HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Problems with San Marzano tomatoes in sauce

i grew up on my grandmother's pasta and she's always used regular old store bought canned tomato sauce for the base of her sunday sauce. i figured adding san marzanos instead would be a nice touch so i've been tinkering around with it for awhile and can't seem to get the right taste. it just tastes bland to me. i thought it was just the seasoning and maybe the canned sauce has more salt, but didn't help. i've tried herbs, garlic, tomato paste... nothing comes close to the old way. does anyone have any help on how to jazz up these tomatoes a little bit or should i just stick with the old way?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. the san marzano tomatoes i buy have no added salt, the only ingredient is tomatoes; typically tomatoes (like eggs and potatoes) need a lot of salt. when you say she used "canned tomato sauce", was it a prepared product? or just canned tomatoes? and i have no idea what you mean by "the old way".

    3 Replies
    1. re: hotoynoodle

      I'm inclined to agree with that. In the bizarre-o world of American mass market food products, you have to pay extra (often a lot) to buy products where they put less unneccesary salt in in the first place. I've yet to come across a brand of Italian-import tomatoes with added salt. So if you're used to using American products, the Italian will taste "bland", if your tastes are for "salty" to mean "flavorful." On the other hand, if you're used to the imports and switch without tasting before you salt, your sauce may well become inedible unless you "dilute" it with another batch of unsalted sauce (that's happened to me a couple of times.)

      1. re: hotoynoodle

        if 1/2 cup of un-cooked canned tomato contains about 15 % daily amount of sodium in terms of 2000 daily calories in total, could the amount of sodium be too much to add more of it ? i tend to use 1 cup of crushed canned tomatoes with their own juices per 100 grams of dry pasta?
        at first i didnt notice but my brother think the finished pasta was a little salty so he left a bit some tomato sauce.

        1. re: hotoynoodle

          This is a lite version of a gravy or pasta sauce.

          For 1 Can of 28oz of San Maranzano peeled tomatos cook tomatoes add salt 1to 3 small spoon or none if prefered,cooking in low Heat for 40 minutes.Do the following; in another smaller2 or 3 quarts deep pan.
          Make and infusión add half cup of Olive oil any kind add 6 to 8 fresh leaves of basil, 5 cloves of garlic and about a small spoon of red pepper flakes. heat up bring to a boil and immediatly simmer for 10 minutes on low once the infusión is done filter the oil and content trough a strainer add to tomatoes already cooking and important add 2 small spoons of sugarand keep cooking for 40 minutes.
          If you feel is to much olive oil you can later after cook spoon out the olive oil that seats on top of sauce if you want. Now to mix sauce with pasta take a pan any kind add pasta with about 2 spoon boiled pasta water add sauce cook and 1 spoon of unsalted butter let it heat,mix sauce and pasta butter and serve.
          Serve with your favourite meat or fish. Is good very good tr it and let me know

          For every can double the ingridients.

        2. My wife is the one in the family that is of Italian heritage. She uses a great amount of fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley in her tomato condiment. I call it 'condiment' because of the 47+ years of raging dispute over the terms 'gravy' and 'sauce.' I use the later term. Non sono italiano, ma io mangio italiano.

          Do you start your tomato sauce with a 'soffritto', sauteed diced onion, diced celery and diced green bell pepper? Sometimes one has to cut the acidity of the tomatoes with a sweetener. Diced carrots added to the soffritto will do the trick instead of adding sugar.

          You may need to add some meat to the condiment such as beef chuck, Italian sausage and/or spare ribs, all of which should be browned or rendered before the marriage with the tomatoes. My wife adds all those meats to the 'gravy.'

          19 Replies
          1. re: ChiliDude

            "Gravy" is what Sicilians call tomato sauce. "Sauce" is what the rest of Italy calls it. Adding carrots to tomato sauce is French. Adding red wine is Italian.

            1. re: cucinalinda

              "Gravy" is what Sicilians/Campagnans/Calabrian-Americans call a "sauce" made with meat as a base..such as a "Sunday" gravy made with different cuts of pork and/or beef. Otherwise plain tomato (ie Marinara) is a 'sauce'.

              1. re: ChowFun_derek

                Sorry to get into this so late, but I just joined.
                My maternal grandmother was Calabrian and my paternal grandparents were Sicilian and I never heard spaghetti sauce called "gravy." We called it "sugo" with my mother's dialect pronunciation. My parents called gravy that brown stuff thickened with flour -- which they didn't like. I had cooked for 35 years before I married a man from North Carolina and his mother taught me how to make gravy.
                We had spaghetti with broccoli and garlic and oil, or cauliflower and garlic and oil, or lentils with garlic and oil, or sometimes with just garlic and oil. My mother also made a sauce for spaghetti with a pork loin roast (in those days they had a bone) and canned tomatoes, or brucelloni (sp) and canned tomatoes.
                I grew up in St. Louis in the 40s and 50s.

                1. re: MessyVirgo

                  thank you Messy Virgo. you are soooo right. "sugo". i know there are some italians that do call it gravy, though. i do not know which. i live in chicago, and we have an area we call "taylor street", an italian neighborhood, well, still for the most part still italian. it was here, that they called in gravy. it always seemed to be the area that called it gravy. not so much the heritage. i had many friends that moved from taylor street to where i live and they all seemed to call it gravy. where i grew up, on the north side(italian then) we called it sugo. we had a mixutre of sicilians, calabrians, etc. no one every called it gravy. point being, after all this time, is it more the area where they lived. i do not really know, asking. all the things you wrote about the brown gravy, and all the garlic and oil pasta and all, it brought make so many wonderful memories. great, how 2 of us who do not know each other at all, but have this in common.

                  1. re: karenb0823

                    Taylor St in the Medical Center was where my residence was during Nurses training in Chicago.
                    Isn't that also the area that Nick Romano called home in "Knock On Any Door"?

              2. re: cucinalinda

                I have to throw my two cents in also... My napolitan grandmother always called tomato sauce gravy. Always! And the gravy was pretty basic marinara - sauteed garlic and onion - no peppers, no carrots, no onions, no celery ever. The she'd add a couple of small cans of tomato paste - plain, not seasoned. She'd stir the paste, onions and garlic and use the cans to measure and add water to the mixture to make it smooth. Once it smoothed out, she'd let it simmer on it's own for a couple of minutes, then she'd add some canned, peeled tomatoes, which she would puree herself. Again she'd use the cans to add water to the new mixture and bring it to a boil. Once at a boil, she'd reduce the heat to let simmer, then added some salt, sugar, and basil. For meat sauce, she'd throw in pork bones, cooked sweet and hot sausage and fried (not baked) meatballs.

                1. re: SierraSun

                  My parents came from Naples in 1920. They called it Ragu or Sugo.

