Why is there no meat sauce in Chicago grocery stores?
November 27, 2014 3:04 PM   Subscribe

I've lived in Chicago for more than two years and am curious why there is no meat in canned or jarred pasta sauces here. In England Spaghetti Bolognese (an inauthentic italian sauce I know) was a grocery store staple and almost always featured ground beef. In Canada there was the poetically named Meat Sauce. In Chicago there is nary a mention of meat in any of the prepared pasta sauces on grocery store shelves (Jewel, Whole Foods, Trader Joes). What gives? Is there some sort of regulation preventing this or is it just a regional taste thing?
posted by srboisvert to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's been a long time since I've lived in Chicago, but here in Madison you can easily find pasta sauce with meat. Bertolli, Classico, Prego and Ragu all offer sauces with hamburger or sausage and at least one or two are stocked at your average neighborhood grocery. Whatever the reason you haven't been able to find it, it's not regional.
posted by Bretley at 3:31 PM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yes here in N. Florida it's called "Ragu" - a brand name I believe similar to Bertolli - in different "flavors". Also "marinara" sauce which is mostly tomatoes.
posted by lungtaworld at 4:21 PM on November 27, 2014

I'm in Canada (Toronto) and I've never seen bottled pasta sauce with meat in it. "Meat sauce" is made with meet broth, I think, but I don't think it actually contains any meat.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 4:22 PM on November 27, 2014

In my experience, you can find pasta sauce with meat in the average grocery store, but you'll find many, many more meatless varieties. I think it's just that premade meat sauce has fallen out of fashion in the US (meat in a jar? sounds sketchy), combined with the fact that there are so damn many different varieties of pasta sauces now that meat sauces are harder to pick out of the bunch. Thirty years ago, jarred spaghetti sauce choices were plain or with meat; today you have garden vegetable, roasted garlic, extra mushroom, basil, chunky tomato, etc.

It's common to make meat sauce by browning ground beef and adding the premade sauce of your choice; people who want meat in their sauce are more likely to do that than to buy sauce with the meat mixed in. And spaghetti isn't necessarily a meat-containing dish here; it's just as likely to be served without meat, if not more so.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:35 PM on November 27, 2014 [11 favorites]

You probably wouldn't find jarred meat sauce at any Whole Foods or Trader Joe's. Look in a regular old supermarket.
posted by pintapicasso at 4:46 PM on November 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

I grew up in the Chicago suburbs and we had jarred pasta sauce with meat all the time, purchased at the regular supermarket (usually Jewel, in our case). Metroid Baby is quite right that there are many more options in sauce than there used to be, though, and it wouldn't surprise me if that increased variety is part of the reason it's been harder for you to find. Supermarkets won't stock what doesn't sell, and I am probably not alone in preferring something different than what I grew up with when I do buy prepared sauce, which isn't often these days.
posted by percolatrix at 5:02 PM on November 27, 2014

The Ultra and Strack & Van Til stores in Chicago and environs carry RagĂș Old World Style Meat sauce. That's just the first meat sauce I looked up using RagĂș's product locator. As Metroid Baby points out, though, there are tons of options that are non-meat, so they may be choking out the meat selections. And Americans are now more familiar with ideas like chicken parmesan, so a tomato sauce without meat is more desirable (as MB also points out, it's easy enough to add ground beef later, so the non-meat sauce is a more universal product).
posted by katemonster at 5:38 PM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Canadian here - the only pasta sauce with meat that I've come across in grocery stores is canned Catelli brand.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 5:41 PM on November 27, 2014

I lived in Chicago until a few years ago -- the major brand pasta sauces I tended to buy were non-meat sauces anyway so I don't specifically remember if Ragu or Barilla had meat varieties. But I do remember a few times buying a regional small-brand sauce including beef and it was really really good. I'm afraid I don't remember the name, but there was a woman's face on the label and the brand was related to her name -- aunt somebody or something like that. I want to say it was even made in Evanston which is why it sticks in my mind. I'm pretty sure I found this at Jewel.
posted by duoshao at 6:56 PM on November 27, 2014

This is the sauce I was remembering:

Good stuff, highly recommended.
posted by duoshao at 7:12 PM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Whole Foods sometimes has Colameco's bolognese sauce in the butcher area freezers toward the back of the store. It's in a small plastic container. Totally nom! (I can't for the life of me find a link for it.)

You might also want to check out Scarpetta's Barely Bolognese Sauce. It's usually in the fresh cheese and pasta section of WF. The only thing that's missing is the actual meat - pick which kind you want, brown it and there you go.
posted by dancinglamb at 11:58 PM on November 27, 2014

Agreed with pintapicasso, try a more general big chain grocery store. Whole Foods is too wholesome, and Trader Joe's is too small. I just did a product search on Wegman's website, and they do carry several brands of 'meat' pasta sauce including Prego and Ragu (although Ragu is titled 'flavored with meat', it has ground beef in the ingredient list.)
posted by AliceBlue at 10:40 AM on November 28, 2014

I live in Chicago and I remember browsing through pasta sauces, seeing meat sauce, and thinking "eww, who buys jarred meat" within the past month.
posted by Juliet Banana at 4:57 PM on November 28, 2014

I seen most of these at typical low and mid-range grocery stores throughout the United States. I doubt I'd find them at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, though. I'm not familiar with Jewel, but is it possible you're just looking in places a bit too high end to carry the stuff?
posted by nobejen at 5:15 PM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would be utterly shocked if Jewel has stopped stocking it unless there's something weird going on in the supply chain. (Non-Chicago people: Jewel is owned by Albertson's--it's your generic low-to-mid-range supermarket.) Look specifically at the brands nobejen linked to on Amazon--Prego, Ragu and Classico. It should be in the same aisle as pasta, not with canned tomatoes (that's the only reason I can think of that you'd not be finding it).

I would expect Whole Foods sells some variety of jarred meat sauce as well. I could imagine Trader Joe's not having any only because their stuff comes and goes and maybe it's out of fashion.
posted by hoyland at 7:46 PM on November 28, 2014

I counted 9 varieties of spaghetti sauce with some sort of meat in them yesterday at Tony's Finer Foods in Humboldt Park. I was surprised that the majority of them were "italian sausage and pepper", or "meat flavored," or weird stuff like "bacon and provolone," but there was definitely a canned Hunt's sauce that was just "meat."
posted by Juliet Banana at 1:10 PM on November 30, 2014

That being said, the varieties with meat in them were vastly dwarfed by vegetarian varieties, for likely all the reasons cited in this thread.
posted by Juliet Banana at 1:11 PM on November 30, 2014

Trader Joes does have a turkey bolognese sauce in the frozen food section (which I quite like) that I forgot out about (it is boxed rather than in a jar or can). I'll have to take a closer look at Whole Foods and Jewel- I hadn't really thought to check out the frozen food sections for some reason. It's also entirely possible that I am just failing to find them on the shelf.
posted by srboisvert at 6:52 PM on November 30, 2014

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