I am back in Louisiana (finally!...the movers were 2 days late - don't use All Distance Movers!) and I just finished watching LSU beat Rice in the bottom of the 9th inning, facing elimination, at the College World Series...needless to say I'm in a great mood!
Growing up, my mom would fix spaghetti and meatballs (or sometimes spaghetti and chicken) for dinner at least once every two weeks. I loved her version even though her pasta sauce was one she "doctored up" from a can. She used Hunt's Traditional Spaghetti Sauce, which is what I also used when I was cooking for myself in college. However, within the last year I happened to glance at the ingredient list and wasn't happy with what I saw:
"tomato puree (water, tomato paste), water, less than 2% of: high fructose corn syrup, salt, corn syrup, soybean oil, dehydrated onions, sugar, carrot fiber, spices (including soy lecithin), citric acid, natural flavor"
There is some form of sugar listed 3 times!
Then I looked around the pasta isle at the grocery store and found more of the same...added sugar in most spaghetti sauces (note, however, that even sauces with no added sugar will have some grams of sugar listed on the label due to the natural sugars in the tomatoes).
Most of the sauces also have added fat (soybean oil in Hunt's case), very few additional veggies (do dehydrated onions and carrot fiber count as a vegetable?), and some unusual ingredients that I don't have in my kitchen (soy lecithin, high fructose corn syrup [HFCS], citric acid).
Take a little time next time you are shopping for pasta sauce and read the ingredient list. Lookout for added fats and sugars. The fat doesn't bother me so much as long as there isn't too much (5 grams or less per serving) and its a healthy oil (such as olive oil). If there is sugar listed, it should be near the end of the list (preferably real sugar and not HFCS) and no more than 5 - 6 grams per 1/2 cup serving.
The store brands of jarred marinara/pasta sauce that I found and approved of (less/no added sugar, only olive oil, and only "expected" ingredients) are:
Mario Cisaro Pasta Sauces
Rao's Homemade Marinara (2 grams sugar per 1/2 cup)
Mom's All Natural Pasta Sauce (4 grams sugar per 1/2 cup)
Muir Glenn Organic Pasta Sauces (4 grams sugar per 1/2 cup)
365 Organic Pasta Sauces (its the brand from Whole Foods, 3 grams sugar per 1/2 cup)
Alessi All Natural Pasta Sauce (4 grams sugar per 1/2 cup)
Amy's Organic Pasta Sauce (5 - 6 grams sugar per 1/2 cup)...they also have a reduced sodium variety
I'm sure there are more! Leave a comment if you use a sauce that would fit these criteria!
Now I usually make my own sauce...its so easy and if you make extra you can freeze it and have it for another dinner. But I do keep a "good" jar in my refrigerator for emergencies! I love making roasted vegetables or spaghetti squash topped with marinara as a side dish, so it helps to keep a jar on hand.
Here is a recipe for an Easy Tomato Sauce or a Quick Marinara from Ellie Krieger (the dietitian on the Food Network).