Del Monte, Clara Ole, Royal, and More: Six Brands of Sweet Spaghetti SauceDecember 17, 2018
Polarizing as it may be, sweet-style spaghetti holds immense popularity among Filipinos—perhaps due to its association to the celebrations the dish is usually served at, or to the nostalgic memories of children’s parties each forkful triggers. With this, local tomato sauce manufacturers have come up with special versions of tomato sauces that serve as starting points which—when cooked down with aromatics, ground meat, and/or hotdogs—give you a flavorful sauce to be served atop noodles. How do the different brands compare?
Note: For this taste test, we tried each brand’s sauce first in its raw state (as it comes in the packet), then with a cup of sauce cooked with sautéed garlic (1 clove), onions (¼ cup), and ground pork (roughly 50 grams in each preparation). As multiple factors can affect the resulting dishes, we focused on the general characteristics present in both raw and cooked applications.
Brick red in color, Clara Ole’s sauce sports a just-right consistency akin to a slightly looser ketchup. Out of the package, it flaunts a notable aroma we’d describe as slightly meaty and umami (as if it were spiked with Knorr liquid seasoning)—and in particular, it evokes the sauce that comes with instant spaghetti noodles. The said meatiness follows through in flavor, lending a great savory profile to the fruitiness of tomatoes, before ending with a clear, bright tang. Though it’s barely sweet for a “sweet-style” sauce, it’s easy enough to sweeten manually during cooking, and the sourness helps balance out the richness of whatever meat you’re adding in.
Sweetness: 2.5/5 | Acidity: 4/5 | Saltiness: 4.5/5
Del Monte’s comes just a touch thin in consistency, but easily reduces to a thick and hearty sauce. It gives off a strong meaty (specifically beefy) aroma, which is well reflected in the flavor. Even when tasted uncooked, this sauce scores high on sweetness, with just a touch of tanginess and saltiness to even it out. Still, it stands out for its somewhat milky-tasting, umami-heavy undertone—we swear we can taste parmesan in the mix, though it’s not listed in the ingredients.
Sweetness: 4/5 | Acidity: 3/5 | Saltiness: 3/5
Fiesta’s sauce is also on the thin side, carrying a subtle but relatively tomato-dominant aroma. Tasted plain, it comes barely sour or salty, allowing you to season it to your liking; and though sweet, the mellowness of the other flavors emphasize the tomato. Though the package claims it to have parmesan in the mix, we can’t taste it—but what we do get is an oddly milky, somewhat chemical note toward the end that we can still detect even when cooked with other aromatics.
Sweetness: 3.5/5 | Acidity: 2/5 | Saltiness: 2.5/5
Ram’s sauce is the thinnest of the lot, being runny and almost translucent out of the package. It’s also the sweetest, striking the tongue with a most sugary, borderline ketchup-like profile that lacks any other prominent notes other than tomato, and barely comes with enough saltiness or acidity for balance. Though those looking for a more straightforward sauce will appreciate its relative simplicity, you’ll want to keep the salt shaker handy if you’re cooking with this.
Sweetness: 5/5 | Acidity: 1/5 | Saltiness: 1/5
Though also thin in consistency, Royal’s version gives off a strong, deeply tomato-heavy fragrance right out of the package. It’s flavorful as it is—mid-sweet, amply (but not overly) salty, and beautifully tangy. Also present is the aromatic note of oregano, which admittedly takes away from its tasting like a specifically Filipino-style sauce, but keeps the sauce from tasting cloying and brings out the tomato notes beautifully. Though a peculiar, oddly milky yet starchy aftertaste appears in its raw state, it happily dissipates as the sauce is cooked over the stove.
Sweetness: 3/5 | Acidity: 3/5 | Saltiness: 3/5
The darkest-colored sauce of the lot, UFC holds a thick, spoonable consistency that’s just a notch below that of ketchup. You also get an appetizing tomato-y aroma on this brand, complimented by a mild umami, parmesan cheese-like note. Deeply tomato-y in flavor, it just about crosses the border between being mid-sweet and very sweet, but nonetheless comes with a clear tanginess and just enough saltiness that the overall taste still feels balanced. This sauce especially stands out not only with the oregano and/or basil-like herbiness present, but also for the added zestiness from what seems to be bell peppers in the mix before it ending with a peppery finish.
Sweetness: 3.5/5 | Acidity: 3.5/5 | Saltiness: 3/5
The Verdict: UFC
Though each sauce carries its own distinctive taste, it’s UFC’s version that hits the spot for us with the way it juggles a relatively complex flavor profile with a comforting, spot-on level of sweetness. Clara Ole’s version stands out as well, albeit for a different reason—though short on sweetness, its meaty, umami take shines bright in its own right. Sweet spaghetti haters (the author admittedly included) can take comfort in Royal’s herbier, zestier, just-sweet enough take.