The Taste: Though it contains no added sugar, this bright red sauce is definitely “on the sweeter side,” says Anguiano. Our taste testers really liked the consistency; slightly chunky with onion bits and plenty of body to thoroughly coat pasta. Somehow, the flavor profile veers slightly floral and “cinnamon-y,” says Sinha. “There’s a woodsy quality here,” agrees Gurjar. To neutralize the sweetness, Asbrink says she’d add more salt. Or she’d add a complementary “splash of balsamic vinegar”—depending on the application. A little shake of red pepper would also bring some much-needed heat.

The Verdict: This is a versatile, slightly sweeter sauce that Anguiano suggests offsetting with some golden, crunchy-salty mozzarella sticks. You could also sub it in for fresh or canned tomatoes when braising chicken, baking eggs, or making guanciale and chile-laced bucatini.

Photograph by Isa Zapata

The Sauce: Safeway’s private label marinara is made from tomato paste, canola oil, dehydrated herbs and spices, and citric acid—and is the only brand we tried that contains added sugar.

The Taste: For most people, the consistency was a little watery and the sauce too sweet. But the team came up with ways to overcome both. “It needs more herb” to add some complexity, says Aguiano. And it should be cooked longer, says Asbrink, to both reduce the wateriness and amplify the tomato flavors, which Gurjar agrees tasted almost “raw.” Still, the sauce wasn’t totally unbalanced. “I’m getting a citrus vibe,” says Sinha.

The Verdict: This slightly too saccharine sauce has potential to be good; she just needs a little help to really shine. Bring it to life as a pasta sauce by cooking it down with garlic, fresh herbs, salt, chile, and something “earthy and savory,” says Gurjar, like mushrooms or meat.