The best canned tomatoes
There is no argument that canned tomatoes are a pantry staple. With a couple of cans you can cook recipes from around the globe. From Italian-style pasta sauces and ragus, through to Indian curries, to Tex-Mex favourites, or simple soups and sides.
Whatever you cook, the quality of your tinned tomatoes makes a big impact. The better the quality, the higher the tomato content, and the richer and more flavoursome your food will be. Read on to find out how to choose tinned tomatoes that are the best quality. Once you know which tinned tomatoes to buy, find out how to store any leftover canned tomatoes or tomato paste.
Canned whole tomatoes
Whole canned tomatoes are usually the highest quality variety of canned tomatoes. Whole tomatoes are peeled and canned in either juice or puree, so they retain more of their natural sweetness and are far less watery. If you only have one type of tinned tomatoes in your pantry, buy the whole peeled tomatoes.
Whole tomatoes are ideal for long slow-cooking recipes, which provides time for the tomatoes to break down into the sauce.
For recipes with shorter cook times, whole tomatoes can be broken up with a wooden spoon or blitzed in a food processor to produce a puree.
Top tip: If you notice a slight metallic taste when cooking with any tinned tomatoes, this is the result of a reaction between the tomatoes and the lining of the tin. Give a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Diced tinned tomatoes
Diced tomatoes are generally chunks of tomato packed in tomato juice. Diced tomatoes in a tin can tend to be more watery. Experimenting with different brands will reveal which cans are more or less watery, so you can find a brand that you like and stick to it.
Good quality diced tomatoes are an excellent timesaver and perfect for recipes with shorter cooking times as they are already partially broken down.
The Huevos Rancherros below uses diced tomatoes as it only cooks for about 10 minutes.
Crushed tinned tomatoes
What’s the difference between diced tomatoes and crushed tomatoes? Crushed tomatoes are a mixture of tomato chunks and tomato puree or paste, whereas diced tomatoes are packed in juice. Crushed tomatoes may contain thickeners, which indicates less tomato content. Check the labels before buying.
Crushed tomatoes are particularly useful for quick sauces where the tomatoes do not have time to break down.
Flavoured tinned tomatoes
Flavoured canned tomatoes are now available in your supermarkets. They combine tomatoes with the classic flavours of garlic and basil or oregano. This ingenious idea reduces the number of ingredients needed to enhance flavour in a recipe.
What is tomato passata?
Passata is uncooked, strained tomato puree that contains no skin or seeds. It is usually sold in glass bottles, but is also available in cans. It is made from the freshest, highest-quality tomatoes, making it the sweetest of all the available packaged tomato products available in the supermarket.
Passata is perfect to get those rich tomato flavours quickly into stews and sauces. It’s also great as a base for pizzas and melts, such as on the Margherita Pizza below.
Tomato paste (sometimes called tomato puree in other countries)
Tomato paste is made from tomatoes that have been long-cooked and reduced. This turns it into a thick, fairly dry paste. Tomato paste can be purchased in various sizes from single serve pots to large 500g jars. The most versatile are the squeezable tubes available through delis and grocers, as you can squeeze what you need and easily store the rest in the tube.
The flavour is much more intense than passata or tinned tomato and best used to enrich and deepen the flavour of a dish, rather than as a base ingredient for a sauce.
Discover great recipes with canned tomatoes below, or find out the best way to store leftover canned tomatoes here.