                2. re: cucinalinda

                  that is so not true......Sicilians do not call it "gravy"

                3. re: ChiliDude

                  Ha, ha...or green peppers to your mirepoix! Funny how mirepoix is rarely mentioned nowadays, but 'soffritto' is huge! If using canned san marz tomatoes, which I prefer, less acidic when cooked down enough to fully taste, salt after reducing. If you do it at the begining, you're going to double the concentrtation of salt, if you reduce the way I do: 4 cans san marz toms and 1.5 cups spicy V-8 (added periodically towards the end) to help intensify flavor, will be about 2 cans worth of finished sauce (the way I like it!)

                  1. re: Sbyre888

                    Why use a French term in Italian cooking...e' un grande peccato!

                    1. re: ChiliDude

                      well, quite simply, I live in the United States and make fusion food. Even more importantly there are quite a few food words and descriptions that are used in coutries other than thier origin. All I was really saying is, for 2 things that are so similar and having heard one all the time for decades, its kind of funny that 'soffritto' or sofrito in Spain is now used EVERYWHERE....but NEVER before 2 years ago....all I'm saying there Mr....humorless.....,.

                      1. re: Sbyre888

                        It ISN'T mire poix anyway... onion, celery and green peppers are correctly called the 'Trinity'! See my post above.
                        While soffrito has few other fixed ingredients, it always has tomato; the remaining ingredients can vary

                        1. re: TBryson

                          According to several English to Italian web translation sites, gravy translates to sugo. I guess the folks using gravy must have wanted to be more "Americano." My mother's dialect rendered "sugo" as "zugu."

                          1. re: TBryson

                            Italians don't make "gravy" as conceived of by Americans, i.e. the flour/water concoction.

                            The pan drippings served over some meat dishes would be called a "sughetto" (a "little sauce"). "Sugo" = sauce.

                            Why Italian-Americans latched onto "gravy", heaven knows. Maybe because it's the only "sauce" that Americans used back then? I know, growing up, my American parents thought the idea of sauce on anything was negative, foreign and exotic, perhaps insidiously French; gravy, OTOH, was normal (see what I mean?).

                            1. re: lidia

                              Ms. Lidia.....your comment is the best one as to the facts to this "gravy" / "sauce" thing.. Thank you...you nailed it.!!!!

                            2. re: TBryson

                              Gravy is an Italian American term for tomato sauce common in the Northeast but your nonna was wrong, it's called sauce.

                          2. re: ChiliDude

                            Italian 'soffrito' is not that combination of the three veggies mentioned above. The combination of onion, celery and green pepper is known as 'The Trinity'. Italian soffrito may be a little closer to the French combination of onion, celery and CARROT which is known as mire poix, but soffrito varies in an important way from the other two bases; soffrito means softly fried and can be composed of many different vegetables, and is often made from varied ingredients. Mire Poix and The Trinity are fixed ingredient items used to create a delicious base for many dishes.

                            Celery, Onion and Green peppers are exclusive to 'The Trinity' for those of us who have long enjoyed an ongoing relationship with the (Catholic) city of New Orleans.

                            Learned the 'Trinity' over 50 years ago in the French Quarter, from no less a legend than Dorothy Rieger, New.Orleans. It's interesting that as 'French' as N.O. can be, chefs always used the green pepper in lieu of the carrot, due not wanting the entrees to be too sweet.

                            ~with best regards, (years later!)

                          3. San Marzano make the very best, and tastiest, spaghetti sauce. Don't know about the canned Marzanos, since I grew my own in our garden from heirloom seeds. My recipe is somewhat the same as described by "ChiliDude". I am of German heritage - married Italian. My dad was a chef and this is how he also made his tomato sauce.

                            This year I was not able to plant my beloved heirloom San Marzanos, so intend trying the canned ones available in the grocery stores. I also read somewhere that there is no equal to the tomatoes grown in the volcanic soil of Italy. However, the ones from my garden were pretty darned GOOD !!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Lisbet

                              Heirlooms of any variety are the best. The canned San Marzano tomatoes are no better than many of the better than California tomatoes. Almost no one realizes this: San Marzano tomatoes would have to be planted in the whole of Italy, and even then there would not be enough to supply America. Italy and Greece buy olives from Spain to blend with their olives to make olive oil.

                              1. re: Lisbet

                                San Marzano seeds came from Peru originally as a gift, they in turn really got thier name by the region they are grown...San Marzano region of Italy, they are simply a type of plum that is best when grown in the volcanic soil ....unless you live in that region they aren't really SM toms. That being said, they are still better than some plum grown in the US, however, try some organic heirloom (redundant, I know) Heinz plums, they are what the Heinz company was built on and grow well in the right conditions.

                              2. I am of Italian extraction and an old world Italian foodie which is rare for my younger generation of friends who take out and don't cook anything that takes longer than 30 minutes.
                                A couple of questions for you:
                                1. Was the sauce a quick one that tasted of summer freshness or the long, slow cooked variety with a more full bodied taste?
                                2. What do you do to the San Marzano tomatoes?
                                The answer to solve your problem depends on the type of sauce you are making; in Italy the quick one is made often for regular evening meals and the latter is made for making lasagne or when paired with homemade egg noodles.

                                1. I don't have the benefit of *my own* garden of fresh San Marzano tomatoes, but you can create a wonderful sauce from the canned variety, or those "Pomi" chopped tomatoes that come in a little cardboard box. It took me a few years to figure this recipe out, but I was trying to approximate my favorite sauces from restaurants in the North End of Boston. Here is what I came up with:
                                  1. Chop 1 sweet/Vidalia onion and a WHOLE HEAD of garlic cloves. Saute in a few tablespoons good olive oil (be generous) until the onions are translucent (few minutes), but don't brown the garlic.
                                  2. Dump in 1 box Pomi chopped tomatoes, or 1-2 cans of chopped San Marzano tomatoes. Boil momentarily, then simmer 45 minutes.
                                  3. Remove from heat, add a handful of FRESH BASIL LEAVES, and stir into the sauce. Let this sit, covered for a minute or two, so the basil flavors have a chance to come out, then mix again. Taste sauce. Add sugar 1/2 tsp at a time, and salt 1/4 tsp at a time to adjust seasoning.
                                  You should have a fantastic, and highly reproducible sauce. Of note- do not cook the basil leaves. You will ruin their delicate flavor. Only add then once the heat has been turned off.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: powermd

                                    That is how I make my sauce. You are right about the sugar amd basil. Add until it tastes right.

                                    1. re: powermd

                                      Well, two-and-a-half years have gone by and FINALLY I reply! Just discovered chow.com, think I might move in. But re: the basil: it sounds like you add whole leaves, rather than taking the time to chop. If so, are you removing them before serving, once their flavor has cooked out?

                                    2. I suspect that the problem is with something other than the tomatoes - yes, the quality of the tomatoes will affect the sauce, but I'd be surprised if San Marzano ones would make the sauce blander. One question - did you use an Italian brand? I've encountered some lousy tasting canned US "San Marzanos". Sounds to me that there is some ingredient your grandmother used that's missing, and therefore not giving you the flavor you remember. Could she have put some meat in the sauce?

