Product reviews: The quest for the best pasta sauce

Three processed products and the DIY option are put to the test

Sacla Whole Cherry Tomato Sauce
€3.90 for 350g, €11.90 per kg
This company has the advantage of being more Italian that its rivals, but it is still making a similar kind of processed product as the less Italian options. The cherry tomatoes are good and lend it an almost home-made feel, although it is anything but home-made. It has less sugar in it than the Dolmio option – 5.3g per 100g, compared with 6.7g – but slightly more salt. We are slightly annoyed with ourselves for liking it as much as we do. It has a rich tomato flavour that wouldn't do any harm to any pasta. The price, on the other hand, seems wildly excessive.
Verdict: Good, but not at this price.
Star rating: ***

Dolmio Intense Onion and Garlic
€2.20 for 500g, €4.40 per kg
Probably the best-known pasta sauce maker in the country and the brand that would have introduced a lot of Irish people to pasta sauce back in the 1980s. It tastes very pleasant, with a nice garlic kick. It is considerably cheaper than its rivals but not good value compared with the DIY option. We also have concerns about the sugar content. Earlier this year the firm said it was going to put an advisory on some of its products over the sugar content.
Verdict: Grand but . . .
Star rating: **

Loyd Grossman
€3.05 for 350g, €8.71 per kg
In pure taste terms, this is our favourite of the processed options. In fact, it probably tastes better than a lot of home-made pasta sauces. It is quite high in sugar, and the salt content is average. There are worse ways you could eat pasta, but it's still heavily processed. The roasted garlic is lovely and – if you wanted to be sneaky – you could add a jar of this to a pot of your home-made tomato sauce to give it a bit of a lift.
Verdict: Very pleasant.
Star rating: ***

The DIY Option
Less than €1.50 per kg
You can buy 400g of own-brand chopped tomatoes for 39 cent and an onion for 21 cent. A head of garlic will cost you 29 cent, which means, assuming you have some dried herbs lying about he place, you can make a kilogram of homemade pasta sauce for less than €1.50, which makes this more than seven times cheaper than the dearest of the processed options. Gently fry the onions and garlic, add the tomatoes and some dried herbs, any spare wine you have lying about and maybe a sprinkle of salt and sugar and you are good to go. It takes virtually no time to cook, everyone can do it and it is by some measure the best value, healthiest and tastiest option out there.
Verdict: Cheap as chips and better for you.
Star rating: *****