What to do with tinned tomatoes
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One of the most unassuming and versatile ingredients in our cupboards, tinned tomatoes are the base for so many delicious meals – from curries to lasagnes and loads in between.
But does it matter which type you buy? What’s the difference between chopped and whole tomatoes, and when should you buy passata instead of purée? Here, we’ll show you the best uses for different types of tomato and share our favourite tomato-based recipes.
WHICH TIN SHOULD I BUY?
Ranging in price from 31p to £1.29, there’s often a lot of choice in the tinned tomato aisle. In general, it’s safe to say that you get what you pay for. The better quality your tomatoes, the richer and more flavourful your sauce. When you taste premium and budget varieties side by side, you can definitely notice the difference in flavour. You can improve the quality of your sauce 10 times over by choosing a good brand of tinned toms!
PLUM VS CHOPPED TOMATOES
Where possible, we would always go for plum tomatoes. Whole tomatoes tend to be less processed than chopped ones – which means they have a fresher flavour and keep more of their natural sweetness. Chopped tomatoes also release more water (or can even have water added, if they are very cheap) – so we think that plum tomatoes give you more flesh and far more flavour for your money.
You can break up plum tomatoes in the pan, using the back of a wooden spoon, to achieve a similar texture to chopped if that’s what the recipe calls for. Trade up to organic and Italian varieties when you can, for really top-notch quality. Plus, it’s good to remember that you can freeze tinned tomatoes (and passata) in a bag if you don’t use the whole tin at once.
After we’ve tipped the tomatoes into our recipe, we often use a little water to rinse the tin, then add this to the recipe as well. That way, you get everything out of the can, and you can let the water reduce a bit in your sauce, which will add even more flavour.
Passata is a smooth, sieved tomato sauce. It’s useful for getting rich flavour into recipes, quickly. It also works brilliantly on pizza bases, as well as in sauces. The tomatoes used in passata are usually fresh, and are sieved to remove seeds and skin, although you can also buy chunkier versions. If the seeds are left in it can make the passata taste sharper, and not so full in flavour.
Although passata is often made from broken tomatoes, the high-quality brands should still have lots of sweetness. If you want to achieve a really authentic Italian result, make your own passata by pressing, sieving and bottling fresh plum tomatoes yourself.
Tomato purée is made from cooked and reduced tomatoes – which makes it far thicker and more dry than passata. Its taste is also much more intense than passata, so use it as a flavour enhancer, rather than a base ingredient for a sauce.
Purée is particularly good for making curry bases – once you’ve toasted your spices it’s a great way to bind them all together into a paste before adding the other ingredients. Gennaro likes to use a spoonful of tomato purée and stock, rather than a tin of tomatoes, in his Bolognese ragù, so that the recipe isn’t too sweet. Find his recipe in Jamie’s Food Tube: The Pasta Book.
SEVEN TOP TOMATO RECIPES
Celebrate the versatility of tinned tomatoes with these super-vibrant and delicious recipes.
Pack in the flavour with olives, basil, capers and a couple of garlic cloves. This is such a simple sauce – perfectly crowned with a piece of soft flaky white fish.
A classic peasant recipe from Tuscany, this soup elevates stale bread and tinned tomatoes to something wonderful!
Simmered tinned tomatoes go brilliantly with the flavours of bacon, fennel, garlic and basil in this hearty soup.
Tomato sugo (sauce) is a brilliant base for mini meatballs. The rich base soaks up masses of flavour – mop it up with chunks of fresh bread.
Sweet and sour curry packed with a rainbow of veg, fresh chilli, coriander and ginger. Mix things up with whichever veg you prefer.
Meatloaf baked in tomato sauce retains its juiciness and adds incredible depth to the whole pot. Simply pop in a casserole dish and let the oven work it’s magic.
Jam-packed with nutritious veg, this sauce has to be one of the easiest ways to get extra veg into our diet, as well as all sorts of brilliant micronutrients.
For more family-friendly recipes using healthy store-cupboard ingredients, check out our Family Food hub. You can also learn all about tomatoes, including how to store them and what their nutritional benefits are, at the Vegepedia.
11 Ways to Use Canned Tomatoes That Don't Include Spaghetti Sauce
Canned tomatoes are one of those ingredients I can never figure out how to use. Because they're affordable and nutritionally equivalent to fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes, I always have at least one can in my pantry. But when it comes time to cook with them, pasta sauce is the only recipe that springs to mind. I like pasta sauce as much as the next girl, but it's going to get boring if it's the only thing I'm making with my canned tomatoes.