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                        I concur TOTALLY. Now, I only buy San Marzano imported from Italy; they are worth every last penny and are not that much more expensive. Additionally, I buy them whole and pass them through a food mill since we don't like seeds in our slow cooked sauce. For quick sauce, I give a rough chop. In both cases, you use the liquid too.
                                        I also agree that it is all about what you are pouring the tomatoes into. A pinch of red chili flakes in your soffrito makes a world of difference.

                                        1. re: itryalot

                                          Another vote for using only the imported San Marzano tomatoes. And you might try different brands to see which you like best.

                                          As itryalot said, a pinch of red chili flakes is essential. It won't make the sauce hot -- just gives it some necessary "zing."

                                          1. re: free101girl

                                            Agreed on the red pepper. I made sauce this weekend, canned San Marzanos, wine, spices, three meats, etc but it just didn't taste right until I added the red pepper flakes.

                                      2. i do make sure to buy italian san marzanos. i add meatballs and sausages and cook them all day. i think the soffritto might be a good bet. like i said, it just seems like there's something needed to give it a little boost. thanks for all your help!

                                        1. The San Marzano tomatoes are a red herring here.
                                          Your grandmother wasn't starting her finished Sunday sauce with tomatoes, San Marzano or San Anything. She was using a product known as "tomato sauce," sold in groceries by companies like Contadina, Hunt's, etc. and used primarily as a cooking ingredient. I just pulled a can from my pantry and the ingredients are listed as: "tomatoes, salt, dextrose, spices, onion powder, and garlic powder." It's a cooked product before being processed. There's a recipe on the back of the Contadina can for "Favorite Spaghetti Sauce," using ground beef, three cans of tomato sauce and no additional tomatoes, but a few extra dried herbs, onions and garlic. In contrast, canned tomatoes, whether San Marzano or not, are a pretty much raw ingredient having only been heated enough to process for preserving in the canning process.
                                          If you want to duplicate your Grandmother's sauce, you may have to do it her way. If you want to add specialty tomatoes to it for texture, you can make her sauce and then fiddle with the seasoning at a late stage in the cooking

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: MakingSense

                                            Yep, tomatoes is tomatoes. Some are better than others, but if they are vine ripened, just about any red variety will make excellent tomato sauce. And as others have noted, concentrating the flavor is the key. For me, the best way, using fresh tomatoes, is to roast them first. Don't peel them, just put them in a 450 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes. They may turn completely black, but that's just the skin, which will peel right off after you let them cool a bit. Pour off any free liquid and you have the perfect base for a tomato sauce. Works with canned, whole tomatoes, too.

                                            1. re: MakingSense

                                              My grandmother used whole peeled tomatoes in a can that were imported from Italy and packed with basil leaf. There were a number of brands available. I remember labels like Pope. Depending upon what she was doing to it, she may have used paste or not. She started by softening onions and garlic, added paste if she was using it, water to thin the paste and then the whole tomatoes, which may have been chopped or pureed in a blender. These canned tomatoes had many brand names, and she was not totally adverse to a domestic brand, but liked brands from Italy better because she said the tomatoes tasted richer. Starting in the fall, she was using her own canned plum tomatoes, which she had purchased at farmers' markets. She packed those with basil leaf too, and they were delicious.

                                              I doubt the OP's grandma was using something from a can called "tomato sauce". Most Italians from that generation were a little suspicious of canned tomato sauce or even crushed tomatoes, for that matter. My mother, however, would occasionally slip a small can of Hunt's tomato sauce into something like pasta e piselli -- but only because she needed a small amount, and she does use crushed tomatoes if she needs to save time. But no canned or jarred items called "sauce".

                                              1. re: RGC1982

                                                My mother made sauce like that, but always included minced green pepper.
                                                It was amazing, and even after adding her (drained) ground beef, the sauce
                                                remained such an intense color of red that people always exclaimed "Look how red it is!"

                                            2. I would forego the prepared sauces; they are flavourful but not in an authentic Italian way, more ItaloAmerican flavour. Try powermd's recipe and add a hit of chili flakes in the soffrito. Also, if you are looking for a full bodied sauce, I suggest buying a very flavourful, not lean piece of beef and developing a good fond and brown and get good bits. Make sure you use great EVOO and let the roast brown slowly so the flavours seep out into the soffrito which you would add much later on so as not to burn. Then add the tomatoes and season. Simmer slowly for several hrs and the basil must go in right at the end as stated. The meat can be taken out, sliced and is delicious with broccoli rape or salad and should melt in your mouth. You are basically braising the meat and the sauce gets the flavour. My parents would never serve the meat to company as it is seen as peasant food, but it is fashionable now and the second generation - we fight over it.
                                              Good luck.

                                              1. I saw an episode of America's Test Kitchen about two weeks ago that featured tomato sauce for pasta. They spent a moment testing store bought canned tomatoes. They concluded that canned American tomatos are more flavorful than their Italian conterparts due to the fact that the American tomatoes are packed in water whereas by law the Italian tomatoes are packed in sauce made from inferior tomatoes. The USDA doesn't allow imported tomatoes to be packed in water. They also concluded the domestic tomatoes have more whole tomatoes per can.

                                                I recently switched back to domestic after tasting several types of canned tomatoes side by side.

                                                On the other hand maybe you're not cooking down your sauce long enough to get a concentrated tomato flavor.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: cheapertrick

                                                  Lydia first got me into San Marzano tomatoes. She uses her hands to remove the hard core part. I think they have a sweeter more intense flavor. My Italian-am mother always added dried oregano and chopped fresh basil and dried basil. For 3 or 4 big cans, use 1 small can of paste and some water. (of course, the chopped onion and garlic sauteed in olive oil first.) then simmer on very low for hours, stirring now and then.

                                                  1. re: walker

                                                    this is similar to how my italian-american family did it too. however, we never used carrots, and NEVER added sugar. tossed in browned sausage and meatballs and simmered all day.

                                                  2. re: cheapertrick

                                                    I read that in Cooks Illustrated as well....do you have a favorite American brand?

                                                  3. You might find this article interesting - not sure if you have to be an online member to view it - about a woman's quest to recreate her family's tomato sauce:


                                                    1. I prefer canned San Marzanos if I don't have good fresh tomatoes. They seem sweeter and riper than others and are more authentic, I suppose. I think the key to all Italian tomato based sauces is low slow heat. Low heat is so essential or you'll cook out the flavors. I think not all San Marzanos are purely San Marzanos, but buying them whole instead of diced is a better guarantee. For marinara, place 1/4 cup of EVOO on low heat with or 4 whole garlic cloves until the cloves become golden. 5 to 7 minutes. Discard garlic. Add 28 oz. can of whole tomatoes crushing them in your hands and 1 tsp to 1 tbsp (depending on taste) of dried very good oregano. Barely simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Great for pizza or very simple everyday pasta. For a richer sauce, saute a small diced onion in 1/4 cup EVOO on low heat for 7 to 10 minutes. Some add add a grated carrot. Don't brown the onion, get in soft. Add 3 or 4 roughly chopped garlic cloves and cook on low for a minute or two. Crush in 28 oz. can of tomatoes add 1 tsp to 1 tbsp. of oregano. Barely simmer for 30 to 35 minutes. You can add a pinch of sugar. I like adding 2 pinches of crushed red pepper and 10 grinds of black pepper to the oil before the tomatoes. The important part is NOT to boil, but cook on very low heat, smashing the tomatoes to make the sauce more velvety. Some people put the tomatoes through a food mill to get to get rid of the seeds. I don't. I do turn off the heat and stir in a handful of fresh basil at the end. Good tomatoes plus low heat equals sublime. The key to all Italian food. . . .

