No More Dolmio Days

by Clare Fairs, April 20, 2018

Say arrivederci to unhealthy jars with our simple homemade pasta sauces.

A couple of years ago, the firm behind Dolmio admitted their sauces were too unhealthy to be eaten more than occasionally. But don’t despair – it’s easier than you might think to whip up healthy homemade sauces. 

If you love pasta with a jar of sauce for a speedy midweek dinner, you may be unaware just how much sugar and salt has been added at the factory. You’d never add six cubes of sugar or ten pinches of salt to a saucepan if you were making your own Bolognese yet this is what Mars Food puts into every jar of Dolmio that rattles off the production line. 

The big brands compared 

Dolmio aren’t the only culprits. A third of a jar of Ragu’s Bolognese sauce contains over eight grams of sugar – more than 50% of the daily recommended maximum intake of sugar for a child aged 4 – 6-year. Tesco’s own brand Tomato and Basil Sauce for Meatballs isn’t far behind with seven grams of sugar per 125g serving, while the same amount of Napolina Tomato Pasta sauce contains 7.25 g. 

Meanwhile, the worst offenders for high levels of salt were the pesto producers, with the UK’s best-selling brand, Sacla, identified as the one of the unhealthiest by the campaign group Consensus Action on Salt and Health last year. A quarter of a jar of Sacla’s Classic Basil Pesto contains 1.57 g of salt, which is more than half the recommended daily intake for 4—6 year olds. This makes it a staggering 30% saltier than seawater!

Most varieties of commercial pesto are also high in saturated fats. Almost half (44%) of the pestos surveyed by Consensus Action on Salt and Health would receive a red label for saturates on their packs if they opted into the scheme (which, unsurprisingly, many don’t). 

Modified maize starch and other artificial ingredients lurk in many jars too, giving us further cause to seek out fresher and tastier options. 

Eat like an Italian 

An Italian who needs to get a meal on the table pronto doesn’t reach into the cupboard for a jar of sauce because he or she knows at least half a dozen simple recipes that can be made in about the same time it takes to boil water and cook pasta. If you can master a few simple recipes, then you too can eat like an Italian!

Classic tomato spaghetti

Get started with a classic tomato spaghetti, to which you can add mushrooms, olives, courgettes – or any vegetables you like. 

Simply soften one small chopped onion in Hillfarm cold pressed rapeseed oil on a medium heat. Once translucent, add two crushed garlic gloves for a couple of minutes before adding two 400g tins of tomatoes and a tablespoon of red wine or balsamic vinegar. Season with a small pinch of salt and pepper then allow to cook for around 15 minutes. Stir in plenty of chopped fresh basil and turn the heat to low while you cook your spaghetti. Serve with finely grated parmesan. Hey presto! 

Store cupboard pasta sauce

Not got any fresh basil? Try our store cupboard pasta sauce recipe. Start by lightly frying three cloves of crushed garlic, a pinch of chilli flakes and a 50g tin of anchovies until soft then add a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, two tablespoons of capers, one tin of tomatoes and some black olives. Allow to simmer for around 20 minutes. 

Spaghetti aglio e olio

Our extra virgin rapeseed oil makes a great spaghetti aglio e oilio – the ultimate Italian fast food. While your spaghetti is cooking, add about four tablespoons of Hillfarm oil to a pan on a low heat with a pinch of chilli flakes, two cloves of crushed garlic and three tablespoons of freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley. Cook until the garlic is golden then toss in the drained spaghetti.  

Macaroni cheese 

For cheesy pasta with less saturated fat, you can’t go wrong with our butter-free cheese sauce recipe. Double or triple the recipe to stock up your freezer for quick family meals in a hurry. 


Cut the saturated fat and salt content of pesto by making your own. For a classic pesto, start by blending about 50 grams of parmesan and two crushed cloves of garlic in a food processor.  Add a large bunch of basil and blend again before adding about 75 grams of pine nuts. Measure out 150ml of cold pressed rapeseed oil then add this a little at a time, blending in between, until you have a delicious fragrant paste.  

Once you’ve mastered a classic pesto, you can start experimenting with different ingredients. Looking for inspiration? Why not try our recipe for wild garlic pesto? 

Buon appetito!




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