How Lidia Bastianich Makes The Perfect Tomato Sauce

When it comes to Italian cuisine, there are few dishes as iconic as the perfect tomato sauce. Many have their own beloved recipes or secret tips and tricks for elevating the sauce crafted from simple ingredients, and the end result can be used in so many different dishes. Chef and cookbook author Lidia Bastianich, has made a name for herself in the world of Italian cuisine, so obviously she has a few tips for crafting the perfect marinara sauce, which she shared with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette well over a decade ago. However, marinara sauce never goes out of style — her expertise and tips are just as useful and relevant today as when she first shared them.

Most marinara sauce recipes have an incredibly short list of ingredients — Bastianich's go-to sauce requires just the tomatoes, some olive oil, and typically a few seasoning agents like garlic, salt, red pepper flakes and fresh basil. When a recipe requires so few ingredients, every single one makes a big impact, so you may assume that you have to wait for tomatoes to be in season so you can use the freshest tomatoes possible. However, according to Bastianich, that isn't the case — in fact, her recipe directly calls for canned tomatoes, an economical option that can be found no matter what's in season.

The one thing to look out for on your canned tomato label

Bastianich also claims that you can use a variety of different canned tomatoes, including crushed tomatoes or peeled tomatoes in tomato puree, in order to craft your sauce — ultimately, the different types will just add a slightly different texture and intensity to the sauce (via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). However, if you assume that any type of canned tomato will do, that's not quite the case — there is one specific thing to look out for. According to Bastianich, you want to find tomatoes that have the phrase Pomodori Pelati di San Marzano on the label.

Foodies, especially those who love to cook Italian cuisine, have likely heard of San Marzano tomatoes before — they're a bit of a staple ingredient in Italian cooking, and for good reason. As Martha Stewart explains, San Marzano is both a region in Italy as well as a type of tomato, a longer, thinner plum tomato that contains a perfect balance of sweetness, intensity, and acidity. Simply using this particular type of tomato can elevate your dish without any extra steps needed. If you can find a can of San Marzano tomatoes, all you need is a few simple seasonings that you likely already have on hand, and you'll be able to whip up a Lidia Bastianich-approved marinara sauce in no time at all.