VALUE FOR MONEY

CHILLI PASTA SAUCES TESTED BY CONOR POPE

CHILLI PASTA SAUCES TESTED BY CONOR POPE

***** Excellent ****Great ***Fine **Below Par *Awful

Sacla Italia Tomato and Chilli Sauce, €3.49 for 350g, €9.97 per kg

Highs:The most surprising thing about this pasta sauce is the whole cherry tomatoes contained in each jar. They are not only surprising but incredibly juicy and bursting with flavour and are an absolute joy to eat. There is a tang to this sauce that is not found elsewhere. It is very smooth-textured - cherry tomatoes aside - and while it is hardly super healthy or even super nice, it is absolutely fine and a cut above many of the pasta sauces to be found on our supermarket shelves.

Lows:While there is an undeniable hint of chilli in the mix, we're not sure it qualifies for the description of "playfully angry" that the jar gives it. It was a little too sweet and quite a bit more expensive than some of the brands which were its equal in taste terms.

Verdict:Nice but lacks fire

Star rating: ***

Ballymaloe Chilli Pasta Sauce, €3.79 for 380g, €9.97 per kg

Highs:This fresh sauce found in the refrigerated section of our local supermarket has a wonderfully simple ingredient list. Many of the vegetables have been roughly chopped, lending it a home-cooked feel. One serving suggestion advises us to pile the sauce on to a slice of bread for a fancy bruschetta, which we reckon is a good idea as, in many respects, this is more like a relish than a traditional pasta sauce. It is made by a well-known Irish food producer and it has a decent chilli kick to it.

Lows:To borrow a line from Marge Simpson, the secret ingredient is salt - a single portion of this provides us with nearly half our daily salt allowance, which seems wantonly excessive to us.

Verdict:Very good but salty

Star rating: ****

Casa Rinaldi Sugo Piccante all'Arrabbiata, €5.15 for 520g, €10.30 per kg

Highs:This is probably the most authentic of the sauces we came across - although that probably has more to do with the packaging which is almost entirely in Italian. It is very tomatoey - hardly surprising as it is made with 89 per cent tomatoes. The ingredient list is short and simple with the tomatoes and the chillis dominating, making it a very spicy, smooth-textured product. It is not too salty and there is no sugar included in the mix.

Lows:Its simplicity may just be its undoing. It is slightly more expensive than the rest and we couldn't help wonder just what we'd spent over a fiver on - we reckon that you wouldn't have to be a culinary whiz to knock up this sauce with a couple of tins of tomatoes, an onion, a chilli or two and a glug of olive oil.

Verdict:A bit pointless, maybe?

Star rating: **

Roma Bella Vita Arrabiata, €2.59 for 350g, €7.40 per kg

Highs:This is another sauce from an Irish company, although we can't be certain it was made in Ireland. All we are told is that it was produced in the EU which is, we reckon, just a little vague. It is made with 60 per cent tomatoes and though it has just one per cent chillies, it certainly packs a punch. It is on the cheap side.

Lows:The sugar content and the consequent sweetness was a little off-putting, and while there were lots of herbs listed on the ingredient list, the only flavours we could really discern were chilli and sugar. The texture of the sauce was slightly greasy and it left a slightly bitter aftertaste which we weren't too fond of.

Verdict:Cheap but greasy

Star rating:**

Loyd Grossman Tomato and Chilli Sauce, €2.35 for 350g, €6.71 per kg

Highs:This is a very tomato rich sauce that is bursting with robust flavours. It packs a hefty chilli punch and is wonderfully garlicky. The roughly chopped tomato chunks retain much of their texture and have not been excessively processed. It has a nice citrusy flavour and is an excellent cheat when it comes to making a rich, flavoursome tomato sauce. It is also the cheapest by a fairly hefty margin and is selling at a price we reckon all the competition could match if they really wanted to. We'd highly recommend it.

Lows:It is comparatively high in salt and in sugar and might not be the best for you.

Verdict:Top notch

Star rating:*****