poor scientist. will blog 4 food.

the culinary adventures of a self-described foodie

The great tomato sauce challenge


Loyal reader and stitch n bitch hostess extraordinare SP came up with a very interesting taste challenge recently. In her own words:

In my many hours of TV watching lately, I have seen this crazy commercial that says people prefer Prego spaghetti sauce over the ones in the fancy jars (like  Classico). I just cannot imagine how this can be true, so I would like to have a spaghetti sauce taste test. I’ll make some spaghetti and veggie meatballs and we’ll taste sauces and then you can put your winner on your noodles and balls.

SP went out and bought 7 different sauces, all of the basil and tomato variety.  Being the scientists that we are, this was a double-blind taste test.  SP gave each sauce a number and JL took the numbers and assigned them letters.  Then, each sauce was placed into a dish, like so, with no additional spices:

The mystery sauces

The mystery sauces

To cleanse the palate between tastings, I had some delicious Italian bread from Trader Joes, which was served with SP’s homemade garlic dip/spread.

yummy bread

yummy bread & garlic spread

And the taste test begins!

And the taste test begins!

Another diligent taster.

Another diligent tester.

We were all very thorough in our tasting strategies, with several of us doing replicates and tasting in different order. But no one was as thorough in scoring as our resident German, who broke each sauce down by various categories such as: “feeling on mouth, tomato aroma, thickness, overall, natural.”

The results were surprisingly unanimous.  Here they are, by rank. (My notes in parenthesis.)

  1. Classico (chunky, basil-y)
  2. Barilla (slightly acidic)
  3. Safeway Organic (OK)
  4. Prego (OK+)
  5. Ragu (too sweet)
  6. Bertolli (too tomatoey)
  7. Trader Joe’s (too sour)
The mystery sauces... revealed!

The mystery sauces... revealed!

I was quite shocked for several reasons.  First, I always buy TJ’s Basil Marinara and I thought I liked it.  But then again, I do add quite a bit of stuff to jar sauces such as fresh garlic, sugar, and herbs.  It was a nice surprise to see Safeway Organic in the top 3 — probably a pretty good value, if the others aren’t on sale.  Also, I thought I hated Ragu, but it turned out to be very average in this taste test.

After the taste test, we got to eat our favorite sauce(s) with spaghetti, veggie meatballs, and salad.  It was a really fun adventure, and useful as well!

A colorful salad

A colorful salad

veggie meatballs!

veggie meatballs!

Author: Jen

Howdy! My name is Jen and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

3 thoughts on “The great tomato sauce challenge

  1. Amazing. Totally irrelevant to our household as we generally find Tomato & Basil blends to be too sweet, but that this was even done is super amazing. You’re like a Bay Area sect of Consumer Reports, the Scientist Division. So rad.

    If you do it again, try the fire-roasted tomato and garlic ones!

    • I was just thinking the same thing re: Consumer Reports. I do think this would be a fun series to do… perhaps expand beyond tomato sauces and get into other goodies. Perhaps bread? or hummus? Anyone got any ideas?

  2. mmmm….noodles and balls…

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