Ways to Enhance Affordable Canned Tomatoes

Canned tomatoes are a pantry staple. They not only have a longer shelf life than their fresh version, but they are also convenient and versatile. Use them to make a quick tomato sauce or one-skillet chicken cacciatore, as there are plenty of different types of canned tomatoes to meet your needs that range in taste and quality. The good news is if you don’t want to plop down your paycheck on a can of those beautiful and expensive certified Italian San Marzano tomatoes, expert Danny Freeman, author of “Danny Loves Pasta,” has an easy technique to improve the taste and texture of lower quality canned tomatoes. 

Freeman writes, “With less expensive canned tomatoes I will have to blend them before cooking in order to get a smooth sauce.” He further adds that “Lower-quality tomatoes may also taste more acidic and less sweet than more expensive brands; you can add a carrot or even a little sugar to your sauce to bring out the sweetness, although I will usually just let the tomatoes cook a little longer to develop the sweet flavor.”

Why Danny Freeman’s tips work

Roasted tomatoes on a dish

Adjusting the flavor of cheap canned tomatoes, as Danny Freeman suggests, is a good place to start when transforming them into something tasty. You’ve probably noticed that when you pop open an inexpensive can of these red fruits, they are generally bathing in watery juices that are not always flavorful and can even taste a bit sour. Adding a teaspoon of sugar per pint of tomatoes will help bring out the natural sweetness of the tomatoes while tempering any acidic taste. If you prefer not to use sugar, a little carrot — as Freeman notes — will work as well, as it absorbs the acidity of the tomatoes and imparts some of their sweetness to whatever you are making. 

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Freeman further notes, “One issue with less expensive tomatoes is that they can be quite firm and don’t break up as well when you’re making a sauce.” Blending canned tomatoes is the perfect method to change their tough texture into something a little smoother that will continue to break down as it cooks and simmers on the stove. This added step will not take long, but could make all the difference in your next pizza sauce or marinara.

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