Best Jarred Meat Sauce: The 4 Best Meat Sauces for Your Weeknight Pasta Dinners

The best jarred meat sauce is exceptionally savory, seasoned, tomato-y, and should contain the appropriate amount of seasonings and herbs. It doesn’t have to be chunky—in fact, most store-bought meat sauces don’t feature big chunks of meat—but it should be permeated with an umami-forward meat flavor that makes you smack your lips and go “got dam!” That’s the best jarred meat sauce, and that’s what we’re looking for.

After this taste test, I’ve decided that you just aren’t going to get that homemade meat sauce experience from a jar. It’s just not possible. All the additives needed to keep ground beef shelf stable interfere too much with that incredibly meaty, savory, organic quality that you get from homemade meat sauce. To try to make what nonna does and put it on a shelf is a fool’s errand. However, some of the meat sauces on this list got close, and somebrands I’ve completely written off in the past surprised the hell out of me. While this taste test was a bit of a let down, it was also enlightening. Read on to find out what I’m talking about.


Best of the Best

Rao’s Homestyle Bolognese

Rao’s does it again. Their homestyle bolognese is warm, inviting, and deeply savory. The biggest thing going for it is the most essential—it has a robust meat flavor. That’s because Rao’s uses ground beef and pancetta to create a beef-pork hybrid sauce that comes correct with awesome umami. It’s also got the biggest chunks of meat of any meat sauce on the list by far. And Rao’s uses a lot of spices and aromatics—thyme, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and parsley—which gives it a home-cooked quality (hence the homestyle description). This jar of meat sauce doesn’t expire until 2025, which feels suspicious, but, hot damn, it’s comforting, delicious, and the best meat sauce on this list for good reason. It’s just hard to beat.

Credit: Merc/Amazon

Rating:

8.5/10

Sporks

Best Pepper Flavor

Trader Joe’s Bolognese Tomato & Beef Pasta Sauce

We really liked Trader Joe’s bolognese for its awesome pepper flavor. In my opinion, black pepper isn’t used enough as a flavoring agent, and it should be. Good black pepper is spicy but also fragrant and subtle, and Trader Joe’s utilizes it here with great success. The mellow black pepper heat pairs delightfully with the ground beef and sweet tomatoes. While the ground beef itself is a little too minced for my taste (a far cry from the big chunks of beef and pork in Rao’s meat sauce), the overall flavor is still quite nice. It’s just too dang hard to get good quality meat sauce in a jar. There’s room for improvement on the market, that’s for sure.

Credit: Merc/Trader Joe’s

Rating:

7.5/10

Sporks

Best Garlic Flavor

Signature Select Traditional Pasta Sauce with Meat

This Albertsons-brand meat sauce is quite savory, and it has a wonderful balance of meaty, salty, and sweet flavors. Signature Select also doesn’t skimp on the garlic, and this has a nice, pungent taste because of it. It doesn’t have the robust beef flavor I’m looking for in a meat sauce, but all the other ingredients work well together. If this had bigger chunks of beef and pancetta like Rao’s, it would be a strong contender for best meat sauce, no doubt. Alas, it didn’t even earn seven Sporks because it’s just not meaty enough.

Credit: Merc/Pavilion’s

Rating:

6.5/10

Sporks

Best Surprise

Ragu Old World Style Meat Sauce

It’s probably blasphemy to have an Italian last name and type these words, but I kind of dig this Ragu Old World Style meat sauce. There’s virtually no chunks of meat in it, which at first I thought might destroy its Spork Score, but quite the contrary: This meat sauce is smooth and thoroughly beef flavored, meaning that while there are no big chunks of meat, there is a consistently strong, savory beef taste in every bite. This conjured up the image of beef bones simmering in a stew, which is warm and comforting to me. I also love the addition of Romano cheese, which provides some needed bite. I much prefer Ragu to Prego, which can be far too cloying. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Ragu’s meat sauce is pretty good. If you added your own ground meat to this jar of sauce, it would make a deliciously robust meal.

Credit: Merc/Walmart

Rating:

6/10

Sporks

Other products we tried: Prego, Great Value, Good & Gather, Reggano, Signature Select, Regioni D’Italia.

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About the Author

Danny Palumbo

Danny is a comedian, cook, and food writer living in Los Angeles. He loves gas station eggs, canned sardines, and Easter candy. He also passionately believes that all the best chips come from Pennsylvania (Herr's!). If you can't understand Danny when he talks, it's because he's from Pittsburgh.

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  • Guess I’m a sucker for cheap and sweet, but I prefer Prego. Finally tried Rao’s a month ago and definitely don’t care for it, at least not the meat sauce. The Tomato Basil one is okay. I hate the Ragu one because it tastes like Chef Boyardee which I like in a can, but not in my homemade pasta. Prego all the way!

    Reply
  • Danny, if you’re Pittsburghese, how’s come yinz didn’t include Delgrosso sauce from Tipton? Beats hell outta all the others, and I can actually find it here in FL….usually bogo at Publix!

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