Hot stuff: Eight spicy pasta sauces put to the test

Hot stuff: Eight spicy pasta sauces put to the test

It's cold outside and a little internal warming is just what we need. Chilli peppers can do more than just make us feel hot, they can convert the energy from their chemical capsaicin into heat, through a process known as thermogenesis, which also happens with ginger. A word to the wise: a large amount may be needed to make a notable difference.

Chillis are interesting in what they are capable of doing. There is research on trial drugs using capsaicin for weight loss. Other research reveals how pain caused by chillis when in the mouth can cause a reaction resulting in the release of endorphins, our body’s natural painkillers which also make us feel happy (as chocolate and grapes do). Ongoing research suggests capsaicin may also be good for healthy gut bacteria.

For some, the burn of chilli isn’t worth it, but a tip is to get rid of the harshness by eating something fatty with it. I supplied butter and yoghurt to tasters of our Top 8. Water does little to reduce the chilli heat. Eastern cuisine has ghee and yoghurt as traditional accompaniments for good reason.

The sauces below have a base of tomatoes and onions for additional antioxidant benefits. There are great fresh sauces in delis and market stalls, but today we focused on store cupboard jars from supermarkets.

Dunnes Stores Simply Better Puttanesca 428g €2.89

Hot stuff: Eight spicy pasta sauces put to the test

The complex, full flavour — a decent 83% tomato pulp, tomato paste, black olives, capers, traditional anchovies, garlic, parsley, gentle chilli peppers — delivers a balanced and rich flavour with low enough salt 0.65%, and no added sugar. Even the four year old approved of this one. Tasters also liked the well-priced Dunne’s Tomato & Chilli (555g €1.50) which has a clean taste and satisfying kick.

Score: 8.75

Ballymaloe Spicy Tomato 400g €3.49

Hot stuff: Eight spicy pasta sauces put to the test

This quite sweet sauce has a kick of chilli at the end from a high 6% chillies. A satisfying sauce, it has 51% tomatoes, with chunky onions and peppers. There is added sugar bringing sugars, which includes some from tomatoes and vegetables, to 8.5% softening the chilli a little. Salt at 0.4% is low.

Score: 8

Marks & Spencer Arrabbiata 340g €2.20

Hot stuff: Eight spicy pasta sauces put to the test

Arrabbiata means ‘angry’. Fresh flavours from a high 86% tomatoes is the base for a less-than ‘angry’ sauce, but it does have a flavoursome kicky end from 1.5% red chillies. A nice, pulpy texture is spiked with carrots and onions. Salt is low enough at 0.55% and sugars — no added sugar — are 1.9%. A well-balanced sauce.

Score: 8.5

Janet’s Just Delicious arrabiata tomato & chilli 350g €2.79

Hot stuff: Eight spicy pasta sauces put to the test

This sauce has 69% tomatoes with tomato purée, onions, carrot, garlic, with 5% chilli delivering quite a kick. A deliciously fresh tomato taste, it has no added sugar (natural sugars 1.5%) or salt. Made in Co Wicklow.

Score: 8

Bunalun tomato & chilli sauce 350g €2.29

Hot stuff: Eight spicy pasta sauces put to the test

Tomato 94%, with fairly chunky carrot, onion, celery and red pepper, we first get a fresh basil warmth followed by chilli which is not harsh. Low enough salt at 0.75%, with no added sugars coming to a natural 3.5% A deliciously fresh tomato flavour ending in a lively kick makes this a good buy.

Score: 8.5

Sacla whole cherry tomato & chilli 350g €3.09

Hot stuff: Eight spicy pasta sauces put to the test

Tasters found this a little sweet which is not surprising as sugars are a high 5.2% from the addition of fructose along with natural sugars in tomatoes and the sofrito (onions, carrots, garlic, celery). There are nicely plump cherry tomatoes throughout to add texture, though the skins are a bit tough. There is a little less natural texture with cornstarch as thickener, though not much. For those who like to go easy on the chilli.

Score: 6.5

Jamie Oliver tomato & chilli sauce 400g €2.85

Hot stuff: Eight spicy pasta sauces put to the test

The mix of 38% tomatoes, 28% tomato paste, red peppers, carrots, onions, garlic, parsley, has 1.5% chilli, providing a little kick in an otherwise slightly weak mix. 3.1% sugars comes from the tomatoes and vegetables, and salt is low at 0.50%.

Score: 6.75

Aldi Specially Selected tomato & chilli 350g €1.69

Hot stuff: Eight spicy pasta sauces put to the test

Tomatoes 87% and 5% tomato purée, have added sugar delivering 6.4% sugars which makes the sauce quite sweet. Salt at 0.71% is low, 1% red chilli is quite harsh. Not for the faint-hearted. Produced in Ireland.

Score: 6.5

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