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Dec 14, 2006 03:06 PM

Best Italian Canned Tomatoes?

When talking about basic tomato sauce (as opposed to in a ragu or canned tomatoes and braised meats), what are some of your favorite brands of canned tomato? Right now I really like Pastene's whole canned tomatoes--anyone use a canned tomato from Italy? The "San Marzano" tomatoes from California seem bland to me. Any suggestions?

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  1. Cook's Illustrated rates Muir Glen as the best Canned Tomatoes, available on the East Coast at Whole Foods Supermarket.

    12 Replies
    1. re: paulgardner

      I saw the issue where Cook's rated Muir Glen the best. But then I think that there was a subsequent issue where they rated Progresso plum tomatoes in juice the best. Anyway, I've been using Progresso.

      1. re: Summerfield

        Yet, another reason I love Chow. There's an answer for my every question. I get my produce from Boston Organics, but I love online shopping and do Peapod for staples. FYI - Peapod/StopnShop has Muir Glen. Thanks for the tip!

        1. re: candaceNYC

          Muir Glen is owned by General Mills and can be found all over the place.
          of course, since General Mills spent many millions of dollars fighting for food companies to be able keep their GMO ingredients a secret, if non-GMO food is important to you, this may no longer be a good source

      2. re: paulgardner

        Coluccio brand San Marzano DOP are the best canned tomatoes on the market. You can get them in NY at Fairway and Coluccio & Sons in Brooklyn.

        1. re: josh L

          The Coluccio brand is my second favorite canned tomato.Have you ever tried Asti D.O.P. San Marzano tomatoes? I get them at the A&S Pork store in Oceanside and I buy them by the case. To my mind they are the best. Clean, clear, sweet. Pristine, delicious tomatoes.

          1. re: josh L

            I bought some San Marzano tomatoes and was a little surprised to find that they contained big stems and leaves of basil, although it was not labelled as such. Is this usual? I didn't like them at all.

            1. re: paulgardner

              I also like Muir Glen Glen Organiv Canned Tomatoes. I live in Los Angeles and recently fround 28 oz Muir Glen Canned Whole Tomatoes for only $0.99/can at 99 Cents Only Store.

              They also had 15 oz Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes for $0.99/2 cans.

              1. re: Norm Man

                I always get the Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes from TJs as well. Seems to be a good all purpose one.

                1. re: Norm Man

                  Cotsco has recently been offering 12 can flats of muir glen. It's a great way to stock up on tomatoes for a while.

                2. re: paulgardner

                  For me...Muir Glen Roasted Tomatoes is THE best I can find where I live.

                3. I like Muir Glen plum tomatoes. The can is lined with some neutral coating so the food doesn't react with the metal to produce off flavors, the tomatoes themselves are good quality, and the only liquid in the can is their juice.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: rootlesscosmo

                    I like Muir Glen plum tomatoes also. When I can't find Muir Glen, I'll look for another type of pealed plum tomato.

                    I recently tried a brand from Italy, Pomi, that came in a box, and had a nice flavor, and turn out a nice sauce.

                    1. re: rootlesscosmo

                      The Publix store brand (here in the southeast) has this coating as well, so it's nothing out of the ordinary for me. They aren't too bad if you ask me. I won't make a whole pot of sauce out of them, but I like to chop 'em and add them to my risotto.

                      1. re: rootlesscosmo

                        Virtually all canned food products now have 'lined' cans.
                        Not sure about 'asian' canned goods though.

                      2. Use what you like; canned tomatoes vary considerably by season in terms of the balance of acidity and fruitiness, so we all tend to kid ourselves that they are uniform (which explains why there is constant discussion about which brands have declined or improved, and how people suddenly discover they like a brand they formerly hated, or vice versa). And why taste tests by folks such as Cooks Illustrated vary over time. Growing tomatoes on a farm in Italy/California/New Jersey is just as much subject to seasonal variations of sun, water and care as your own garden. Some months are great, others are lousy, but tomatoes still get used.