                                                      1. Aside from all of the other plausible explanations offered above, here are two more possibilities:
                                                        1) dried herbs vs. fresh. Are you using fresh basil/garlic/oregano? It is possible that your grandmother used the dried/powdered versions of these items, as they were not always available/affordable fresh all year round. My great-grandmothers used tomato paste, garlic powder, and dried basil half of the time (after they came to this country), which I wouldn't dream of using today. It tastes completely different from using their fresh counterparts.
                                                        2) citric acid. Many US brands of canned tomatoes have added citric acid, which can definitely affect the flavor in a way that is inimitable if you are using unadulterated, higher quality tomatoes. Could it be that you are accustomed to the citric acid?
                                                        Good luck and let us know if you figure it out.

                                                        1. I'm assuming San Marzano's are imported from Italy? If so, check the ingredient list. You will probably see that they are packed in puree rather than juice. Why? Because of 1989 US tarrifs on imported 'vegetables'. Tomatoes packed in juice are considered vegetables and carry the tarrif. Tomatoes packed in puree are considered a sauce, and do not carry the tarrif. But the puree is obtained by pulverizing and then cooking some of the tomatoes, so there is less of a fresh flavor. There other differences as well, involving the amount of citric acid and calcium chloride added.

                                                          17 Replies
                                                          1. re: bnemes3343

                                                            >>>should i just stick with the old way?

                                                            IMO, yes. After paying an inordinate amount of money for the SM tomatoes, I wasn't impressed.

                                                            I'll go back to my old gravy.

                                                            1. re: dolores

                                                              Gee I paid about $3.00 a 28 oz can at S&S, and I'm worth it! I don't think that's too much.

                                                            2. re: bnemes3343

                                                              This 2003 report from the Agricultural Resource Marketing Center http://www.agmrc.org/agmrc/commodity/... says that the US has standard tariff rates "for imports from nations with which the United States maintains normal trade relations. Such tariffs are normally applied to all trading partners except those whose normal tariff status has been suspended by specific legislation...The U.S. tariff on tomato ketchup imports is 6 percent. Imports of other tomato sauces and prepared or preserved tomatoes are charged a tariff of 11.6 percent."
                                                              NO distinction is made among various tomato products, whether they are packed in juice, purée etc.
                                                              My market carries both purée- and juice-packed DOP designated tomatoes at about the same high price. They also have non-DOP S. Marzanos for a lower price.

                                                              1. re: MakingSense

                                                                Here is the part from Cooks Illustrated...I adjusted some of it...

                                                                The stale taste of the Italian brands in our lineup, it turns out, has more to do with trade laws than crop differences. In 1989, the United States imposed debilitating punitive tariffs on imported European fruits and vegetables--from 13.6 percent to an exorbitant 100 percent. Unsurprisingly, Italian tomato prices went through the roof, and sales of imported tomatoes dropped off dramatically. To avoid paying the steep duty, Italian tomato canners eventually began packing their tomatoes in tomato puree rather than juice. What was The loophole? When packed in juice, tomatoes are considered a "vegetable"; when packed in puree, they're a "sauce," which carries a much lower customs duty. Sure enough, the Italian brands were all packed in a thick puree (even though two brands inaccurately call it "juice" on the label).

                                                                A clever strategy, but not without its downside. Tomato puree, which is made by pulverizing and then cooking tomatoes, imparts a "cooked" flavor to the fresh, uncooked tomatoes packed in it; tomato juice, by contrast, is uncooked. Taster comments fell in line with that hypothesis. The Italian brands were indicted repeatedly for metallic off-notes and "overcooked, stale" qualities, among other faults. By contrast, most of the domestic brands were packed in a thin juice. (For the generally well-liked Redpack, the one domestic exception, tasters had but one complaint: a somewhat processed taste reminiscent of "ketchup.")

                                                                Progresso and Muir Glen came out on top....

                                                                1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                                                  Note the DATE on the tariff information I referenced - 2003. The 1989 punitive tariffs were likely short-lived during one of the on-again, off-again trade wars that we're always having with other countries. That one was probably part of the so-called Banana Wars when we increased tariffs on everything from cardboard boxes to Louis Vuitton handbags and all sorts of agricultural products. The WTO settled it and things settled back to normal after everybody lost a lot of money on their exports.

                                                                  Cooks Illustrated is completely correct about the taste of tomatoes packed in puree however, even if their trade law is a little out of date. I was told that one of the reasons that puree is used is that it allows the packers in the DOP region to use tomatoes for the puree from outside that region. The whole tomatoes in the can have to be grown in the region to get the DOP designation, but they can catch a pass on the puree. When you think about how small that area is and how many cans of S. Marzanos are exported every year, it does make you wonder how they can grow so many. I have no substantiation for this other than having been told by sources who have always been reliable.

                                                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                                                    This is just what I suspected. Over the past few months, I am finding it harder to get San Marzano tomatoes in juice with nothing added (a leaf of basil would be ok). Indeed, many of the brands that have recently begun carrying San Marzano DOP tomatoes (Vantia, Sclafani) only offer them in puree, and those same brands are so much larger that they appear to be drowning out the others. I figured there had to be a reason why they were shoving the puree down our throats... and I wondered whether the puree portion was San Marzano, as well. I am not sure of the reason, but I think that what made me question it was the inconsistency of the flavors among brands. For me, the Famoso (I find at Whole Foods) and Strianese (local Italian grocers) brands of San Marzano in juice come out on top. Both have the DOP designation on the can. Sweet and fresh tasting.

                                                                    1. re: vvvindaloo

                                                                      Try Lavalle if you can find it, it's the only one I'll use.

                                                                      1. re: coll

                                                                        Yes, La Valle are also very good. Forgot about those. Thanks, Coll.

                                                                        1. re: vvvindaloo

                                                                          I know, unfortunately they're not that easy to find. Luckily I can get them wholesale, and a case should cost less than $20, I was shocked when I saw the internet prices!

                                                                          1. re: coll

                                                                            the 28 oz. can costs between 3 and 4 dollars here in the NYC area, for all brands of true imported San Marzano DOP tomatoes, whether they are packed in juice or puree. i actually don't mind paying that amount, because the flavor is so markedly different, and superior, in my opinion. while i think the price is high, i look at it as a trade-off: one extra dollar makes the dish taste like it does in Italy.

