When you begin scrutinizing food labels for potential allergens, you never know what you're getting in for. Because current FDA laws only require actual ingredients to be listed, cross contact info sometimes makes it to the label, and sometimes it doesn't. Calling the company and doing some "food detecting" may be in order. The information you uncover (or don't uncover) will likely have an impact on what brand you toss in your shopping cart.
No matter what type of prepared food I buy, I like to see what else is offered by that brand, in a similar product. For example if I see jarred pesto sauce (may contain nuts) sitting next to red sauce, I may not buy that brand before placing a call to the company to check for cross-contact concerns.
As someone who likes to cook sauce from scratch (I find it relaxing to make sauce, don't know why but I do), it's rare that I buy pasta sauce these days. However, some nights that's all us busy families have time for and there are some really good-tasting prepared sauces out there.
Some readers have written to me about Ragu pasta sauce and apparently there was some concern it may contain tree nuts due to a few jars with this warning. I have contacted Ragu (as have many readers) and they assured all of us that their labels would reflect cross-contact concerns and that the plain sauce is safe unless otherwise marked. However, please contact them if you have further questions. We all know how quickly things can change.
I put the pasta sauce question to my Twitter followers who deal with peanut and tree nut allergies. Some of you liked Muir Glen and Gia Russa brands, while others went with Emeril's Organic brand.
At the supermarket the other day, I saw that Prego, Barilla, Amy's Organic, Classico, Bertolli and Mezzeta did not carry nut allergy warnings, along with the other brands we've listed already. If you use these brands, have you ever called the companies and what have they said? Let us know!
Besides being fresher-tasting, a homemade sauce is a great option because we know exactly what goes into it.
Here's my recipe for my favorite pasta sauce. It does contain organic beef; if you want to go meatless, this recipe is still good. :) Just be sure to add plenty of fresh parsley and basil. Also, as with any pasta sauce, the longer you simmer this, the better it gets. It's even better the next day. My family loves this recipe! Try it out this Valentine's Day. They'll think you're amazing.
Nut-Free Mom's Super-Quick Bolognese Sauce
1 lb. ground beef (I use Laura's Organic ground round)
A couple tablespoons olive oil
Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
4 cloves of minced garlic
1/2 tsp (or less if you like less heat) red pepper flakes
1/2 medium yellow onion
1 cup low-sodium beef broth (I use Swanson's organic beef broth or stock)
1/3 cup red wine; alternatively, use orange juice
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes (I use Hunt's Natural)
1 tablespoon tomato paste (I use Hunt's)
About 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley or to taste
1/4 cup shredded basil or a couple tsp dried
1 tsp dried oregano
Heat olive oil in pan and add beef. Season meat with black pepper and brown in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, crushed red pepper and oregano. While this is cooking, grate onion into meat mixture using a hand grater. Cook a few minutes to soften the onion, then add broth and wine or OJ. Stir pan and deglaze, incorporating any browned bits from bottom of pan. Add tomatoes and half the parsley and basil. Stir again, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes. (You can do this while you boil water and cook pasta). Right before serving, sprinkle with rest of parsley and basil. Serve with your favorite pasta.