It's Totally Okay To Used Canned Ingredients In Homemade Tomato Sauce

The simplest way to make marinara may be to open a jar, but homemade tomato sauce usually tastes quite a bit better. Also, as developer Jaime Bachtell-Shelbert says of her recipe, "There is ... a satisfaction in knowing that you made this sauce rather than buying packaged." This satisfaction, she says, derives in large part from knowing that her "ingredients are whole and there are no unwanted added flavors or preservatives," but this doesn't mean that everything in the sauce needs to be plucked straight from the garden or purchased from a farmer's market. The oregano she uses is dried (as are the salt and pepper, of course). Bachtell-Shelbert also tells us, "You can use canned or fresh tomatoes."

Bachtell-Shelbert opts to use canned tomatoes, which is the easier route, as she admits that the recipe would call for 30 fresh ones — and these might need to be peeled, seeded, and chopped. Unless you have a surplus of summer produce, 30 tomatoes likely won't come cheap, either, especially since Bachtell-Shelbert insists that they be "perfectly ripe summer tomatoes." If you're not looking to get rid of a bunch of tomatoes that are threatening to become overripe, there's really no need to choose anything other than the canned kind. For the most part, these tend to be not only cheaper and easier to work with than fresh tomatoes, but also much more flavorful, even if their texture does preclude using them in salads.

Does it matter what kind of canned tomatoes you use?

Bachtell-Shelbert likes to use whole canned tomatoes in her sauce, which requires crushing them as they cook. She says you can also use an immersion blender; although, if you have no such appliance, another option is to throw the tomatoes into a regular blender before you start cooking them. A third option would be to use crushed or pureed tomatoes in your sauce, which is an idea endorsed by Lidia Bastanich. Using either type of tomato would mean there'd be less crushing you'd need to do, although the texture of the sauce would tend to vary a bit depending on which one you choose.

Both Bachtell-Shelbert and Bastianich insist that San Marzano tomatoes are the only acceptable kind of canned ones to use, but not every cook (or eater) would agree. The steep price tag of San Marzanos tomatoes may be justified more by the name and associated snob appeal than by the actual flavor, as several taste tests have found some San Marzano varieties to be blander, mushier, and generally inferior to plain old domestically-grown tomatoes. If you decide that shelling out for San Marzano tomatoes really isn't worth it, many cheaper canned tomato options will taste just as good (or maybe even better) in your homemade tomato sauce.