What kind of canned tomatoes do you trust for sauce?

NailBat

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In the recent spaghetti sauce thread, the topic of canned tomatoes came up, and I think that's worthy of its own discussion.

I think everyone would agree that if you're able to use in-season tomatoes, you should. But tomatoes are only in season for a few months of the year, if you can get them at all. So for the rest of the year, canned tomatoes are the way to go.

You'll hear time and time again, "Use San Marzano tomatoes!". I say that too. However, if you do some research, you'll find not everyone is convinced, and even the DOP Certified San Marzano tomatoes often fare poorly in taste tests. Personally, I don't believe in taste tests. Asking a focus group to tell me what tomatoes are best is like asking a focus group to tell me what kind of music I should listen to. There's way too many factors for me to trust anything but my own opinion.

What I've personally found is that imported San Marzano tomatoes are reliable. I have never come across a brand of SM tomatoes that was not high quality. Meanwhile, other brands are all over the place. Some are great, some are awful. However even for the good tasting (and often taste test winning) non-SM varieties, there is one thing that ruins them for me: calcium chloride. This is added to canned tomatoes to make them more firm, but it utterly ruins the texture for me. If you read the label on your canned tomato, you'll find this pesky chemical is almost everywhere: except the San Marzanos. While you're reading that label, you'll also find tons of sodium in a lot of brands too, while the San Marzano brands tend to be very low.

Where I do go against the grain though, is that I don't think a DOP certification is absolutely essential. The certification process is lengthy and expensive and not all brands will want to go through the process. I remember a long time ago, the Cento brand was fully DOP certified. Then they stopped, and the reason is they didn't want to pay all the costs associated with certification. Sure, that could, in theory, mean the quality could slip. However I think the brand is still just as good today.

A totally different option than canned tomatoes is passata, which you'll often find in glass jars instead of cans. I like the Mutti brand, which is good because it's pretty much all I can find. Passata is not a direct replacement for canned whole peeled tomatoes, but when I just need a tomato element as part of a larger whole, I'll often reach for this stuff. It's definitely much better than most other things you'll see marketed as "Tomato Puree" or "Tomato Sauce".
 

Morning Glory

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Well, I often buy the cheapest tinned tomatoes here in the UK. Most come from and are canned in Italy and in general are very good quality. I think maybe its different in the US? The DOP designation doesn't mean much to me...

The tinned tomatoes I most often use are these which are about 45p per can (60 cents?).

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TastyReuben

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I'm not committed to one brand or style. I use Cento a lot, and Muir Glen, but I'll also grab Red Gold or Hunts or any of the other big national brands in a pinch.
 

NailBat

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Well, I often buy the cheapest tinned tomatoes here in the UK. Most come from and are canned in Italy and in general are very good quality. I think maybe its different in the US? The DOP designation doesn't mean much to me...

The tinned tomatoes I most often use are these which are about 45p per can (60 cents?).
It must be very different for you, because the absolute cheapest canned tomatoes you'll find here are at least two or three times as expensive, and not very good.
 

TastyReuben

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It must be very different for you, because the absolute cheapest canned tomatoes you'll find here are at least two or three times as expensive, and not very good.
15oz Red Gold tomatoes here are 99c a can.
 

caseydog

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It is funny that San Marzano Tomatoes are considered the "standard," since Italy had no tomatoes until the explorers found them in America. Or course, it is the rare volcanic soil of the San Marzano region that makes them so good, and soil is where it is.

"Before Christopher Columbus landed in the New World in 1492, the Italians made their lasagna with beets. The Swiss had no chocolate, the Chinese no peppers and the Irish no potatoes. (Columbus also paved the way for other staples to make their way back to Old World tables, including beans, turkey, vanilla, peanuts and strawberries.)" -- LA Times

I use the Cento brand, because it is the most common brand here. I haven't noticed any difference since they dropped the D.O.P. certification.

CD
 

Morning Glory

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It must be very different for you, because the absolute cheapest canned tomatoes you'll find here are at least two or three times as expensive, and not very good.

I think its because we are much nearer to Italy so virtually all the tinned tomatoes are grown there (and canned there) and imported into the UK.
 
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garlichead

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To me these are the best ones.
Mutti (Emilia Romagna)
Casar (Sardinia)
Petti (Tuscany)
Agromonte (Sicily)

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At home I use Mutti. San Marzano are good for sure but there's lots of good canned tomatoes. Most canned Marzano tomatoes aren't real DOP anyway. There's just not enough growing area to supply the world with the actual real thing. At least that's what a chef told me years ago and he was Italian, living in Toronto and I had no reason to not believe him. You can buy seed and grow san marzano tomatoes anywhere in the world.
 
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MypinchofItaly

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At home I use Mutti. San Marzano are good for sure but there's lots of good canned tomatoes. Most canned Marzano tomatoes aren't real DOP anyway. There's just not enough growing area to supply the world with the actual real thing. At least that's what a chef told me years ago and he was Italian, living in Toronto and I had no reason to not believe him. You can buy seed and grow san marzano tomatoes anywhere in the world.

Yes, you can buy San Marzano tomato seeds and grow them anywhere also with satisfactory results, but they will never be the same as those grown in their place of origin. The soil, the wind, the sun, the ability to grow them.
I think this concept applies to all native products (not only Italians, obviously)
 

MypinchofItaly

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Mutti and Petti are the most common ones here too, which I use.

Ah good.
Mutti doesn't surprise me much that it is so used abroad, whereas Petti does! I'm pleased about that.
Maybe Casar and Agromonte are still better known within our Italian borders rather than outside, I hope they will both become known because they are two great products (especially Sardinian Casar, haha..no no, I'm not biased at all)
 

Windigo

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Ah good.
Mutti doesn't surprise me much that it is so used abroad, whereas Petti does! I'm pleased about that.
Maybe Casar and Agromonte are still better known within our Italian borders rather than outside, I hope they will both become known because they are two great products (especially Sardinian Casar, haha..no no, I'm not biased at all)
Petti is actually the one I have most often, I just used my last one yesterday lol else I could take a pic. Will do when I get them.
 
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