoes and red chili peppers. Spice lovers will appreciate the delightful kick that comes with the vegan and gluten-free sauces, which can be used on pasta, pizza, in stews, as a dipping sauce, and in sandwiches.
5. Simply Organic Alfredo Sauce Mix
Jarred sauce offers tons of convenience and helps make home-cooked meals relatively stress-free, but for times when you want a sauce that tastes a bit more homemade, we like the Alfredo mix from Simply Organic. Spy received samples of the mix and loved the rich and creamy texture of the sauce, which only required milk, butter, and parmesan cheese. Made with organic ingredients, the Alfredo sauce is perfect for pasta, chicken, potatoes, and anything that can take some delicious decadence. All the seasonings included in the sauce are pre-measured and perfectly mixed. Plus, the sauce packet makes a great pantry staple for anyone whose pantry is very, very small.
6. Primal Kitchen No Dairy Alfredo Sauce
BEST VEGAN OPTION
Most traditional tomato pasta sauces are vegan, but what about when our dairy-free friends want something different? Thankfully, you can have your Alfredo and go dairy-free with Primal Kitchen’s No Diary Alfredo Sauce. The Paleo and Keto-Certified sauces (a regular and garlic sauce are included in the set) are made with cashew butter and avocado oil. Free from soy, gluten, canola oil, and added sugars, the sauce has the creaminess that pasta lovers expected from an Alfredo sauce along with organic ingredients you can feel good about serving.
7. Essential Pesto Tasting Gift Set by Bella Cucina
BEST FOR PESTO LOVERS
What’s better than one delicious jar of pesto? How about 12! The Essential Pesto Tasting Gift Set from Bella Cucina and Food 52 is every foodie lover’s dream, with a delicious array of flavors to satisfy every pallet. The hand-crafted flavors are perfect for pairing with pasta, bread, meat, and anything else that needs a trip to flavorville. Customers can dabble with Kale and Parmesan, Sweet Pumpkin, Walnut Sage, Arugula and Pine Nut and plenty more options in a set that finally gives a good answer to the dreaded ‘what’s for dinner?’ question.
8. BARILLA Premium Pasta Sauce
For an affordable pasta sauce that has been around for years and has a proven track record with customers, you can’t beat Barilla Premium Pasta Sauce. Made without the use of added sugar and Kosher-certified, Barilla is a great option to use as a simple pasta sauce or a base for times when you have a few extra ingredients you can throw in the pot. The diced tomatoes add a sweetness to the sauce that customers love and both the Traditional and Tomato & Basil flavors shown here work with meat, including chicken, as well as hallow pasta like rigatoni that can handle a thick and hearty sauce.
9. Prego Pasta Sauce For Sensitive Stomachs
BEST FOR SENSITIVE STOMACHS
Just because you love pasta sauce does not mean it will love you back. Garlic, onions, and tomatoes can wreak havoc on our digestive systems, which is frustrating since they are so darn delicious when working together. It’s tough to find a tomato-based pasta sauce without, well, tomatoes, but some companies are beginning to offer ‘sensitive stomach’ recipes that don’t include garlic and onions. Rao’s, Organico Bello, and Prego are a few of the companies that makes pasta sauces for people who are trying to cut back on garlic and onion without cutting back on flavor. Just please use a pot when you make your pasta, okay?
Hunt’s Traditional Pasta Sauce
BEST CANNED OPTION
All of the pasta sauces on our list arrive at your door in a glass jar, except Hunt’s Traditional Pasta Sauce. Canned goods never give off the air of freshness, but for times when a glass jar isn’t going to work, there are some canned options that will do the trick. Case in point, Hunt’s traditional recipe, which works on pasta, meat, and in the slow cooker. The affordable canned pasta sauce is ideal for stocking a pantry on a rainy day, taking on camping trips, and using any time you need an ultra-affordable pasta sauce to serve to a big group.