My grocery store has one whole aisle dedicated to different types of canned tomatoes and tomato-based sauces. There are just so many choices, it can be immobilizing! Hopefully I can help demystify just a few of the choices.
Pizza sauce has a consistency similar to ketchup, but has a lot more Italian spices added to it. The “squirt bottle” in this photo can be stored after opening, in the refrigerator, for up to four weeks. That’s great if you are making single servings of things like English Muffin Pizzas, and only use a little at a time.
Salsa has chunky bits of vegetables/fruit in it, some varieties being chunkier than others. Salsa can also be purchased with different levels of “heat”. Check the label. It will tell you if it’s mild, medium, or hot.
Using Canned Tomatoes
It wasn’t until I started making my own spaghetti sauce that I realized there was a huge difference in taste between home-made and store-bought spaghetti sauce. You really will impress your guests if you make your own. They will be able to tell.
There are a lot of different canned tomatoes to choose from. Whole tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and tomato sauce and tomato paste, are just four of the main types of tomatoes you can get in a can.
One more thing…not all brands taste the same! If a particular brand tastes too acidic or too sweet, try another brand! (For a review of different brands of canned tomatoes, click here.)
(Tomato puree is another form of tomatoes you can buy in a can. They are not in the photo because I didn’t have any in the cupboard when I wrote this post!)
Marinara Sauce Ingredients
Crushed tomatoes (or diced tomatoes) are the whole tomato cut up. Sometimes extra juice has been added to the can. They too are used for sauces, soups, and stews. Your recipe will indicate which to buy. The tastes are very similar, it’s the texture that is clearly different.
Turkey Sausage Sauce Ingredients: Including Tomato Paste and Crushed Tomatoes
Tomato puree and tomato sauce have been cooked and strained. Puree is thicker than tomato sauce. I drew my finger through the tomato sauce on the dish in the picture below just to give you a sense of how thick it is. Use this for seasoning, flavor, and/or as a base for other sauces.
Tomato paste is made from tomatoes that have been cooked for several hours and then strained. It is used to intensify the tomato flavor in anything that it is added to.
You can buy it in a can or a tube. This tube says “double concentrate” which means it has an even stronger flavor than regular tomato paste.
The tube of tomato paste can cost at least 3 times more than a can of tomato paste. You can store the tube in the refrigerator for quite some time. That’s the advantage of the added cost.
Personally, I don’t think it’s worth spending the extra money. If you do have leftover tomato paste you can freeze it for future use. You can slide all the leftovers out of the can by opening both ends with a can opener and then pushing the paste through. Wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze the “log” of tomato paste.
It doesn’t freeze rock-solid, so you can just slice off the requisite amount of tomato paste as you need it.
Or, you can put dollops of pre-measured tablespoons of the paste on some plastic wrap.
Once they have frozen, stick the individual tablespoons of paste in a baggie and freeze for your next cooking adventure!
I hope this has helped to demystify at least some of the canned tomatoes and sauces at the grocery store.
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