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Which pasta sauce is best?

July 11, 2012 3:01:35 PM PDT
Store-bought tomato sauce? Norma Panetta wouldn't think of it!

"I've had it in other people's houses that they opened up a jar. Fine, you can have it. I'll eat it, but I won't buy it," Panetta said.

Making her own is a family tradition. Of course, if you don't have Norma, or the time, you might wonder which jarred sauces come close to homemade.

Consumer Reports just tested 20 from big names like Prego, Ragu, Bertolli, Barilla, and Francesco Rinaldi.

They also tested two celebrity-chef sauces from Giada De Laurentiis and Mario Batali, and two store brands from Walmart and Whole Foods.

"We want to key in on things like tomato-intensity flavor, a level sourness, sweetness or saltiness, whether an herb is fresh or dried," Amy Keating of Consumer Reports said.

Testers at Consumer Reports spent weeks blind taste testing the sauces.

"An excellent sauce should have a flavor of ripe tomatoes. It should have a freshly prepared impression, and the flavors should be balanced," Keating said.

Test results were mixed. For instance Hunt's Traditional, the least expensive sauce, was the least tasty.

"It had a sourness to it as well as a soapy, perfumey off-note," she said.

Whole Foods' 365 Everyday Value Classic Marinara Pasta Sauce wasn't much better, but don't despair!

"The top sauces that we rated tasted freshly prepared and could pass for homemade or restaurant fare," Keating said.

One of the best at a good price is Giada De Laurentiis' Tomato Basil Sauce from Target. "It's excellent. It's well balanced, tastes very fresh, and has a buttery richness," Keating said.

If you don't have a Target near you, two other marinara sauces rated excellent from Victoria and Mario Batali.

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For more information, please visit ConsumerReports.org

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