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Best tasting canned tomatoes? [moved from Home Cooking board]

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I ran out of my jarred tomatoes... now i have to buy canned.

I tried a couple so far -ummmm yuck.

I tried Hunts (wasnt expecting much), and myer glen fire roasted -they tasted like burnt tin.

What are the god ones i can get at a grocery ???

I was going to buy a bunch of tomatoes and make my own, but they are so expensive in the winter -it is ridiculous. (i live in mn). Thanks!

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  1. I can never remember a particular brand, but for Italian dishes, I try to use San Marzano (DOP) tomaotes - always whole - I find all tinned tomatoes that are chopped etc. have a tinnier flavor. I do like the brand called "San Marzano", though it's actually using U. S. tomatoes. You might try Pomi as well if you can find them.

    1. I recently tried Pomi tomatoes which come in a 26 ounce box...right on the shelves with the canned tomatoes...quite excellent. They are from Italy, no salt or sugar or anything else in there...just tomatoes and they are very flavorful.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Val

        Val, Pomi are *excellent*! I used them exclusively for several years until I moved and could no longer find them (easily) around me. Yes--very flavorful and good consistency.

        Now I use San Marzanos (Cento), but I hear many people like Glen Muir. I haven't tried them, though.

        1. re: Steady Habits

          I love Pomi, Glen Muir Fire Roasted, but I hate Cento.

          1. re: melly

            Yes, melly, those fire roasted sound good to me, though I haven't used them yet.

            What do you dislike about Cento?

      2. This seems surprising to me, but when Cook's Illustrated did a taste test a few years back, they picked Progresso's Italian style with Basil. (Of course that means it has basil, which you don't always want.) I believe they even stood up in a blind tasting with the San Marzano. It really does seem impossible, but there you have it. They did not test Pomi though, and i would be curious to see how a boxed tomato holds up against one in metal...

        I am usually pretty contented with my Trader Joe's diced tomatoes but I usually use them in something where there is enough other stuff happening anyway.

        You might be in for a tough winter as I am sure your home jarred ones are going to be a hard act to follow with canned!

        6 Replies
        1. re: ThreeBowls

          Why dont they just jar them? i hate things in cans...

          Is it bad that i am contemplating using Prego as the base for my red sauce?
          I actually just bought 4 different ones, newmans own, myer glen, lunds( upscale grocery brand) and Prego, and Prego was the best tasting???

          I might be losing it.

          (oh, and it was less exspensive by 1.00)

          1. re: ashii

            You know, I haven't had Prego sauce in a gajillion years but the one thing I did always like about those sauces from my childhood was that they were thinner and I feel like less sweet than a lot of the fancier brands that became so popular. Again, it's been forever since I've had any of them (mainly from Atkins-induced fear of pasta than jarred sauce snobbery, I am only now reconciling with pasta and just haven't been doing much red sauce) but I do recall my college years being a series of jarred disappointments when I bought the stuff that was supposed to be better than what my mom used to stock and it just all tasted like...tomato jam sitting on top of my pasta.

            1. re: ashii

              No, prego sauce is pretty decent, as jarred sauces go. I think CI agrees on that one, too. CI also really like the Muir Glen Fire Roasted tomatoes, which you didnt like. If you can find canned san marzanos whole, I agree that is the way to go.

            2. re: ThreeBowls

              Cook's Illustrated's May-Jun 2007 issue discussed crushed tomatoes and the way they are processed. Their tasting results:

              1. Tuttorosso in thick puree with basil (NOT the New World Style version)
              2. Muir Glen with basil

              Honorable mention:
              Hunt's Organic & Redpack in thick puree

              Cook's Illustrated Sep-October 2005 discussed whole tomatoes, and gave these rankings:

              1. Progresso Italian Style
              2. La Regina or Pastene San Marzano
              3. Redpack
              4. Hunts

              Understand that tomatoes are subject to weather changes from growing season to growing season, even with industrial attempts to modulate seasonal variations.

              This means that no ranking system is going to beat your tastebuds from can to can...