                                                                            1. re: vvvindaloo

                                                                              Did you ever get the Lavalle in the glass bottles? I don't care what they cost, I buy every one of them when I see them. And they make little tomato pastes too.

                                                                            2. re: coll


                                                                              Where do you get them wholesale?

                                                                              1. re: dpwright44

                                                                                I get them on Long Island, the broker is in New Jersey. If you're not in Metro NY, let me know where you are and I can get you more info.

                                                                          2. re: coll

                                                                            I have to second your comment; La Valle tomatoes are the most consistent, high quality canned tomatoes on the market in my opinion, I have been using them for years. I have used both the DOP stamped San Marzano plums AND the yellow can plum tomatoes, the difference between the two is so slight that I can barely notice; the price difference is huge so kind of difficult to justify the added expense. You can get a 28 oz can of La Valle plum tomatoes for 2 bucks at many supermarkets (Key Food is mine). You will never sacrifice quality with this brand, they are totally consistent.

                                                                          3. re: vvvindaloo

                                                                            I've been liking the Ital brand ones that have DOP on the label. It's a dark blue label with tomatoes.

                                                                          4. re: MakingSense

                                                                            Making Sense is right about the dates and changes in tariff laws; they've been updated into a "uniform schedule" that makes more logical sense and doesn't involve labels like "sauce' or "art" but taxes the "what"

                                                                          5. re: ChowFun_derek

                                                                            Are you certain that the puree is cooked? I would think, if it made a big difference in the taste, that they would just pulverize some tomats in the can, then add whole tomato.

                                                                      2. we never add sugar to the gravy the sweetness of basil and/or a bit of onion does the trick
                                                                        the only time we add onion celery carrots is in a bolonese sauce
                                                                        the only time we add green peppers is in something like a cacciatorre (sp)

                                                                        1. It is definitely not the tomatoe if it is authentic San Marzano, it is your seasoning. Garlic sauteed in olive oil, then add tomatoes, whole basil leaves (remove after they start getting shriveled and real dark). Add some red wine, salt, black pepper and if you like it spicy: a hint crushed red pepper and maybe a tiny squirt of srirachi &/or a splash of spicy V-8. Sugar is something I like, typically I use brown sugar (more flavor than white), like salt, sugar is other main flavor enhancer. In this case it works perfectly to mask any undesired bitterness. I stongly advise the aversion to bell pepper in your marinara, despite being mild, they the tomatoe flavor. I find onions unnecassary (I don't use much ever in anything), however, if you are a fan, they can add some sweetness if done properly, if not, they may add bitterness. Skip the tomatoe paste and puree.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Sbyre888

                                                                            sriracha? v-8? BROWN SUGAR? holy-moley. my grandfather, big ray, is rolling in his grave right now, lol.

                                                                            in more traditional versions, the tomato paste is there for sweetness and depth, btw.

                                                                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                              And texture and color.
                                                                              The paste also keeps 'em amazed at the deep red color that never goes away!

                                                                          2. I am not sure if you cook a lot Dr Quality, but one thing I had a real hard time when I started cooking was how much salt to add. I was never adding enough for fear of it being too salty and it always looked like it was a lot when I was adding it- but wasnt. It wasnt until I saw some friends cook that I said hey I need to add more. So try generously salting at the start of the process then taste and adjust.

                                                                            1. my grandfather was from Abruzzi and used to call it gravy, so it is not just sicilians. We always used canned whole tomatoes and maybe a can of paste. Sometimes a can of tomato sauce was used as well, but make sure it just contains tomatoes and sauce. All we did was saute onions and garlic in some olive oil and then add the tomatoes which were put through a grinder. sometimes we added a carrot and then took it out after it absorbed the acid. Also we sometimes used to put in 1/4 tsp of baking soda. this takes out the acid and does not add flavor. We never added oregano or peppers or anything like that. if you want flavor, you add meat that you have browned first. All those other spices just hide the great taste of the tomato. the onions give a sweet taste so you do not need sugar. the few cloves of crushed garlic is all you need for a good gravy.

                                                                              1. I'll be a contrarian here. Spaghetti sauce has been made for many generations. As far as I know, it's only in the last decade or so that we're hearing the words 'San Marzano". Used to be just plum tomatoes, which some people bought or grew for making sauce. At one time, they were frowned upon for salads because of their thicker skin. (That never bothered me; I liked their meaty texture and flavor better than other storebought tomatoes). I blame Lidia Bastianich for making us all think we couldn't make good sauce unless we had San Marzano tomatoes. Then again, I find her too self-promoting and wouldn't be surprised if she's invested in the companies that sell these. I have occasionally bought canned SM tomatoes on sale, and never noticed a difference in my pasta sauce but never tasted side-by-side, and since I don't measure ingredients my batches are not identical. Use whatever ingredients give you a sauce that you enjoy, authenticity be damned.

                                                                                1. Other than salt, pepper and other herbs that we all use in sauce I add pesto. The flavor is unbelievable. I also add a little lemon juice and fresh grated parmesean.

                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: cherylcmcneil

                                                                                    Be careful of the so called San Marzano which are grown and packed in NAmerica vs the ones grown and packed in Italy. Ingredients should be very few (tomatoes, salt and basil). They should be whole and passed through a food mill. When I make the quick, fresh sauce I deseed them and then slice some into filets to get a different texture. I have grown San Marzano from seeds I bought in Italy - not the same thing. The quality of San Marzanos vary greatly, but the volcanic soil does enhance the taste. I have used domestic, imported, etc. First choice is my homemade ones in jars, second is DOP San Marzano - others taste too sweet.

                                                                                    1. re: cherylcmcneil

                                                                                      Same here Cheryl! You got it nailed; pesto, lemon zest, lemon juice and grana padano from TJ's.
                                                                                      Also, take a Trader Joe pesto, toss in some olive oil, lemon zest, pine nuts and lots of grana padano and check out how great it is poured over farfalle that is al dente!

                                                                                      Just sayin'.

                                                                                    2. I rely on the Sclafani brand of tomatoes. They pack San Marzanos from Italy, and also have a pack of domestic tomatoes. I prefer the San Marzanos, but then, I don't recall what the *other* brands of San Marzano tomatoes were that I've tried, it was so long ago.

                                                                                      When I make sauce, I use 2 parts Sclafani to 1 part Pastene brand "ground" tomatoes. I don't use tomato paste.

                                                                                      As an aside, other comments about tomato sauce:

                                                                                      * Never * use sugar, carrots nor oregano

                                                                                      *do* use good garlic, good basil and *plenty* of bay leaf

                                                                                      When I make "spaghetti and meatballs," I commit the sacrilege of cooking the meatballs in the sauce, without browning them at all, for an hour or two. This produces a soft meatball with flavors of the sauce permeating them.

