Every Single Canned Tomato Product You Need in Your Pantry (and How to Use Them)

·5 min read

Courtesy Mutti

Are canned and preserved tomato products from Italy that much better than their U.S. counterparts? I've always felt that way, but a recent trip to Italy where I got to witness tomato production up close showed me why.

It's all about commitment to process. Take this example: canned, whole peeled tomatoes in juice. In Italy it is a mere 6 hours from a tomato hanging on the vine in the field to being in its can, with no adulterants, additives, or preservatives. As Lino Cutolo, the president of the family-owned Ciao company said during a tour I took, "We have one job, get the peel off the tomatoes." They use a five-step heating and three-step cooling process to ensure that the tomato in the can tastes as close to the vine-ripened one you grow yourself.

Do you have to go to Italy to enjoy that devotion to detail and flavor? Nope! Italian brands of canned tomato products are in most grocery stores now—just look for labels that say "Product of Italy" and have a DOP designation, which attests to the origin.

Ready to stock your pantry with life-changing canned tomato products from Italy like I do? Start with your regular shopping list go-tos: crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and paste. Check! But there's more kinds of Italian canned tomato products that will fill out your pantry and your fall and winter cooking sing. Here are the 9 canned tomato products to stock up on now:

Whole Peeled San Marzano Tomatoes

The undisputed king of canned tomatoes, these authentic DOP San Marzanos are extra-special. Ciao ups the ante on their usual processing to handle these delicate beauties, to ensure that the tomatoes stay perfect through the process. It takes a whole-factory switch-over to handle them and they only process them once a week or so. Because they are whole, packed in juice, you have the most flexibility with these. If your recipe calls for crushed or diced tomatoes, start with these for a flavor that will make the small amount of extra effort worth it.

Buy it: Ciao San Marzano DOP Whole Peeled Tomatoes ($100.87 for 12 pack), amazon.com

Whole Peeled Yellow Plum Tomatoes

For a whole different flavor profile, try yellow tomatoes! Slightly sweeter with a bit less acidity than their red counterparts, but also that sunny color, they can be used in any recipe that calls for red tomatoes interchangeably. I love to use them for tomato soup or as an unusual sauce for pizza.

Buy it: La Valle Italian Peeled Yellow Plum Tomatoes in Tomato Puree ($19.43 for 3 pack), amazon.com

Passata

Unlike tomato sauce, which is typical in American stores and recipes, the Italians use passata, a rich thick puree that is one of my favorite ingredients. You are just seasoning away from everything from tomato soup and marinara to eggplant parmigiana with this amazing product. With a deep tomato flavor, passata works in any recipe that calls for crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce and reduces the need for long cooking.

Buy it: Mutti Passata ($33.90 for 6 pack), amazon.com

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Tomato Paste

I hate opening those little 4-ounce cans of tomato paste when I only need a tablespoon or so for a recipe. Italian pastes come in handy tubes, like toothpaste, so you can give a squeeze whenever you need it. Even better, they make both double and triple concentrated versions, so you use less but still get intense tomato flavor.

Buy it: Mutti Triple Concentrated Tomato Paste ($11.82 for 2 pack), amazon.com

Related: Thought You Couldn't Make Gnocchi? Think Again.

Semi-dried Cherry Tomatoes in Oil

Many sun-dried tomatoes that you buy here can be tough and chewy, or leathery. The Italians make both fully dried tomatoes and these supple, succulent semi-dried, which are wonderful additions to everything from pasta sauces to salads. A great ingredient to keep in your larder.

Buy it: Frantoi Cutrera Semi-Dried Cherry Tomatoes in Extra Virgin Olive Oil ($20.12 for 2 pack), amazon.com

Canned Cherry Tomatoes

I don't know why these aren't more readily available, but a can of cherry tomatoes is the start to so many amazing dishes I can't even enumerate them here. Use them in that viral feta pasta, as an instant burst-tomato pomodoro sauce, or just do what I do: Crush them lightly and use as sauce on homemade pizza or tomato focaccia.

Buy it: Framore Canned Whole Cherry Tomatoes in Puree ($19.99 for 6 pack), amazon.com

Yellow Tomato Ketchup

I'm a Heinz girl first and foremost, but I admit I now have a soft spot for this sweet condiment from Così Com'è. With a clean bright tomato flavor and natural sweetness, it is a French fry's best new pal.

Buy it: Così Com'è Yellow Tomato Ketchup ($8.99), gustoitalianous.com

Concentrated Sauces

Talk about a dream team! This package of four concentrated tomato sauces in easy-to-handle tubes from Mutti begins with double and triple concentrated tomato sauces for cooking, which are always convenient and space saving. The Le Verdurine tomato sauce is enriched with onion and celery, making it a built-in shortcut to sauces. Finally, the Salsí sauce is designed for use right out of the tube for spreading on sandwiches or other applications—no cooking needed. If you have ever made "pizza" on English muffins or bagels with tomato paste, you'll never look back.

Buy it: Mutti Concentrated Sauces ($21 for 4 pack), amazon.com

Chicken Tomato Bouillon

Okay, this isn't Italian, but it's one of my pantry secret weapons, so I'm sharing it here. If you love soups and stews, keep this bouillon on hand. Just add boiling water for a warming afternoon cup that is so much more satisfying than coffee or tea or add to dishes while you are cooking for great tomato flavor boosted with some umami from the chicken.

Buy it: Knorr Bouillon Chicken Tomato ($4.15), amazon.com