A weekly food series that takes an irreverent but informative look at crimes against food. This week Ganesh Raj discusses pasta sauce in a jar ...
What is good pasta most afraid of?
The answer? Ready-made, off the shelf sauce.
And, unless the proceeds go to charity, you should be afraid of buying it too.
Buying pasta sauce off the shelf is like taking an internet bride. It might seem like a good idea when browsing, but when the can's opened and in your home, things can often take a turn for the worse.
Even Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsey and Lloyd Grossman are all guilty of pimping out various unacceptable versions of these saucy abominations.
Sodium. Sugar. Fat. This trio, in moderate doses, is all good.
But once increased to the levels that sauce manufacturers are using, the trio of good becomes the tri-factor of evil.
Most canned vegetables, soups and sauces have added sodium, which enhances taste and texture and acts as a preservative. But these sauces carry almost 75% more sodium than is recommended on a daily basis.
High sodium intake is linked to hypertension, or high blood pressure. If you think that just because a product says 'organic' or 'natural' that it is better or healthier, then think again. Because deep down in the recipe is the
sweet seduction of high-fructose corn syrup or natural cane sugar.
Added fat helps make food shelf-stable and gives it body. But a product could still claim it has zero trans fats if each serving has less than half a gram of the fat. Also, if a product has a really small serving size and you end up eating three of four servings, then you are not doing yourself any favours.
But the biggest crime of them all is just how bad these sauces taste. The sugar and salt overdose in the sauces knocks you to the ground, and this is followed by a knee in the gut with that awful artificial taste of whatever flavour the sauce pretends to be.
And finally, as you are writhing on the ground (figuratively speaking of course), you come to the realisation that all this pain could have been avoided if only you'd made your own sauce. That simple, beautiful flavour that comes from easily combining tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, pepper and sea salt in a pot and just relaxing while you let it simmer.
It's something that Jamie, Gordon and Lloyd are always doing, but they're quite happy for you to ignore it so that you buy their culinary impostors.