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How do I pick the right jarred/canned tomatoes to keep in my pantry?


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There’s no doubt our tomato aisle can be overwhelming to the home cook but one of the most asked questions to our grocery team is “How do you decide?”

Here are some quick tips that will help you pick the right product for your mealtime needs:

Tomato Paste

Thick in consistency and the most concentrated in flavour of all tomato products. The meaty, umami flavours a paste imparts adds a richness to stews and braises that is best when it’s added to aromatics – then “cooked out” meaning the bright red color transforms into a deep, rich, dark brown (almost burnt looking) clumps. This is your cue to add liquid – stock or wine – then protein to create a cozy pot of comfort to cook at low temperature for a long time. 

Passata (bottled tomatoes)

Passata is pureed, strained tomatoes (aka: tomato puree) with no added flavours (although some may have added salt) and acts as the base of most smooth tomato sauces. It’s pasteurized so, technically – cooked twice. The first time the tomatoes are boiled so the skin is easily removed then a second time after seeding and pureeing – to properly seal and sterilize the jars. This results in a very concentrated tomato flavour so takes no time to infuse it with fresh ingredients for a quick and easy weekday meal. This is our preferred tomato product for braising our fresh meatballs! 

Whole Canned Tomatoes

Hands-down the most versatile of any tomato products on our shelves – with a little time and elbow grease, whole tomatoes can be transformed into diced, crushed and pureed tomatoes for any recipe, any time. At our house, Nonna likes whole tomatoes and she uses her hands (no spoons!!!) to give each one a squeeze so her sunday sauce is both chunky and saucy at the same time. If you are making a stewing sauce that needs to be cooked down for a long time whole tomatoes are best to maintain the integrity of that texture.

One last tidbit: Some tomato products are already seasoned or have aromatics added. A great example is MENU Pomodorino – a sauce we carry exclusively which has developed a cult-like following. The magic secret to this sauce is all of the ingredients are placed in the cans raw – then pressure cooked so all the flavours stay in the can. 

Read more great food content on Italian Centre’s Blog


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