The great spaghetti sauce taste test
Today’s post is a slight diversion. Usually I find interesting foods that I’ve never cooked and figure out what to do with them, but this time I couldn’t have found a food that’s more boring. Today I’ll be talking about dried spaghetti with pre-made sauce. It’s my husband’s specialty.
You see, I was left with no choice but to hijack my blog because I needed to use it to settle an argument with my husband that has been going on for far too long. I know that when you hear the details you’ll sympathize (with me and not him, of course) and will forgive me that you’re not reading about me making pickled salamander brains with rhubarb or something today instead. I’ll get back to that in a few days, I promise, as long as rhubarb is still in season.
But back to the argument. Once a week my husband watches our kids so that I can have, “mommy’s night out.” I go around the corner to be all by myself – I sit at the loser table at our local pub, order food that I didn’t have to cook myself, drink two beers, read things on my phone, write on my computer until I’m pretty sure I won’t have to put the kids to sleep, and then I make my way home. Mommy’s night out is a heavenly oasis of sanity in a noisy life, and I’m very grateful that my husband supports me by kid-watching on his own, I really am. But here comes the argument part.
As most moms would (being quite sexist, but talking majority here), I have to prepare for my relaxation. The three things that my husband can cook that won’t make my kids throw up are spaghetti, shepherd’s pie, and frozen chicken cordon bleus. During the day I make sure we’re armed with the components to make one of these so that I don’t come home to a family that’s died of starvation, but when the provisions are spaghetti, Phil complains. He wants me to buy the $4 sauce in a jar rather than the $2 sauce in a can, even though I’m convinced that they’re all basically the same, except for the sexy glass jar that some 21-year-old marketing genius has decided will be the meal ticket that will bring in twice the revenues to the sauce division. The same theory applies to apple juice, FYI. Don’t let those grocery sheisters cheat you, my friends. Hands in my pocket all day long.
So I told Phil that we’d do a blind sauce taste test (which none of those marketing geniuses are smart enough to be paying me for, by the way). When he saw that I was actually going to do it he started pre-excusing his inevitable fallibility, saying how it’s hard to differentiate when things are side by side, and trying to see the list where I had written down which bowl was which, but when a wife wants to be right and also has an educational background in neuroscience, she can go to great lengths to elude her husband to make sure that her experiment meets the requirements of the scientific method.
And so with no further ado, here are the sauces I chose. I did math to match the volumes so that prices would be comparable. I know that I didn’t match the sauce flavours exactly between brands, but I said I studied science, not that I got As.
The Jamie Oliver sauce was most expensive at what would be $8.11 for 650mL of it, although it comes in a 400mL portion. It was highest in fat (almost 7x the lowest competitor!) but lowest in sodium. I never would have bought this one if not for the experiment, although I adore Jamie Oliver – I’m just far too “friendly with the dollar.”
And now for the cheapies and the husband complaints. The Ragu worked out to $2.83 which was cheaper, but still in a hot glass bottle. Slightly higher in fat and sodium than the low end.
And what I often feed him, good old Primo at $1.90. Low fat, but highest sodium.
And the other favourite of mine, Hunts, also at $1.90 and with low fat, but with the next highest sodium.
Here is a poorly lit picture of all of the contenders…
Ta dah! We were both right. Doesn’t that just suck? Phil’s two immediate favourites were the Jamie Oliver and the Hunts, although as he kept tasting he said that the Classico and Antico were good too. He’ll deny that this was true though, because after he saw which bowl was which he said he liked the Classico best which is what he’s always encouraging me to buy. He reluctantly still liked the Hunts, but says I shouldn’t buy it because of the high sodium, and I reluctantly agree.
My favourite was the Jamie Oliver sauce which was far different from the others, having a beautifully chunky consistency and significantly more flavour, although also requiring significantly more coinage and having significantly more fat.
My five-year-old daughter wants me to tell you that she had to spit out the Antico and the Ragu, calling them “hatable.” I agree with her on the Ragu, which had a watery consistency and was the least favoured by all of us. Phil and I both disliked the Primo when it was compared directly with the other choices.
My two-year-old son kept spooning himself the Hunts out of the can, so it was clear what his favourite was.
And so, the winners are…
Classico Tomato & Basil if you’re health conscious and want a nice tasting sauce. At least you get a fully functioning Mason jar with it that you can use for something else afterward, even though you have to pay twice what the canned sauces cost.
Hunts Thick & Rich Original if you want something very cheap and tasty and your blood pressure can handle the salt.
Jamie Oliver Red Onion & Rosemary if you are wealthy and a true foodie who wants a homemade-ish gourmet type sauce.
And to all of the foodies reading this who are about to comment saying, “I have the best recipe ever, just come on over to my blog and make it yourself because it’s healthier….” Sorry, I love all of you, but that defeats the purpose of mommy’s night out. I promise I’ll do that when I make spaghetti for them the day after daddy’s made spaghetti for them.