What Is The Best Pasta Sauce? Top 5 Italian Food Favorites Most Recommended By Experts

Sick of another night of boring pasta? Turn your weekly meal into a gourmet experience by exploring one of the best pasta sauces on the market. While there’s nothing better than making the sauce yourself, it can be cumbersome and take time. In a world brimming with countless jarred options, ranging from rich, velvety marinara to luxuriously creamy Alfredo, it’s a lot easier to pick up a sauce at the store. Which jarred pasta sauces feature the best ingredients and flavor profiles? Our comprehensive guide lists the top six jarred sauces for an unforgettable dining experience.
Good news for pasta lovers! A recent study reports that pasta eaters have better overall diet quality. The study pulled data from tens of thousands of American children and adults using the government’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and discovered that those who eat pasta regularly are more likely to eat more nutrient-dense foods overall compared to those who don’t. So next time you feel like you’ve eaten too much Italian, maybe don’t feel so bad!

What makes a good pasta sauce?

A great pasta sauce is the cornerstone of many culinary experiences, and while tastes vary, some key elements make a pasta sauce exceptional. The heart of any great pasta sauce lies in its ingredients. Forget the mystery of store-bought sauces riddled with preservatives and hidden sugars. Embrace the symphony of fresh flavors!

  • Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Glorious Tomatoes: Ditch the mushy, flavorless imposters. Seek out sauces made with ripe, seasonal tomatoes bursting with natural sweetness. Heirloom varieties like San Marzano offer vibrant color and concentrated taste.
  • Aromatic Alchemy: Onions, garlic, and herbs like basil and oregano form the holy trinity of flavorful aromatics.
  • Beyond the Basics: Don’t be afraid to venture beyond the classics. Sauces with ingredients like roasted peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, or even a touch of anchovy paste can add intriguing depth and complexity.

Best Pasta and Sauce Pairings:

  • Spaghetti goes well with light, thin sauces such as marinara or aglio e olio (garlic and oil).
  • Fettuccine is best with creamy sauces like Alfredo or rich carbonara.
  • Penne goes well with chunky vegetable sauces, hearty meat sauces, or robust arrabbiata.

Ready to discover your next favorite jarred sauce? We combed through nine expert sources to come away with the top six best pasta sauces that were most recommended across the board. Check out our list below and be sure to comment on your favorite.

Pasta With Sauce on the Plate
Pasta with tomato sauce (Photo by Daniel Lindstrom from Pexels)

The List: Best Pasta Sauces, According to Experts


1. Rao’s Homemade Marinara

If you haven’t tried Rao’s yet, what are you waiting for? It’s on the expensive side, but Danny at Sporked calls it one the “best sauces in the world!” In fact, he firmly believes that you should definitely “pay the extra money and [not] look back.”

Rao's Homemade Marinara
Rao’s Homemade Marinara

The Spruce Eats agrees saying, “This jarred classic is what you always want to have on hand in your pantry. The sauce has more ingredients that aren’t included than ones that are. Things like water, tomato paste, added sugar, fillers, colors, and starches are left out so you get a truly authentic, homemade-tasting sauce.”

According to tasters at the Washington Post, “Rao’s was the only brand to get a perfect score (it got 10s from three judges!) and flat-out raves. Our panel liked its fresh-tasting herbs and flavorful bits of tomatoes and onions, as well as its brighter hue.”

2. Mezzetta Marinara

This sauce is a family recipe! One Good Thing writes, “This marinara sauce from Mezzetta was not only packed with fresh tomato flavor, but it was also well seasoned, rich, and slightly earthy too. This is a rich, full-flavored sauce, and the vibrant color and bright, fresh flavor kept me coming back for more!”

Mezzetta Marinara
Mezzetta Marinara

According to Taste of Home, “It takes a lot for our team of expert cooks to call a store-bought product good as homemade, but Mezzetta Napa Valley Homemade Marinara has earned that honor! It tastes, smells, and has the texture of a homemade sauce,” says Test Kitchen’s Shannon Norris.

It’s all about texture! The Washington Post says, “Many liked its slightly chunkier texture.”

3. Trader Joe’s Tomato Basil Marinara

This is a cult favorite for TJ shoppers. The Washington Post writes, “To tick off all the boxes for our tasters: prominent herbs, a balance of acid and sweet, and a texture that featured tomato chunks but still was smooth enough not to slide off your pasta (and as a bonus, it’s one of the least-expensive brands we tried).”

Trader Joe's Tomato Basil Marinara
Trader Joe’s Tomato Basil Marinara

According to Eat This, Not That! “This is really the first tomato sauce for me where an oniony flavor delighted my taste buds. And, also the first where the basil works well with the rest. It seems to be more of a homogenous fusion of ingredients rather than separate parts performing on their own.”

All Recipes also recommends this brand. “In blind taste test after blind taste test, Trader Joe’s products come out on top and the Tomato Basil Marinara is another winner. The semi-chunky sauce is seasoned well with herbs and garlic plus, the texture has just enough thickness to cling perfectly to pasta. Another win for Trader Joe’s.”

4. Barilla Marinara

Registered Dieticians Tammy Lakatos Shames and Lyssie Lakatos told Eat This, Not That! this sauce is very healthy. “One of the standout ingredients in this sauce is extra virgin olive oil. Most other sauces simply contain olive oil, but it’s the extra virgin olive oil that is packed with phenols and polyphenols, which are potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that help to keep the body healthy and protect against disease.”