              1. re: Karl S

                Funny, Karl, my son and I just had a lot of fun making the spaghetti with Sicilian meatballs recipe from Epicurious. We weren't able to get dop San Marzanos at the little Italian specialty store we went to, so picked up La Regina whole tomatoes with basil thinking we were pretty safe. The texture and ripeness of the tomatoes seemed quite good, but we were really surprised and somewhat disappointed because they tasted quite metallic, especially after we reduced the sauce. My husband thought so, too. I usually like CI's testing results, but have to disagree about La Regina.

                I'm pretty sure I saw somewhere else on the board that some cans are lined and some are not, so I have a feeling that is a major difference in taste.

              2. re: ThreeBowls

                Is it just me or does it seem like Cooks Illustrated always goes for the biggest company as the best? I also saw their comparison of boxed stocks where Swanson came out on top. Makes you wonder.

              3. Three brands I like are Pope, Cento and Pastene....It must be the yellow cans. There is also a product in New Jersey labeled La Fede that makes a nice sauce. It seems all the neighborhood Italian grocery stores feature this brand...if not Pastene..

                3 Replies
                1. re: fourunder

                  Where do you buy Pope Tomatoes anymore? They were the basis of my grandma's "gravy" (and lots of other grandmas' gravies). I live in SC and search for them everytime I am in the Northeast.

                  1. re: momolapasta

                    The Pope Brand Tomatoes are readily available in most Supermarkets in the Northern New Jersey.....I purchase mine in Shop Rite Stores or Pathmark Stores.

                    I have tried to research some information by Googleing...but surprisingly, there is none to be found. I am presently looking at the can....and the only information says:

                    Distributed By
                    Pope Food Group LLC
                    P.O. Box 153
                    Closter, NJ 07624

                    If you Google Pope Food Group LLC, it comes up as a company in Northvale....It says the sales of the company are less than $500,000.....so I do not know if it is the same company....I would guess not, as the gross sales seems very, very low. Maybe you could post a letter to their Customer Service Department for locations where the product is available outside of New Jersey

                    My favorite Pope product is the Concentrated Tomatoes in Heavy Puree/Made From Fresh Ripened Tomatoes....makes a very nice sauce and tomato based soups. Under ingredients, it simply says: tomatoes. The 28 oz. can pictures plum tomatoes on a vine.

                    Out of curiosity, I will try to find out more information if possible next time I food shop.

                    1. re: fourunder

                      Thank you so much for that information! I am always on a quest to find what my grandma used to call "The Pope in the Can" again! My favorite was the puree as well. A little garlic sauteed in olive oil (or "earl" as Grrandma pronounced it), some fresh basil, meatballs in the pot....one good brew.

                      If you google "Pope Tomatoes" you come up with an entry on my website lamenting my unfulfilled search for these tomatoes. About four years ago, the company contacted me and wanted me to try their reformulated tomatoes. They then combined San Marzano tomatoes and California tomatoes. They sent me a few cans of their product. It made a nice marinara.

                      They had a website and marketing folks but it seems they dropped off the face of the earth....I have more hits on my website looking for "Pope Tomatoes" than even for my business services and I get nice emails all the time from folks whose grandmas specified in their recipes to use Pope. If you find out anything more, please let me know! Thanks again for the hopeful information!

                2. I've always had the most consistent luck with Progresso, even more than the expensive Italian brands. Just the plain whole ones. Those Pomis are good, too.

                  1. I like Trader Joe's whole canned. The San Marzano are sufficiently expensive that I only use them when tomatoes are the main ingredient.

                    1. I think that the Nina brand, carried by Costco in the Tri-state area are superior.

                      1. my vote is san marzano - but is anyone else annoyed when you empty the tin and the tomatoes have black disgusting hard blemishes on the surface - my guess is that these tomatoes were bug infested or rotting...it totally grosses me out - you have to go through these canned tomatoes carefully to remove these things and the remnants of skin. i use canned tomatoes frequently for sauces, stews and curries but i there really is no substitute for fresh!

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: howchow

                          i make tomato sauce from san marzanos at least once per week, if not more. this has never happened to me, nor should it happen to anyone. could it be the brand you are using? please let me know which tomatoes you use and where you buy them (i am in NY and use several brands, though 2 or 3 brands probably account for about 90% of the time).