There are different kinds of canned tomatoes: Canned tomato sauce is a smooth puree, diced tomatoes are chopped up and swimming in thin tomato juice, crushed tomatoes are like a super chunky sauce, and whole tomatoes are peeled tomatoes in juice. While you can sort of substitute some types for others in a pinch—chop up whole tomatoes to use as diced tomatoes, or used crushed tomatoes instead of tomato sauce for a chunkier consistency—it's much easier to just use exactly what the recipe calls for. No matter what type of canned tomato you're buying, opt for cans with little to no salt added, so that you can season to taste.
Not sure where to start? These 11 recipes are here to help. While you can't use canned tomatoes in all the ways you might use a fresh tomato, you'll be surprised at how versatile they can be. From sandwiches to chili to salsa, there's bound to be an idea here that you love.
7 healthy, easy recipes with canned tomatoes
1. CLASSIC TOMATO SOUP
Puree your canned tomatoes with vegetable broth and a few key spices and you have a creamy bowl of classic tomato soup. Pair with one of these healthy grilled cheeses and you have the perfect comforting meal.
Photo: Budget Bytes
2. SAUTEED CORN AND TOMATOES
This side dish comes together in a mere five minutes. Simply pair your tomatoes with canned corn, sauteeing them with butter, salt, pepper, garlic, and basil. Serve it alongside the protein of your choice.
Photo: Tori Avey
This Middle Eastern-inspired meal is a delicious option for breakfast *or* dinner. Add your canned tomatoes to a skillet, add in warming spices, like paprika, chili powder, and cumin, then gently crack in a few eggs to cook in the sauce. Serve with toast&mdashyou’ll want it to soak up every last bit of that delicious tomato sauce.
Photo: Clean Eats Fast Feets
4. Copycat CHIPOTLE BURRITO BOWL
Tomatoes are just as much a staple for Mexican-inspired meals as they are for Italian ones. Here, they’re worked right into a protein-filled burrito bowl, made with brown rice, black beans, avocado, onion, and hot peppers.
Photo: The Wanderlust Kitchen
5. GREEK GIGANTES AND TOMATO STEW
Right along with canned tomatoes, canned beans are a pantry staple that can be used to get a healthy meal on the table within minutes. One bean you might be overlooking is gigantes, which are bigger in size than more common beans (like black beans and pinto beans), and packed with fiber and protein. This recipe pairs them with canned tomatoes to make a hearty stew, perfect for cozy nights inside.
Photo: One Green Planet
6. TOMATO AND KALE BREAD PUDDING
This dish is a little like a deconstructed bruschetta&mdashwith the addition of heaps of kale. The rustic meal makes the perfect lunch&mdashand is Mediterranean diet-approved, too.
7. VEGETARIAN BOLOGNESE SAUCE
Okay, so using canned tomatoes to make pasta sauce is normally a no-brainer, but I promise this is one sauce recipe you definitely haven’t tried. In the video above, registered dietitian Tanya Zuckerbrot, RD blends crushed tomatoes with an unexpected veggie: cauliflower. When cooked together, it makes a creamy, fiber-rich bolognese sauce. Genius, right? Watch the video to see how it’s done.
Here’s a great homemade pasta sauce recipe you can make using fresh tomatoes. The recipe calls for five pounds of fresh tomatoes, perfect for when you have too many tomatoes!
I could care less about including yucky winter tomatoes on my sandwiches, but when I’ve got too many tomatoes ripening in the summer, I can’t get enough. Add tomatoes to any sandwich for a burst of flavor, or simply slather some mayo and tomato slices between two pieces of fresh baked bread. Yum!
Try this Heirloom Tomato Sandwich for a yummy treat (hint: it uses avocado!).
Hearty Italian Sausage Soup
Mitch Mandel and Thomas MacDonald
What's needed: 1 can of diced tomatoes
While it sounds complicated in title, we assure you it is a deceptively simple recipe that will create a wonderfully soothing bowl of meat, vegetables, and pasta. You can load this one full of vegetables, doubling the amount used below, and end up with a chunky, sausage-strewn minestrone. And if you want to cut out the pasta all together, replace farfalle with your favorite brown rice or quinoa. Either way, this Italian sausage soup is hearty enough to work as dinner on its own.
Get our recipe for Hearty Italian Sausage Soup.
Make the most of canned tomatoes with these 7 recipes
Sometimes I shop for pantry staples willy-nilly, thinking, “Yes, this is a shelf stable item that I will definitely use at some point,” tucking the item into the back of the cupboard where it waits ever so patiently. Then, months later, I open the cabinet to discover that somehow that initial item has multiplied. One can of tomatoes becomes six, with no plan for use in sight.