                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: shaogo

                                                                                        What is your reasoning for never using sugar, carrots or oregano? I use all 3 and my sauce tastes fabulous.

                                                                                        1. re: Calipoutine

                                                                                          Carrots and celery is best used on sauce when making OzoBuco.

                                                                                        2. re: shaogo


                                                                                          I beg to differ with you about the carrots. Batali's basic sauce has shredded carrot and I think it adds something wonderful to the taste. I never heard of using carrots until I bought Molto Italian, and now I used them all the time.

                                                                                        3. this is how I have been making my tomato sauce lately.. very simple.. a world of flavor.. and slightly zesty (though you could omit red pepper flakes entirely)

                                                                                          2 28oz can of san marzano (I pass through a food mill personally)
                                                                                          1 medium onion, diced finely
                                                                                          2 garlic cloves, minced finely
                                                                                          1/2 of 1 whole carrot, sliced into quarters (or 5-6 baby carrots)
                                                                                          1/4 cup or so olive oil
                                                                                          1 bay leaf
                                                                                          red pepper

                                                                                          heat olive oil in sauce pan, cooking onions until they go almost translucent (not browning or burning. so cooking on low/medium heat.. just a modest sizzle).. about 3-4 minutes. add in garlic. let sizzle modestly (turn down heat if necessary etc.) until mixture stars to look yellow/golden. basically I want garlic to break down and onions/garlic to soften so they blend better in sauce.

                                                                                          add tomatoes, bring to boil and immediately lower to simmer. I then add the carrots, bay leaf, and a pinch of red pepper flakes (not full amount just yet), and a pinch of salt. I then let simmer.. taste sauce and add more pepper/salt as needed. Simmering will take 45 min - 1hr or so until desired texture is achieved. I remove bay leaf and carrots before serving. Sauce goes great with cheese which just adds that much more flavor and can substitute for adding a ton of salt to a sauce.

                                                                                          I found the trick to be boiling the carrots in the sauce. Makes it less acidic and more sweet. Call it cheating or whatever.. but I find some basic pomodoros just too sour sometimes if not done right. I like the bay leaf for the added flavor as well... but this is not your normal sauce as it has a bite to it (garlic, red pepper)...

                                                                                          Try adding carrot and removing it. I put in enough carrots to just become interpersed in the sauce.

                                                                                          1. Totally agree. Have spent 9$ per can and while great 'quality' they are bland. Perfect description. Nothing works. So, I found the San Marzano brand 'domestically grown' tomatoes sold by Whole foods. White lable can, red tomato and green lettering. The absolute best. Right salt content. Flavor that only requires little seasoning to create the flavor and keep the awesome tomato taste. Try em, let me know. mstasidds@aol.com

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: denverdoc

                                                                                              OK, I have read several bits regarding tomatoes and even heard someone state that Tuttarosso tomatoes are better than San Marzano. I almost choked. Tuttarosso's are BROWN for crying out loud. San Marzano tomatoes cannot be beat in terms of freshness, flavor and quality. Typical American viewpoints regarding getting more tomatoes in an American can vs. those in San Marzano cans...more isn't necessarily a GOOD thing here folks! The white can with red tomatoes on it with green writing are indeed fantastic (although they are not a 'Wholefoods' brand), as are Cento San Marzanos.

                                                                                              Here are a few tips:
                                                                                              - Use only DOP certified San Marzano Tomatoes
                                                                                              - Cut off the stem part,and hand mash in the pot
                                                                                              - Never use a can of 'Tomato Sauce'...ever
                                                                                              - Use Sea Salt instead of table salt as it has lower sodium and a better taste.
                                                                                              - Don't assume because your grandmother made a tomato sauce recipe that she knew what she was doing or had good taste. You were conditioned from a very young age to eat her sauce...it doesn't mean it was really any good (sorry...not meaning to insult someone's grandmother...but seriously)
                                                                                              - Celery and Carrots have no business in a marinara sauce...it's not a STEW!
                                                                                              - Use only fresh ingredients and the best Olive Oil you can find.
                                                                                              - Chopped Onions, Chopped Prosciutto di Parma sauted in 1/4 cup of olive oil, deglazed with a good red wine, add 3 cans of hand crushed San Marzano Tomatoes(set aside the liquid from the can and use only if needed to thin), Sea Salt and Fresh Cracked Black Pepper, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes, during last few minutes on the stove add Fresh Chopped Italian Parsley, Fresh Chopped Basil and serve with Fresh Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese and a great bottle of red (Amarone if it's a special occasion ;-)
                                                                                              - Use a nice big hearty pasta like a Rigatoni and a Big Crusty Bread.


                                                                                            2. I have a highly technical recipe I've developed for tomato sauce using San Marzanos. I use it on my pizzas and pasta:

                                                                                              1 can of San Marzano tomatoes
                                                                                              Salt to taste. Cooked for approximately 10 minutes.

                                                                                              Really. That's it. The simplicity of the tomatoes is fantastic tasting

                                                                                              1. A designation for European food products that stands for "Denominazione d'Origine Protetta." It is a certification issued and guaranteed by the European Union to identify and guarantee that specific food and agricultural products are authentic or made by skilled artisans engaged in producing the designated items in specific regions. Foods such as cheese, fruit, meat, food oil, and vegetables are commonly labeled with DOP to designate they have been certified. Similarly, another designation used for this purpose in Europe is IGP to refer to "Indicazione Geographica Protetta" to certify they are as guaranteed to be from the region designated.

                                                                                                By no means do I intend to say that the product in the “San Marzano Brand” are not good product.
                                                                                                The “San Marzano Brand” is an American company and California tomatoes, and is often misidentified by the consumer who doesn’t know better.
                                                                                                Being a California product they also should be substantially lower in cost than the genuine import. Actually the Italians are not happy at all with this but the US doesn’t have the same laws regarding this.

                                                                                                This is the same idea as Parmigiano Reggiano, Chianti, Tallegio and Fontina, Parma Prosciutto etc. Genuine is a very big deal to Italians and Europeans as it is to any American product with an area designation.

                                                                                                1. I'm afraid I concur with Lynne Rosetto Kasper's observation in "The Italian Country Table" that San Marzano's often are disappointing when compared with some American brands, notably Red Gold (which, I'm told, is marketed under "Red Pack" in some areas). I find San Marzano's overpriced and flabby in taste. I always use Red Gold.

                                                                                                  9 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: jmckee

                                                                                                    Wow, New to Chow, and I love it...

                                                                                                    I had questions about the San Marzano's are they worth the pursuit... I will try them sometime soon. In my attempts to make good sauce, I have learned many interesting things here with all the posts, once I started reading I could not stop, thanks to all who have replied. Thanks also for helping me validate that I already make a pretty Authentic Sauce. We all love to find that extra something to make our recipe correct, or unique. I make a lot of sauce and I learned from a first generation Sicilian Transplant, a Lady I will never forget who came to visit my family when I was only 14 years old. She said she would make for my family a Real Italian Dinner, from scratch; noodles she turned out by hand, meatballs, and sausage, and that wonderful sauce. I committed everything she shared and showed me to memory. What an experience and what a cook she was. She was the real deal... comparing my memory to what I use to watch on PBS Cooking Shows to now what we see on our T.V., Ms. Latini, was the epitome of every good Italian Mom that cooked Italian.

