"Usually I'm skeptical of celebrity-launched lines of anything, be they measuring cups or leggings."
I 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.
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?
This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Serious Eats. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.