                          1. re: vvvindaloo

                            It is typically like one or two tomatoes in the can have a hard black blemish, not always in every can but more often than not - if you examine the contents of the tin carefully - you might find some. To answer your question I believe the brand is San Marzano (red plum tomatoes on a white background). I am in LA - I buy them in a local grocery store. For this reason I always buy whole tomatoes, never crushed or diced.

                            1. re: howchow

                              If this picture is what you're talking about - these are deceptively marketed. They use the "San Marzano" brand to sell US domestically produced tomatoes, taking advantage of the well-deserved reputation of true San Marzano tomatoes from Italy. Doesn't surprise me that a company that would do this would sell inferior product.

                          2. Okay, sorry, no specific brand recommendation here. But my latest (January 2009) issue of Gourmet magazine has a short but interesting article near the end about canned tomatoes. It suggests being certain to check the sodium content of the can, which can vary wildly from brand to brand. What might taste perfectly delicious straight out of the can might overwhelm your already-sodium-rich recipe. And what might seem bland served plain might work quite well in your recipe.

                            1. I found a new brand in my local Italian grocery - I figured if they carried tons of 6 lb. cans they were on to something - they also sold 28 oz cans, much better for a home cook.

                              6-in-1 Brand crushed canned tomatoes. Grown in California, vine ripened, NO citric acid which means they are so sweet you can eat them out of the can. My picky 14YO now demands it as a base to my sauces and soups.

                              If your local Italian place doesn't carry them, you can order them on the net in quantities of three, very reasonable priced, including ridiculously cheap shipping, from escalon.net. Six cans will set you back $16.50 including shipping. I give these away as gifts! Google it, you'll find the pizza heads swear by it.


                              10 Replies
                              1. re: leetmom7

                                This sounds excellent. I'll definitely be ordering. Thanks so much.

                                1. re: leetmom7

                                  I agree that 6-in-1 are by far the best canned tomatoes. I bought a bunch of cans at Sorrento Italian Deli in Culver City - Bay Cities in Santa Monica didn't have them. I've tried many, many different brands (including Muir Glen), and none came close to this one. It's also recommended at the pizza making forum. BTW, contrary to what some people believe, it's better to buy crushed canned tomatoes than whole ones.

                                  1. re: LarsT

                                    Why is it better to buy crushed rather than whole?

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      More concentrated tomatoes, less water/juice and no seed to deal with.

                                  2. re: leetmom7

                                    These do sound excellent - if you Google "6-in-1 tomatoes" you come up with lots of message board threads that say they're the best for sauce and pizza sauce.

                                    Wonder if they're sold in the MA area? Will have to call them to find out.

                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                      Well, I got an Email from someone at Escalon and they don't have any stores in the MA area that sells them. Just Krogers, which isn't in MA.

                                      So it looks like an online order will be done soon to try these out.

                                    2. re: leetmom7

                                      I always buy tomatoes with NO citric acid, I find they don't taste as harsh.

                                      1. re: maxandrick

                                        The citric acid is removed? Why would someone do that?

                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                            Oh, thanks. I thought they had citric acid already, didn't know it was added as part of the canning process

                                    3. I like Muir Glen and ones w/ San Marzano which are so much more expensive and harder to get so I usually stuck with Muir Glen. Pomi is good, too, in the box but I have to go to Whole Foods for that.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: chowser

                                        "San Marzano which are so much more expensive and harder to get "

                                        Depends where you live. Here in Boston I buy Vantia brand San Marzanos by the case from an Italian grocer for $2.50 per 28 oz can.

                                        1. re: BobB

                                          I always stock up when they're on sale. Most often, that means a 2-for-1 special around here, which are pretty frequent. I don't think I've paid more than $1.50 per can, sometimes less on average, in the past year. (But...that does mean having to buy in quantity, and it's for Cento. I haven't seen Vantia in my area.)

                                          1. re: BobB

                                            Yesterday Russo's in Watertown was selling Vantia 28oz (with basil) for $1.98 a can. They also had smaller cans of San Marzano cherry tomatoes (pomodorini di collina).

                                        2. I love La Bella San Marzano. They have a pic of a lady on the can. I always get whole, and slice or squish as needed. I am work near the italian area of town and am able to pick them up inexpensively at the italian grocer. Many places will sell them by the case for a discount, and if you have storage it is great.