                                                                                                    I have formed my own recipe fusion of what I have learned from her and others, and I would have to conclude that in regards to Tomatoes my suspicion is that fresh off the vine tomatoes are actually the best, and that the best variety such as an heirloom fresh off the vine made into sauce is going to be hands down the best. But what if they are not on the vine, well as we all do as per the discussion here we go to the store or grab our own canned. I have a Sam's Club Membership and so I have been using Muir Glenn for years... and think they are terrific, compared to others. I will post my recipe here, and happy to hear commentary on it good or bad, I will try soon to make my recipe with San M's and taste test it with Muir G's side by side. To see if the real pursuit is worth it... Plus, perhaps by taking some of the other suggestions posted above I can tweak my sauce, I am very interested in trying the carrot method for removing acidity... and flavoring with Prosciutto. I have tried and made the AKA Gravy versions flavoring with meat juices and meats... Awesome. My son and i like to have a staple Marinara around for our recipes so we make this in bulk every month.

                                                                                                    Here is my Recipe...
                                                                                                    Oven Roast 4 whole Red Onions coated with Olive Oil and some Kosher Salt Sprinkled on them to draw out some moisture.
                                                                                                    Oven Roast in same Pan with Onions 5 Whole Heads of Garlic Coated with Olive Oil.
                                                                                                    Heat 1 Cup of EVOO with a few Bay Leaves, I use the mexican bay leaves
                                                                                                    Add Roasted Red Onions and Roasted Garlic to Oil, Heat on Medium to Medium Low to just flavor Oil...
                                                                                                    Add 2Tbs of Kosher or Sea Salt
                                                                                                    Add @ 1 Tbs of Fresh Ground Black Pepper
                                                                                                    Add 1/4 Cup of Fresh Chopped Basil
                                                                                                    Add 1 Cup of Raw Honey
                                                                                                    Take 2 Tbs of the Whole Tomato packing water microwave to a slight boil add 1 Tbs of Red Pepper Flake to Seep
                                                                                                    **Remember keep your Oil only at Medium Heat or a little lower we are just flavoring the Oil**
                                                                                                    Add 2 #10 Cans of Whole Tomatoes Crush each Tomato by hand gently add all packing water
                                                                                                    Add 1 #10 Can of Tomato Paste
                                                                                                    Add 750 ML of Vodka
                                                                                                    Add The Red Pepper Flake and Packing Water that was seeping...
                                                                                                    Simmer to heat through on Low and Slow Heat and simmer for 45 min. to and 1 Hr., not looking to concentrate and reduce, the Tomato Paste is already your concentrated tomato...
                                                                                                    Season with fresh Ground Black Pepper, Sea Salt, Fresh Chopped Basil, Fresh Chopped Oregano, and/or Fresh German Thyme per your taste, more heat or sweet needed add Honey or Red Pepper seeped in hot water, careful though the heat intensifies as it blends in storage.
                                                                                                    This recipe makes about three and a half gallons of sauce and this will keep fine in the fridge up to 5 weeks plus if in a good air tight container. Me and my son eat this much sauce every 3 to 5 weeks, and we love it. We use it to make our favorite Pastas, Lasagnas, Pizzas, Mussells, and more. It is so good you want to drink it hot out of a cup, especially on a cold day, or dip bread or tortilla chips in it on a hot day. It will will make you begin to utter words that sound Italian... because Everyone wants to be Italian, including me. Bella Misimo...

                                                                                                    1. re: Brettley

                                                                                                      As a chef I wanted to tell you, bravo on your recipe. This is exactly how a sauce should be made. Very well done! Matter of fact, you got some guts sharing such a treasure. I do realize you posted this 3 years ago but I still had to say something. Every ingredient is correct right down to the Vodka and red chili flake, all authentico except for the honey but its not wrong because typically granulated sugar would be used. You should consider becoming a chef because it seems you have the pallet for it and passion based on how often you make this sauce.

                                                                                                      1. re: SanFranChef

                                                                                                        Sorry, but exactly what is "autentico" about that recipe? It is idiosyncratic in the extreme. A cup of honey? Sweetener should not be needed with decent tomatoes. Pre-roasting and microwaving ingredients consumes energy resources that the traditional kitchen (which probably didn't have an oven and certainly didn't have a microwave) didn't have or couldn't afford.


                                                                                                        1. re: mbfant

                                                                                                          Agreed, my Sicilian mother-in-law swears that a bit of sugar brings out the flavor in veggies. Not sure how I feel about that but I'm completely baffled about the cup of honey!

                                                                                                          1. re: mbfant

                                                                                                            This sauce may be authentic to someone but Vodka? Vodka in pasta sauce was a recent "invention" and more about marketing vodka than improving a sauce. This exert from a cookbook confirms what I've always heard:
                                                                                                            "The Williams Sonoma Essentials of Italian cookbook states that it was invented in the 1980s by a Roman chef for a vodka company that wanted to popularize its product in Italy"
                                                                                                            Now honey I understand but it could just as well be sugar. If the canned tomatoes lack sweetness it is justifiable. For me, this is entirety too much work for making a marinara but not having eaten it maybe it's worth the effort. Marinara sauce traditionally does not contain tomato paste either. It is a quick cooked fresh tasting sauce. However, tomato paste in a long simmered "Sunday Sauce" with braised meat is great. To make my Marinara I simply sauté some chopped onion & garlic in EVO, add some dried oregano & basil, a few red pepper flakes, then crushed tomatoes. I simmer for maybe a 20 minutes then if finish with chopped fresh basil if I have it on hand and maybe a little more EVO.

                                                                                                            1. re: mbfant

                                                                                                              I agree totally, so much so that I wear animal pelts and cook everything outside over an open fire.

                                                                                                              A cup of honey may sound like a lot, but a cup in 3.5 gallons equates to 1/56th of the entire volume. I don't understand a full fifth of vodka in the sauce, but I presume that 40% would cook out. Regardless, if he and his kid are eating it up and having a good time (he mentioned fusion), then so be it.....regardless of whether modern american kitchens have microwaves. I don't do any cooking in my microwave, but I use the hell out of it because it makes so much sense. And uses less energy.

                                                                                                            2. re: SanFranChef

                                                                                                              "Pallet"? Really? Like what those cases of tomatoes are stacked on? The word is "palate." I don't apologize for the sarcasm, because anyone can call themselves "chef." My Italian mother and aunts didn't do anything that elaborate for spaghetti sauce.

                                                                                                              1. re: MessyVirgo

                                                                                                                Hey, he didn't say he was an English professor! But I thought the same thing. I chalked it up to spell check.

