Canned tomatoes are certainly a product that cannot be missing in a pantry. For Italian cuisine they are absolutely essential, how else can you prepare a plate of pasta with sauce or a margherita pizza? They are not very expensive therefore it is good to choose the highest quality to get the best result. Tomatoes are generally picked at their peak and processed in the can quickly, normally within hours of harvest. The most famous and tasty tomatoes are San Marzano, but be careful when buying them, always make sure they are San Marzano DOP and not San Marzano-style. We can find them in different shapes and packages, we only have to choose what better suits our needs and taste.
Pelati, or peeled tomatoes, are whole tomatoes canned in either juice or puree. They are perfect for a long slow-cooking recipe, that gives them the time to break and become soft and creamy. They are also perfect for creating tomato fillets to be used in faster recipes, or they can be passed to prepare a sauce, thus eliminating the seeds and peel residues that many people do not like, especially children. It is therefore a truly versatile product, so if you do not want to fill your pantry with different qualities of tomatoes, I recommend buying peeled tomatoes and also keeping a vegetable mill in your kitchen.
Diced or crushed tomatoes
Diced or crushed tomatoes are packed in tomato juice or puree, and in the first case they are waterier. Check the label to see if there are some thickeners, in this case the percentage of tomatoes will be lower and will also impact the flavour. However, if the quality is good, they are convenient for quick recipes such as puttanesca sauce, as they remain chunkier and less cooked-tasting than a sauce.
Passata is an uncooked and filtered tomato puree that does not contain peel or seeds. It is usually sold in glass or carton. It’s smoother, thicker and deeper in flavour than crushed tomatoes and it’s probably the sweetest packaged tomato products that you can find in the supermarket. It’s my favourite product for making a simple sauce, Bolognese sauce, or for a good margherita pizza. You can also find purees already flavoured with basil, oregano, garlic or chilli, but do you really need them? With a simple tomato puree you can easily add your aromas and obtain a sauce that best suits your tastes.
Double concentrate tomato puree
The double tomato concentrate is obtained by cooking the tomatoes for a long time until they are reduced to a dense paste, rich in flavour. The most common packaging is the squeezable tube, and it is perfect to enhance the flavour of a dish (for example I add some in vegetable soups or meat stews).
Cherry tomatoes deserve a separate discussion. They are sweet, ripe, tender, and are preserved in a rich tomato juice. You can use them as they are and can be cooked very quick to get the most of their flavor out. I always have a few cans of cherry tomatoes in the pantry, and they really are a lifesaver. While you are cooking pasta, just put a little oil and garlic in a large pan, add a can of cherry tomatoes and a pinch of salt. Once cooked, put the pasta in the pan with the sauce, add a little grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese and enjoy a dish that tastes of summer, in a perfect Amalfi style. The double tomato concentrate is obtained by cooking the tomatoes for a long time until they are reduced to a dense paste, rich in flavour. The most common packaging is the squeezable tube, and it is perfect to enhance the flavour of a dish (For example I add some in vegetable soups or meat stews).
My favorite canned tomatoes and where you can find them:
- Mutti Passata Gastronomia Baby Roma Tomatoes (Waitrose)
- Mutti Passata Gastronomia with Cherry Tomatoes (Waitrose)
- Tesco Organic Italian Passata (Tesco)
- Tarantella organic tomato passata (ASDA)
- Mutti peeled tomatoes (Waitrose)
- Cirio peeled tomatoes (Waitrose; Tesco)
- Tarantella organic chopped tomatoes (ASDA)
- Morrison organic chopped tomatoes (Morrison)
- Tesco Cherry Tomatoes in rich tomato sauce (Tesco)
- Mutti Cherry Tomatoes (Waitrose)
- Cirio tomato puree double concentrate (Waitrose)
- Tarantella organic tomato puree (ASDA)