Pasta sauce is a pantry staple. While I really love making my own, I also like the convenience of a naturally healthy jar for those quick weeknight dinners. And if it happens to be organic, even better.
Muir Glen is a well-known brand. They produce many organic tomato products, from canned tomatoes to soups and salsas. (I really love their ketchup!) While they cost more than comparable organic store brands it’s worth the splurge because you know you’re getting quality product.
Because pasta sauce can run the spectrum from calories, fat, sugar, sodium, and other nutritional statistics I have certain numbers that I look for when shopping. One of those is calories per half cup serving. My magical “thinking about summer and swimming trunks” number is 50 calories. A few brands have that, but most start around 70. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything below 50 calories, though.
Muir Glen Italian Herb Organic Pasta Sauce is one brand that met my quota and made it into my shopping cart. I just wanted something that was simple: tomatoes and herbs, that’s all. Tonight I got to find out what I thought.
It’s thick and chunky right out of the jar. You can see big pieces of tomatoes and even seasonings. It doesn’t have an oily surface like some brands of pasta sauce do. Even after sitting for a bit the oil doesn’t separate out. This is probably because as far as fat goes this one doesn’t come in bad at all. (You can actually see by reading the ingredients list that there’s more sea salt in this than olive oil.)
Each half cup serving has 50 calories and 0.5g fat, which makes only 5 calories from fat. I don’t know if that’s good enough to call this a “low fat” food by FDA criteria, but it certainly gets a thumbs-up by my holiday waistline standards!
There’s no cholesterol, saturated fat, or trans fat and the carbohydrates come in at 10g or 3% daily value. With 2g fiber and 2g protein per serving this is a pasta sauce you can feel good about offering at the table.
But there are 2 other areas of concern for me when it comes to bottled tomato products and pasta sauce in particular: sodium and sugar. This one has 280mg sodium (12%) and 6g sugar per serving. That’s not too bad.
For quick comparison, Classico Organic Tomato, Herbs and Spices is a close equivalent. Each half cup serving of that has 70 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1g fat, equal amounts of fiber and protein, 400mg sodium (17%), and 7g sugar.
I opened the jar and poured some into a saucepan. I swear it almost smelled like there might be some Parmesan cheese in there. But, checking the ingredients list for the third time, I could see clearly that there wasn’t.
In fact, the ingredients are tomato puree, tomatoes in juice, onion, sugar, sea salt, extra virgin olive oil, basil, citric acid (a natural product made by fermentation used to provide flavor and acidity), garlic, calcium chloride (used for firming tofu, brewing beer, and providing electrolytes in beverages), oregano, black pepper, thyme, and fennel—all organic except the citric acid, calcium chloride, and sea salt. (I don’t think those ingredients can even be organic, actually.)
But is it vegan? Sugar is primarily the questionable ingredient that comes to mind. Some sugar is purified by processing it through bone char, similar to the way that water is filtered by running through charcoal. I searched their website, but wasn’t able to find anything related to vegan in the FAQs. Still, since the sugar is organic it does make me think that there’s a good chance it’s vegan, too.
Time to eat! I could really taste the herbs in it. Basil most of all, but definitely the fennel also. Of course, both of those are aggressive herbs, so it wasn’t surprising that they stood out. I didn’t catch the thyme so much, but there was a hint of oregano on the finish.
The tomatoes were firm and the sauce that they were in was thick and rich, despite the low amount of fat.
No garlic jumped out at me which I appreciated. Too often pasta sauce is so heavy with garlic that I think it overpowers all the other flavors. I don’t mind garlic being there at all, but it should be a complement to the other ingredients. Unless, of course, it’s something like roasted garlic!
The sodium also seemed right to me. I know other brands have more and that this isn’t a low-sodium variety, but considering the amount of salt added I think it worked.
Muir Glen Italian Herb Organic Pasta Sauce is certainly an excellent choice when shopping for your next pasta sauce. They make quite a few other flavors, everything from Cabernet Marinara and Garden Vegetable to Fire Roasted Tomato and Portabello Mushroom—all seemingly vegetarian! (No beef or sausage lurking here!)
I think you’ll enjoy it, too!