                                          1. Out of economy, we use whatever Costco is selling (presently Progresso), which we find tastes good.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: OCAnn

                                              the costco near me sells a brand called Nina, they only sell it in a HUGE can but I have bought it and been happy and if you plan on making a big batch of sauce to freeze, it is great. The can is like six lbs.

                                            2. At a regular grocery store, I like regular Muir Glen. Hunts is way too salty and Muir Glen fire roasted is probably not what you're looking for.

                                              And if you can't get Muir Glen regular, Pomi is also good. My next choice would be Progresso Italian style (different than regular Progresso as these are plum tomatoes).

                                              1. I like Red Pack whole peeled. They've got a fresh flavor and the can is lined. I'll also check for deals on actual San Marzano tomatoes when I'm at the Italian grocery. I find the "San Marzano" brand annoying since it's actually a product of CA and priced like it's from Italy.

                                                1. I like Muir Glen--particularly the fire-roasted ones.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: MsMaryMc

                                                    6-in-1 tomatoes are by far the best canned tomatoes I've had, and everyone I know who has tried them agrees. I used to buy Muir Glen, but 6-in-1 is even better. You can buy them on line from escalon.net

                                                    1. re: LarsT

                                                      San Marzano are not worth the money.

                                                  2. I like Sclafani, but it's easy to find here.
                                                    Unless I'm making lasagne quickly, I usually prefer the basil-free sauces.

                                                    1. Everytime I buy them, I try to get the ones in a carton. I've never been disappointed. Don't know if they do those in the states.

                                                      Also, for my marinara sauce recipe... *pauses*
                                                      Appropriated from here: http://kalynskitchen.blogspot.com/200...
                                                      Uses fresh and canned.
                                                      In the recipe she saysshe uses Glen Muir.

                                                      BY the way, slightly related; that tomatoey smell from vine tomatoes, comes from the vine itself. I believe you can use it for flavoring.

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: Soop

                                                        Tomatoes in cartons are available here, but not nearly so easy to find as cans. The Pom brand is probably one of the more widely distributed.

                                                        1. re: BobB

                                                          I always make my own sauce and have used San Marzano but in trying to save money I've switched to the cheaper Wegmans whole tomatoes and really like them!
                                                          I use my immersion blender to liquify. Now I'm hooked on the cheaper Wegmans brand.

                                                          1. re: katesprings

                                                            I like San Marzano. Get the big #10 cans from Restaurant Depot

                                                            1. re: mike259

                                                              Those are the best that I've tried, too. Really sweet and flavorful. I believe that they're only sold at Restaurant Depot. At somewhere around $6.50 for a #10 can, a good deal.

                                                              1. re: mike259

                                                                They only sell wholesale, correct? You need to have a valid reseller's permit or tax-exempt certificate to become a member.

                                                                Is there some other way to shop there for yourself?

                                                          1. re: Puffin3

                                                            Well, considering the original thread is about the "best canned tomato sauce", not really on the "Nuff said."

                                                            1. re: Puffin3

                                                              Not at all. I never click over to youtube without a synopsis of the clip being offered.

                                                            2. For me, Cento DOP San Marzano tomatoes are the best . In fact, all Cento canned tomatoes are pretty consistent in my opinion. They must have good quality standards. The only other certified San Marzano brands I've liked are Gigi and Rega. I haven't found any American canned tomatoes I've care for that much, though the Glenn Muir fire roasted tomatoes make good sauces and are reasonably priced. They are artificially sweetened, but they do work well for making sauces. When I really want to go all out making top notch dishes involving tomatoes, I know a farmers market vendor who hooks me up with fresh and phenomenal heirloom tomatoes. They're $6 per pound, but they can't be beat.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: IDavis

                                                                Trader Joe's recently started carrying those Cento DOP's. Nice to have a consistent source. Hopefully they will sell well so they don't discontinue them.

                                                                1. re: bear

                                                                  It's Trader Joe's. The more you love a product, the more likely they are to discontinue it. Or at least that's how it works for me!

                                                              2. About 4 years ago, Trader Joe's had a house brand of Roma-type tomates that were so good you could eat them out of the can. Alas, they went through that crop and haven't had any as good since. I keep trying, though, in hopes that they'll have them back. Their plain whole tomatoes are OK when you can find them. Otherwise, I get the simplest ones I can find.