Pasta Sauce in a Jar: What You Need to Know

Jarred pasta sauces are a popular, fast and delicious way to prepare a meal.

As a kid, spaghetti and meat sauce was a weekly staple in our home. The sauce, from a jar, hot, tangy, combined in a large skillet with green peppers and onions and ground beef, simmered to perfection, then placed over a plate of hot, just boiled pasta was — and still is one of my favorite dinnertime meals.

The difference today is I avoid using jarred pasta sauces. The obvious reason is the large amount of sodium added to just about every single pasta sauce on supermarket shelves. The only ingredient rivaling sodium is high fructose corn syrup. Most of the brands I checked had that ingredient either second or third on the label.

HFCS is derived from corn starch. Starch itself is a chain of glucose (a simple sugar) molecules joined together.  When corn starch is broken down into individual glucose molecules, the end product is corn syrup, which is essentially 100% glucose. It’s been linked to diabetes and obesity.

pastaplateTo my surprise, HFCS was included on the labels of six different pasta sauce labels I checked, including, Classico, Del Monte Pasta Sauce, Hunts Pasta Sauce. On each label, the additive was listed either second, third or fourth. 

Another interesting thing I found is the inclusion of Whey and Soy in these same six sauces. As we know, they are free proteins and can cause the very same allergic reactions as Monosodium Glutamate. Other troubling ingredients found in nearly every sauce were Soybean and Grapeseed oils. Even one of my favorite and best-tasting sauces on the market, Newman’s Own, includes Soybean oil. It should also be noted that MSG is naturally occurring in tomatoes.

Personally, I’ve never experienced any MSG allergy symptoms from tomatoes alone, but I do know of people who have.

pregoThe only pasta sauce I found not to include any of the abovementioned ingredients was Prego, with the label featuring simple ingredients of: tomatoes, onions, water, salt and sugar. However, this is limited to the original Prego. Other varieties in the product line include Soy, Whey and other additives.

I prefer to make my own pasta sauce from scratch. I will use crushed or peeled tomatoes from a can, however, I am careful to use only canned tomatoes that have no additives.

I recommend Cento, Goya and Tuttoroso brands but advise you to avoid Contadina which includes the additive calcium chloride, which is used for tomato firmness.

Be sure to check the labels, even if it says “organic.”

My homemade pasta sauce is pretty great, if I do say so myself. But if you don’t have the time, or aren’t a whiz in the kitchen, a jar of (original) Prego is your best bet in avoiding MSG and other additives.

Knowledge is power.