                                                                                                            3. re: Brettley

                                                                                                              I love the looks of this, mostly because it has so many steps. I will say I will probably omit the vodka. not to my liking as I've done recipes before using it in a pasta sauce. tried for one, RJ's pasta with vodka from the Tony Danza show years ago. although this is an old post, you may not see the thank you's but I appreciate you posting this, thank you.

                                                                                                          2. My 2 cents on the San Marzano:
                                                                                                            I will say hands down that the best quality canned tomatoes that I have used are from Cento. I have experimented on occasion with their "San Marzano" tomatoes, but I have found that their regular "peeled Italian tomato" version can actually be much better, so that is what I typically use.

                                                                                                            My aunt in NY mentioned a while back that she only used Red Pack, which I cannot get here in the south; however I do believe I can get Red Gold (a recent development), which I did not realize were essentially the same company....will have to try them out.

                                                                                                            1. Let me just say that I grew up in a household with a mother who took a lot of pride in her spaghetti sauce and I loved it as a kid. However, after marrying my wife and eating her mother's spaghetti sauce I can guarantee you that there will never be any sauce that will beat hers. She got the recipe from her husband's uncle who lives in Torino, Italy (Turin to Americans). I am so fortunate to have the recipe. I crave this spaghetti sauce....just thinking about it right now is making my mouth water.

                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                              1. re: spaghetti_man

                                                                                                                Any chance of getting her recipe? I'd love to make her sauce.

                                                                                                              2. Two things:
                                                                                                                I prefer San Marzanos and used to use imported, canned. This summer we planted them in the garden and they are prolific and delicious. So now we use the fresh San Marzanos.
                                                                                                                As far as the sauce is concerned I think it is important to "fry" the tomatoes - beginning with heating (in a large pan) the olive oil, and adding garlic, red pepper flakes AND salt to flavor the oil. Then raise the temperature and "fry" the tomatoes. Lower the heat and cook for just 10 minutes. SImple and authentic.

                                                                                                                1. So after Progresso stopped making their crushed tomatoes a few years ago I have been struggling to make a sauce I like. Tonight I used two cans of San Marzano someone gave to me but I needed more and had one Hunts crushed on hand so after blending it (we like a smooth sauce for everyday) I tossed it in. To my surprise it is good but for me it really is a crap shoot.
                                                                                                                  My in-laws both from Italy (Naples and Sicily) had different family sauce. Even the four sisters sauces taste a tad different from each other. My mom in law did say "don't taste your sauce until it has cooked for awhile because you will try to fix it and ruin the whole thing" She was the only one I know who could "fix" canned tomatoes . I guess that comes from making sauce about three times a week for 60 years. She used different style tomatoes depending on what she made, for example crab, meat, calamari, cacciatore or marinara sauce all use different types. She told me the combination of meat gives the best flavor like beef and pork together. The other thing she insisted is NO oregano in sauce only fresh basil and fresh italian parsley, she says oregano is for pizza (: Sauce is personal and everyone likes it different but no matter, even American style with ground beef mixed in it is still tasty! So tonight I am teaching my 20 year old son. I just wish I would have paid better attention to her lessons before she was gone. I thought I had forever to learn.

                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: shande

                                                                                                                    Sometimes I have to think what a beautiful tribute we give those who went before us, when we share their recipes and tips with the not just the family, but with whole world.

                                                                                                                    1. re: shande

                                                                                                                      Americas Test Kitchen touted Tuttorosa Crushed Tomatoes in an episode making Sunday Sauce, the blue can not the "NY Style" green can. I've been buying them for years for long cooked tomato sauce not for marinara but I think the quality has slipped recently. They haven't been sweet enough. That could be a season to season thing.

                                                                                                                    2. I know exactly what you mean - the way to jazz up any tomoato sauce is by using pork. What I mean is buying some pork fat - hormel makes it and you can get it at your major grocery store for around $2.60 - $3 per pound. That's all you'll need. Here's what I do when I use the pork fat to make my marinara sauce.

                                                                                                                      I chop up the brick of pork fat into pieces (cubed) fry it up until the pork is hard. Discard the pork fat but save the oil! That is the liquid gold! I then take the pork fat drippings and dice up a white onion and a couple cloves of garlic. I then fry up that for about 2 minutes on medium. I then add all of this to the marinara sauce. I add salt, pepper, FRESH basil - as this is also key! Let simmer for an hour. This is how I make my own marinara sauce. This same flavor you can get with Rao's and White Linen - those are the two most expensive marinara sauces you can buy. But, if you live near a Costco, you can buy a large 128 oz. can of san marzano tomatoes for $4. That will make two 40 oz. jars of marinara sauce. The jar of Rao's sells for about $8 for 12 oz. of sauce. You can make this entire recipe for around $6 and make 6 times the amount of the sauce! Trust me - this recipe is the best ever. My family BEGS me for it. There's no way I can ever go back to regular tomato sauce ever again. San Marzano tomatoes are they foodies tomato!

                                                                                                                      1. I've not read everyone's response however; I find that straining any canned tomatoes is the key. I have no proof but I suspect that the seeds and/or skin contribute to bitterness and/or acidity. I have numerous recipes for tomato, marinara, spaghetti sauces and one day realized that I was not satisfied with any of them. Upon researching a "goodfellas" type sauce I found that to be the case. I now buy "Pomi strained tomatoes" and mix with tomato paste.
                                                                                                                        Does anyone else share similar experience?

                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: crippstom

                                                                                                                          Yes, tomato concasse from fresh tomatoes or pomi strained and good tomato paste. I throw a pork bone in as well. Culinary people often sweat a mirepoix in rendered pork fat, add a bit of flour and cook it out, then add beef stock and the tomato mixture.

                                                                                                                          1. re: crippstom

                                                                                                                            My MIL made her sauce silky smooth, and once I was part of the family, she made sure I knew to strain the canned whole tomatoes after pureeing in the blender. The first few times I hosted the family, she hovered over me like I was a baby bird.

                                                                                                                            1. re: crippstom

                                                                                                                              Do you just use a regular wire mesh strainer?

                                                                                                                            2. There is a difference between canned sauce and canned tomatoes. I use 1 28 oz. Give or take on the canned tomatoes and 1 can 16 oz tomatoes sauce also 1 can of paste if it looks too thin. If you want marina sauce leave out the paste. If you want more just double the cans. You need to saute 1 or 2 onions about 8 minutes or so then add as much garlic as you like. I sometimes add 4 or more. Now add some basil parsley and maybe some mint.Again do what you like. Saute a few more minutes not letting anything burn. If you want meat sauce you can fry some hamburger as much as you like, I tend to like my sauce meaty. Add the canned tomatoes and then the canned sauce and paste. You simmer this for a minimum of 2 hours. With the real San marzanos, you won't need to add a bit of sugar. Bon Appetite.

                                                                                                                              1. San Marzano tomatoes are on the sweet side. Add
                                                                                                                                balsamic vinegar to taste. Maybe red pepper flakes.