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Imported canned tomatoes ... worth it vs. nonimported? (Mesmerized by Whole Foods' tomato can aisle)

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So I don't recall ANY of the brands right now but I noticed today at Whole Foods they have Italian canned tomatoes of at least a couple varieties along with the more traditional stuff. Is some of this amazing and worth it? Any particular brands and how is the flavor different?

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  1. IMO, it's the variety of tomato that counts, not where it's grown. If the imported variety is not available locally I might try it in order to establish some familiarity with it for future specific recipe applications.

    1. The Italian brands I've tried are less acidic than the domestic brands, with a bit of a rounder flavor. If the tomatoes are the star of the show, or it's a mega-special meal you're planning, it might be worth it...but up to you....

      1. The imported whole skinless plum tomatoes with basil from the San Marzano region are the best! Yes, it makes a huge difference!! There are plenty of great locally grown tomatoes, but it's tough to figure out which one is best for a marinera...plus they're still a bit too acidic, know what I mean?

        Surprisingly, the prices for the imported tomatoes at Whole Foods are pretty reasonable. Luckily, I have quite a few Italian Specialty stores here in Chicago! Most of the patrons speak in Italian, love that, plus I like to ask a few of the grandmas for pointers.

        1. San Marzano are the best. I open some canned tomatoes--and I use them every few days--and the tomatoes are pale with very hard centers. The only way to make them palatable without losing half the contents is to cook them first and then put them through the foodmill. With the San Marzano, they actually taste like ripe tomatoes and I usually just have to cut away a little bit at the stem end. Also, with San Marzano I can make a sauce without tomato paste while the others always need some extra tomato flavor.

          1. I think it's all a matter of the application, these days I'm a slave to Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes. I use them in everything, lol.

            I agree the San Marzan tomatoes are the best for any sauce where tomato is front and center, and they are worth it.

            2 Replies
            1. re: LovinSpoonful

              Fire roasted tomatoes have been quite popular for a while now, I just haven't found good use for them yet...the fire roasting process seems to release a lot of the natural sugars. I find the extra sugar to be overwhelming.

              Perhaps the fire roasted Muir Glen woud be good in chili eh? What else do you use them in?

              I use the imported San Marzano variety for everyday cooking as well, but will add a bit of the domestic, higher acid variety wnen needed.

              1. re: LovinSpoonful

                I agree with it all depending on the application.

                As for sauce, well, I'm on the opposite end. So many things can go into a sauce and odds are that the tomato is going to be reduced to a large degree, so I'm not in favor of buying anything expensive there. The only times I'd consider using the pricey ones, like San Marzano, is when the tomatoes aren't dressed up or cooked much; some examples would be for use in a gazpacho and pizza sauce, where it's pretty much going from can to dish.

              2. Agreed on the San Marzano tomatoes...I'd only ever had them growing up and didn't know the difference until I bought a generic store brand when I didn't have the patience to find them one day...ugh.

                Couldn't tell you about other brands specifically though.

                1. Caution, tho, on the San Marzanos. I paid 3.99 a can, but didn't read the entire label until I got home--they were "domestically grown" and didn't have the special Italian seal on 'em. So, bought my own S.M. seeds and they're sprouting already--I can do "domestic" on my own.

                  1. If you take into account the ecological impact of choosing imported food over indigenous, it would have to be a vastly superior product to make the imported version justified.

                    1. San Marzano are the best I guess the volcanic soil, DOC, etc really means something. But there are a few US grown that come close. Pastene & Muir Glen. IMO these are the two best that are readily available. There are a wkole lot of canned tomatoes that stink I wont mention any names here..

                      Ciao-

                      1. All of my life I've used Hunts or just about anything in the local grocery stores until one day I bought 2 cans of San Marzano tomatoes with the D.O.P. seal to show authenticity; Muir Glen was too sweet for me. Made pasta and literally drank the juice left from the pasta...never did that before! To me, there is a difference in natural, organic, imported tomatoes. I would buy any can of imported tomatoes with the ingredients that have only tomatoes, naturally derived citric acid, no sugars or preservatives. DeLallo is a brand that I like too.