If canned tomatoes lurk in your cabinet, you’re in luck. We have plenty of recipes that call for them and that will allow you to get dinner on the table fast. Here are some options to try.
Tomato-Braised Cauliflower, above. A 20-minute simmer lets aromatic garlic, onion and bay leaf infuse serious flavor into cauliflower florets mixed in with canned whole tomatoes. Serve this as a side, a sauce or even on toast.
Italian Sausage and Kalamata Olive Cast Iron Skillet Pizza. What better way to use up a can of tomatoes than pizza? You’ll want to drain excess liquid from a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes to ensure your pie remains crisp.
Polenta and Shrimp With Creamy Tomato Sauce. Shrimp and grits gets an Italian twist with tomatoey shrimp over top of polenta. Reach for a can of no-salt-added diced tomatoes, which allow you to salt to your liking.
Penne With Tomato Cream Sauce. You already know pasta and tomatoes are a perfect pairing. Grab a can of crushed tomatoes and stir together this creamy sauce to take a standard tomato sauce to the next level in the simplest way.
Baked Eggs With Sausage, Tomatoes and Mint. There’s plenty of eggs-poached-in-sauce variations, but adding an orange — yes, an orange! — to this sauce adds a layer of sweetness that plays with mint and merguez beautifully.
Wine-Braised Pot Roast. If you’re looking for melt-in-your-mouth centerpiece, look no further. The base for this braise is a can of whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by the back of a spoon, and just under a cup of red, red wine.
Simple Butter Chicken. Grab a can of tomato sauce and you’re that much closer to an easy butter chicken that will make your average weeknight dinner a smashing success.
9 Easy Canned Tomato Recipes
Canned tomatoes are a workhorse pantry staple that are ripe with potential. One can plus a handful of other ingredients might be all that’s standing between you and a flavorful dinner. Though canned tomatoes aren’t a substitute for fresh, they’re a shortcut to tomato-based sauces and braises, curries and stews, and soups and salsas. Affordable and accessible, canned tomatoes add depth, sweetness, and a tinge of acidity to vegetables, eggs, beans, cheese, meat, chicken, fish, shellfish, and all kinds of starches.
To learn more about what kinds of canned tomatoes are on the market, and which ones are worth keeping on hand, read our canned tomato guide. And, for those into doing it yourself, we’ve also got a guide to canning tomatoes at home.
Read on for nine great pantry-friendly recipes for canned tomatoes, from huevos rancheros to a 15-minute creamy tomato soup.
Whole, Peeled Tomatoes
These are probably my favorites among canned tomato options. Whole peeled tomatoes are minimally processed and don&apost require a lot of additives to maintain firmness. When shopping, seek out canned tomatoes with no added seasonings except salt this leaves the flavoring up to you.
ਊ quick spin in the food processor gives you a very fresh tasting sauce — smooth or chunky. An almost as quick squeeze through your fingers gives you a very rough, rustic sauce. I will also admit that, when pressed for time, I use scissors to cut them up, right in the can! And a small tip: These canned whole tomatoes are a bit like water balloons. They will spray juice if you aren&apost careful my kitchen, my face, and my clothes will attest to that.
The quality of canned tomatoes varies broadly. But, when you choose high-end options from good brands, you will find that they are sweet. Also, they will have a touch of acidity. The idea here is to choose the right tin for the best taste.
At times, canned tomatoes do not taste appealing straight out of the can. In this case, they tend to have a raw taste and they are watery as well. If you have unfortunately bought such a tin of tomatoes, you can do the following to enhance its taste:
- If you find that the tomatoes from the tin do not taste original, you can add pepper, salt, fresh jalapeno, pork, cumin, garlic, oregano or onion whichever you like. Make sure to add one or two of these ingredients to improve the taste of tomatoes from the tin.
- If you find that the tomatoes from the tin have a bitter taste, you will have to take steps to neutralize the acidity. To do this, baking soda can help. Add a pinch of baking soda to see whether the bitterness has reduced. If not, try adding some more. If the taste continues, you can add melted butter. This move will help for sure.
Instant Pot Chili
Kiersten Hickman/Eat This, Not That!
What's needed: 2 cans of tomato sauce, 2 cans of diced tomatoes and green chiles
This Instant Pot chili recipe was kept low carb by leaving beans out of it. Not only for those who are attempting a low-carb diet but for all of those bean haters who believe a can of black beans or kidney beans should never grace the holy presence of a pot of chili.
Get our recipe for Instant Pot Chili.