Barilla Marinara
Barilla Marinara

This option is authentic to Italian flavor. “If you’re the type that can’t keep their spice rack stocked with enough Italian seasoning and herbs, Barilla Marinara is for you,” writes Taste of Home. “Barilla’s marinara sauce sings with plenty of garlic, basil, and oregano. This combination gives the sauce some really wonderful earthy notes.”

According to One Good Thing, “With its garlic-forward flavor and spreadable texture, this would be a great sauce to use for homemade pizzas or lasagna.”

5. Prego Marinara

This sauce rounds out our list because it’s simple, and in this case, simple was good.  According to All Recipes, “For those looking for a tomato sauce that doesn’t overpower the noodles, or for a sauce that might be the base to another recipe, this budget-friendly pick was the winner.”

Prego Marinara
Prego Marinara

One Good Thing agrees saying, “Prego’s marinara sauce had a nice, slightly sweet flavor, but I wouldn’t say there was anything remarkable about it. With that being said, the picky eaters in your life won’t have any complaints about this sauce — probably!”

If you prefer a sweeter sauce, this one is for you. According to The Washington Post, “Nearly all of our tasters singled out America’s best-selling sauce as the sweetest of the bunch. One thought it hit the sweet spot (‘I like the level of sweetness’), but most thought it went much too far.”

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This article may contain affiliate links in which we receive a commission if you make a purchase.

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About the Author

Amy Chodroff

Amy Chodroff is a recovering Morning Radio Show Host and award-winning broadcaster who recently retired from DFW’s Morning News on KLIF in Dallas. Fondly known as the “Chief Googler” by her friends, it was a seamless transition for StudyFinds to enlist her expertise for their “Best of the Best” franchise. Amy has an innate curiosity and a penchant for thorough research before any purchase and she’s constantly on the hunt for top-notch products. Outside of her digital explorations, Amy loves to explore the world with her husband and is the proud mother of two adult daughters. You can also find Amy on the pickleball court, perfecting her dink and drop shots.

The contents of this website do not constitute advice and are provided for informational purposes only. See our full disclaimer


  1. Living on Australia makes it impossible to benefit from American & British advertising. Can we have some Australian information – that would be really helpful as there is interest. Bella.

  2. Why is Mezzetta not on this list?

    It is somewhat different than any of the others in that it packs a rather intense rich tomato flavor. You can use one jar of Mezzetta and two jars of something rather good if cheap such as Safeway Select, and the tomato richness of the Mezzetta is still noticable despite the adulteration with less expensive sauce. Rao’s is good but it doesn’t carry enough flavor like the Mezzetta to pull the flavor up when mixed with more affordable sauces.

    1. I like the texture of Victoria’s Marinara, but difficult to find. I ordered 6 jars and received 6 broken bottles.
      I’m in Palm Springs California, where is it sold?
      Any relation to Victoria’s Restaurant near Mayo Clinic Rochester Mn? Great place for dinner!

  3. Nothing beats homemade Sauce and Marinara. Recipes handed down from our Italian mother & grandmother. So delicious 😋 I can it and give as gifts 🎁 to family and friends. And always have a supply in my house.

    1. Well said CaDessart. Indeed nothing beats home made sauce handed to us by our grandparents, may their souls rest in peace.
      Stockholm – Sweden.

    2. Well said CaDessart, nothing beats home made sauce handed to us by our grand parents, may their soul rest in peace.
      Stockholm – Sweden.

    1. Has anyone ever tried Dell’Amore Marinara sauces made by a small company in Vermont? They offer a variety of flavors which include a spicy version of their original recipe and our personal favorite, Sweet,Basil Garlic! They also make a delicious pizza sauce. In my opinion their sauces are the best and have a fresh homemade taste. I highly recommend you give them a try.

  4. My all time favorite is Cascone’s marinara sauce as well as any of their Italian sauces. Problem is that it’s a local Kansas City Italian restaurant’s sauces which are bottled and sold in all local markets. We live in Oklahoma now and cannot get it here. Whenever a friend from KC comes to visit, we get stocked up!!!

    1. I totally agree. I am married to an Italian and learned to cook from La Nona. Michaels from Brooklyn is delicious

  5. I used to make pasta sauce from scratch but have gotten lazy in my old age.
    I’m probably going to get a lot of hate mail from the foodies out there, but I tried the Rao marina. At 8 bucks a pop, I found it not worth it compared to the $2 Ragu to which I add some oregano, basil, olive oil and fresh ground Malabar pepper.

  6. Silver palate low sodium marinara or low sodium tomato and basil are the best…fresh tomato taste without paste

    1. My first impression was Michaels of Brooklyn’s has to be right up there and shockingly disappointed and agree not making the list as a travesty…. Victoria is over Michael’s ?hardly

  7. Mezzetta , marinara sauce is the tastiest ,and Silver Pallet marinara very good for jar sauces .

  8. We like Paesana sauce yet it never makes any best lists. It is as close to homemade as possible. We think it is better than Rao’s and less expensive.

  9. Raos sauce is the absolute worst from a health standpoint because it has approximately 570 mg of salt per serving which is an astronomical number. And that’s exactly why Raos tastes better than most other pastas.
    Folks, read the labels before you purchase anything!

    1. We feel at home when having La Dolce Vita marinara…yes the real sweet life is not out of a jar!

  10. Silver palate low sodium marinara is the best…fresh tomato taste…
    Classico roasted tomato with garlic or tomato and basil…..

  11. To me, Prego farm fresh marinara, taste about like Raos.. it’s not like regular Prego at all.

  12. I think Victoria pasta sauce is still #1. It has a rich and smooth texture and taste that is Superior to Whole foods and Raos. Raos is my 2nd favorite.

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