Most pasta sauces are salty. A half cup can easily eat up 500 milligrams of sodium—a third of your day’s limit. But don’t despair. A new generation of premium sauces is leading the way to lower levels (200 to 350 mg). Most start with whole tomatoes rather than purée (typically water plus tomato paste), olive oil, and fresh onions, basil, and garlic rather than dried or powdered. They rarely add sugar, and they taste like they’ve been simmering on the burner all day.
Our favorite brands: Cucina Antica and Dell’Amore (around 250 mg of sodium per half cup) and Rao’s (most varieties around 300 mg). But you can cut the sodium to 120 mg with The Silver Palate Low Sodium Marinara or one of Victoria’s five Low Sodium sauces. Who needs more salt when your spaghetti or linguine tastes like you’re in Tuscany? Those brands are far more likely to please than humdrum No Salt Added sauces from Eden Organic, Francesco Rinaldi, Trader Giotto’s (Trader Joe’s) Organic, and Walnut Acres Organic (10 to 40 mg).
The downside: a jar of Cucina Antica, Dell’Amore, or Rao’s costs $6 to $9, versus $2 to $3 for Bertolli, Classico, Francesco Rinaldi, Prego, or Ragú. On the other hand, if you use just a half cup of pricey brand, you’re paying only about $1 to $1.50 to coat a cup of pasta. Try to beat that at your local trattoria.