Just in time for your next Saturday night pasta party, a new jarred sauce that's worth a first taste and second helping has appeared on store shelves. Mezzetta, the company famous for such glass-jarred wonders as snappy peperoncini and an addictive giardiniera, has launched Napa Valley Bistro, a line of pasta sauces prepared with Napa Valley wines. We were glad to cook up a sample sent our way and toss it with some noodles. Hey, anything for our readers – especially if it involves eating spaghetti.
We tried two versions: basic marinara and the creamy version. The saucy results are after the jump.
We found the marinara to be blue ribbon, with a simple, fresh quality that we were, frankly, surprised to find in a jarred sauce. Upon decanting, the sauce opens with a bouquet of basil, garlic and imported tomato. The Cabernet Sauvignon asserts itself upon heating, as does a welcome sheen of good olive oil. No embellishment was necessary, but as home cooks tend to doctor jarred sauce, we found that the sauce really comes alive with sautéed legonica (pork sausage). And -- most importantly, to some eaters -- it stands up to as much Parmesan as a diner craves.
Parmesan is the central ingredient of the second sauce we tried. Creamy marinara is heavier on the spoon than the simple marinara but lighter on the tongue; it's closer to a vodka sauce. This sauce was fine served solo but did not take to the add-ins we tried. Sausage overwhelmed its delicacy, while a shower of crisp pancetta just got lost. Still, this sauce would make a wonderful baked ziti, or a more subdued side dish on a weeknight dinner plate.
We served the sauces with a simple salad of crisp iceberg lettuce with diced tomato, red and green pepper, red onion and a quick red-wine vinaigrette. Both sauces were fine accompanied by red wine and local beer.
Mezzetta Napa Valley Bistro pasta sauces are available in 12 varieties in grocery stores or online, at an average cost of $5 per jar.