                        The advantage of Glen Muir tomato products is that they come in lined cans, which means people whose palates notice the effect of can metal on tomato flavor can avoid that problem that is nearly universal in Italian canned tomatoes.

                        * * *

                        My local markets seem to have La Valle as their default DOC San Marzano brand, so I get those when I want them.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Karl S

                          "Growing tomatoes on a farm in Italy/California/New Jersey is just as much subject to seasonal variations of sun, water and care as your own garden. Some months are great, others are lousy, but tomatoes still get used."

                          That is not true. Imported Italian canned toamtoes taste consistently better than american canned tomatoes.

                          1. re: fara

                            But if they have a rainy summer in Europe, it does affect the quality (and price) a little.

                            1. re: fara

                              Not uniformly in my experience. De gustibus...

                              1. re: fara

                                yes, you are correct. the reason for the DOP san marzano's reign is that they all grow on the volcanic soils of the area. this produces the wonderful, intense flavor that many of us like. i cant find them at my local, so i go with the org muir glen i cant really decide yet. i mean, its good. but i think the marzanos really take the cake.
                                the soil is everything for veg. the weather, yes of course it matters, but really in the end the soil dictates everything about veg. this is why also things like soba noodles that are made of buckwheat solely grown in the volcanic soils of japan as opposed to those made of canadian buckwheat, etc are a very different animal.

                                1. re: ben61820

                                  As a gardener, who grows and cans my own Italian plum tomatoes, that volcanic soil story doesn't make much sense. It's inert. Plants draw nothing from it. Soil has to be constantly amended with organic matter to produce crops and tomatoes, in particular, have to be rotated. Generally you have to move a tomato bed every three years.
                                  The weather is everything. An unusually wet, cool or cloudy year and you're not going to get good tomatoes regardless of the quality of the soil. Plums produce over a long period. The first tomatoes might be perfect and then a period of spotty weather will produce poor quality from the same plants. Later, the plants may set better fruit. They can come and go over the course of a single season as the weather changes.
                                  It's not logical that there can be total consistency in tomatoes, can after can, year after year. DOP designation for some products is legitimate but in the case of a weather-dependent crop like tomatoes, it might be just a marketing ploy. There have to be better and worse "vintages."

                            2. I've tried many brands, and one that I keep coming back to is Tuttorosso. I find some of the canned San Marzano tomatoes too "sweet."

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: CindyJ

                                i agree about the Tuttorosso. My mom woud use nothing else for her fantastic tomato sauce. That was back in Philly, but I can't find them in California.

                                1. re: Divamac

                                  the tuttorosso tomatoe product are really good im not sure if it is the sauce or puree that has roasted peppers but that adds a new flavor to everything

                                2. re: CindyJ

                                  Back in the 80's and 90's, I always used Canned Progresso Peeled Italian Tomatoes w/Basil. Then they stopped selling these tomatoes in the area of which I live, but I believe it to be alot of the East Coast. And everyone including myself use to love the Spagetti Sauce I use to make. Since then, I have tried every kind on the market in the Maryland, South Central PA regions and I came across Tuttorosso a few years back, and I use it all the time now. And I agree, San Marzano tomatoes are to be to sweet.

                                  1. re: swmoore53

                                    Even though this thread began 5 years ago, my go-to brand for canned tomatoes for pasta sauce is STILL Tuttorosso (in the green can, not the blue one). I was introduced to Mutti brand tomatoes a couple of years ago, and that's become my brand of choice if I'm making a sauce for seafood.

                                3. The reason San Marzano tomatoes from the an Marzano region of Italy (DOC) are so good is the soil they grow in. San Marzano tomatoes grown elsewhere are a fraud, really.

                                  I have found Muir Glen to be a bit too acidic, but maybe that's just me.

                                  My market carries Pastene SM's but they really aren't that great.