"Usually I'm skeptical of celebrity-launched lines of anything, be they measuring cups or leggings."

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20090826-mariosauce.jpgI know, I know. It’s so easy to make your own tomato sauce. I’ve heard everyone say it, from my mother to Rachael Ray. But the truth is, when I make spaghetti and tomato sauce, it’s the one night I take off from the kitchen. I don’t feel like doing anything but opening a box and a jar. And frankly, making tomato sauce may be easy, but making excellent tomato sauce is certainly and decidedly not. I believe strongly in jarred tomato sauce, if it's good.

But I haven’t found my match on the supermarket shelves yet. I do love the pomodoro sauce from San Marzano, but it can cost as much as $15 a jar, and that just doesn’t fit into my cheap and cheerful hardly-cook plan. I recently stumbled upon a jar of supermarket tomato sauce that had a Mario Batali label. It claimed to be made with San Marzano tomatoes and slivers of garlic, in a green facility, with no added sugar or preservatives. At around $6, I decided it deserved a try.

Usually I'm skeptical of celebrity-launched lines of anything, be they measuring cups or leggings. But after eating spaghetti at Mario's restaurants, I thought, if these are even a shadow of that at home, it's worth the six bucks. So, I did what Mario taught me to do on Molto Mario years ago.

I cooked my pasta al dente, finishing it in the sauce. It was perfect. It was fresh, light, naturally sweet, and essentially tomatoey.

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Check out that garlic sliver!

Most jarred tomato sauces are just a touch off. They are too thick to mix with pasta or so thin, they create a red lake at the bottom of the dish. Too tart and acidic or so sweet you’d swear ketchup was the first ingredient, they usually fail. But I loved Batali’s sauce because it was thin enough to meld with the pasta and became a condiment as opposed to a glob, but it was still thick enough that my fork tines could scoop up the tomatoes.

There was no acidity or sweetness—it was perfectly balanced. I could see real bits of diced onion and tomatoes, not just pureed or left whole, and there were real slivers of garlic. It was like eating at a restaurant. Nobody I served it to could believe it was from a jar. To me, it was as authentic and reliable as Mario's restaurants themselves.

Thanks, Mario. I'm ready to try the other varieties. Have any of you tried them?

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