Saucy but nice - eight pasta sauces put to the taste test

Roz Crowley puts eight pasta sauces to the test.

Saucy but nice - eight pasta sauces put to the taste test

Roz Crowley puts eight pasta sauces to the test.

One of the most useful storecupboard staples, pasta sauce can be used in more ways than one. When thick enough, use instead of butter for a toasted cheese sandwich or as a first coating on a pizza base. It can also be added to soups and stews.

For variety of texture, purée half a can of chickpeas (or any kind of beans) and heat with a jar of sauce and a mug of vegetable stock, then add in the rest of the whole chickpeas.

Add a jarful to a beef or lamb stew 10 minutes before serving, to thicken and add depth of flavour, or try heating sauce in a wide pan and sitting fillets of fish on top with the lid on to steam gently. I also smear some sauce on thicker fish such as hake, cod or monkfish and grill for five minutes or roast it for 10-12 minutes at 180C/350F/gas 4.

On the side with a fried fillet of fresh mackerel, it is delicious (and economical). Good with smoked mackerel, too — add a squeeze of lime juice for extra perk.

As a simple pasta sauce, we need little else, though finely grated parmesan, or any other grated cheese, will add protein and more flavour and texture.

For this survey, we looked for samples without added thickener and with good, clean tastes. We were glad to see some Irish companies in production.

The Scullery Roasted Pepper & Garlic Pasta Sauce 360g €2.99

For 11 years, Nenagh-based Florrie Purcell has been continually innovative, and this pasta sauce is a good example. Lots of chunky, roasted red peppers sit in pulpy tomatoes with gentle garlic, herbs and spices for a rich sauce. Fat and gluten free. Other good flavours for pasta are available in the brand from Tesco,

selected SuperValu and individual shops.

Score: 9.25

Ballymaloe Smoked Bacon Pasta Sauce 380g €3.49

Plenty of flavours meld here in quite a peppery, chilli sauce with warm, smoky overtones from bacon bathed in 48% tomatoes. Olive oil adds to a naturally pulpy texture that suits bread and pizza topping as well as pasta. No thickeners, gluten-free. A good all rounder. Two bacon-free sauces available too.

Score: 9

Marks & Spencer Tomato, Tuna & Olive Pasta Sauce 340g €3.30

Plenty of flavour of all the titular ingredients in this substantial sauce which needs nothing added for a meal. Tomatoes 50%, aubergines, bell peppers, 9% tuna, olive oil, onions, 2.5% olives, tomato sauce, capers, salt, basil make a deliciously summery mix. From a wide range, Made in Italy.

Score: 9

Insanely Good Pasta Sauce 350g €2.99

A nice, peppery hit defines this pulpy sauce which has no thickeners and is gluten-free. Olive oil adds to the natural flavour and texture of 62.5% tomato with garlic and a hint of basil oil. Based in Dunmanway since 2001.

Score:  8.75

Janet’s Just Delicious Roast Lemon & Thyme 350g €3

This gluten-free sauce has a 66% tomato base , with lemon juice and zest providing some zing. Thyme, garlic, herbs and spices are low key. The result is a natural, fresh tomato flavour with a pulpy texture helped by added carrot. Try on pizza, as an open sandwich topping as well as on pasta, especially for kids as there is commendably no added salt or sugar, or chemical additives. Made in Co Wicklow.

Score: 8

Bunalun Organic Tomato & Sweet Red Pepper Sauce 350g €2.29

With 94% tomato, carrots, onion, celery, the low 0.25% red pepper is just about discernible. Absence of thickeners and other additives makes this gluten free and a natural, pulpy, slightly loose texture which is best for pasta. The taste is natural too, though a little weak. Produced in Italy for Bunalun, Killarney.

Score: 7

SuperValu Signature Taste Traditional Bolognese pasta sauce 350g €2

Chunky onion sits in 47% tomato pulp and 20% chopped tomatoes with quite strong spices and slightly dried herbal flavours. With pasta, these flavours are diluted and work better. Has a slightly acidic aftertaste. Made in Ireland.

Score: 7

Tesco Finest Sundried Tomato, Garlic & Basil Sauce 340g €2.49

Tomato 51%, tomato purée, olive oil, garlic purée, 4.5% sundried tomatoes, basil 3.5%, sugar and salt combine to make a light sauce, natural more than rich. It did not knock our socks off, but good with plenty of cheese.

Produced in Italy.

Score: 7

More in this section


The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up