I was recently contacted by Uncle Steve’s pasta sauces to try their new line of organic and gluten-free pasta sauces. Now, in full disclosure, my last name does happen to end in a vowel and I am a very proud Italian-American – which usually translates into jar sauce being a big no-no. I mean my father would never ever eat meat and pasta on the same plate — they are separate courses not destined to meet — pasta always before the main course. Every time I find myself looking for a quick pasta sauce fix at the market I can hear my mother saying Michael, fresh sauces takes two minutes to make (funny how everything seems to take two minutes).
Well, yes, sauce (or gravy as it is often referred to here in the U.S.) is relatively easy to make and good Italian sons will always tell you that their mother makes the best sauce – but in today’s world where there is just not enough time in the day – particularly after a long day at the office – to whip-up fresh sauce on a regular basis. I can count on one hand the number of jar sauce brands that I would actually ever consider buying because they just do not even remotely measure-up to mom’s and quite frankly most are often too sweet or use ingredients that you really do not want to see in a sauce. Let’s face it – good pasta sauce should be simple and made from just a handful ingredients – that’s the beauty of what makes something so simple, so delicious.
Back to Uncle Steve’s. I am going to be completely honest and first thought here we go – another celebrity with another product – just what we need. To be transparent, while I did recognize Steve Schirripa (Uncle Steve), I have actually never seen a single episode of the Sopranos – but what did catch my attention was the fact that these sauces were USDA Certified Organic and Non-GMO. They also only had a handful of ingredients and no added sugar. So far, so good.
I first tried the Marinara sauce when making gluten-free pizza. When I opened the jar I dug straight-in with a spoon to give it a taste (I mean let’s face it gluten-free pizza crusts are expensive so better safe than sorry). Here’s where it gets interesting though – the sauce tasted fresh. I kid you not, it had the perfect balanced acidity that you look for in the perfect sauce. Delicate notes of garlic and basil add a subtle spiciness that plays perfectly against the sweetness of the tomatoes.
Next up was the Tomato and Basil sauce. Now I am sure there are some of you out there that are wondering what is the difference between the Marinara and the Tomato and Basil? Think of marinara as the all-purpose pasta sauce base – the simple sauce that is the most versatile of sauces. The Tomato and Basil is a more robust take with the addition of onion which gives it a heartier feel. The notes of basil are also elevated and give the sauce a deeper body making it perfect on rigatoni or penne which grab the sauce – finish with some Pecorino Romano cheese and it’s pasta perfection. I also used this for a grilled chicken parmesan that I normally would not have the time to make during the week but with the sauce ready to go it took no time at all.
The final sauce was my personal favorite because I love a good spicy Arrabbiata sauce. This sauce was perfectly spicy with the additional of crushed red pepper but it was balanced within the sauce. The spiciness does not distract from the sauce but enhances it. The flavors play in perfect spicy harmony making the sauce a real stand-out. I enjoyed it over some fresh gluten-free gnocchi with some grated parmesan but could see it working with a range of ingredients if you are looking to add a spicy kick.
I was definitely pleasantly surprised with Uncle Steve’s sauces and can now add another line of sauces to that single handful of ready-made sauces that I will allow into my kitchen. Fresh and simple ingredients make these sauces a rare breed among the cluttered pasta sauce landscape. You can learn more about Uncle Steve’s on their website where you can also order online and have the sauces shipped directly to your front door. I know they are also working on boosting in-store availability and I will post any updates on that front to this post.