hey there - i am just learning to cook at home. Being an immigrant I am little confused with all the variations of canned tomatoes available in the grocery store and was wondering if you experts out there can shine some light on when should i use a tomato
Sorry for a long questions, but I am hoping to have a good discussion..:-)
It depends what kind of cooking you are doing. Most of my cooking using canned tomatoes is Italian or Indian. The only canned tomato I use is whole ones of a type called San Marzano. I crush them by hand for a rustic sauce or put them through a food mill for a smooth sauce. In the frig I keep a tube of tomato paste that I use if I want to intensify the flavor of a dish, but as far as your list, I never have the rest in the cupboard.
Tomato paste adds tomato flavor without adding any recognizable tomato pieces. I use it to flavor stews, for example (e.g beef stew). Diced (which I also use in stews, soups, etc.) is when I want identifiable tomato pieces (although if a stew cooks for a LONG time, the diced pieces do fall apart). You can interchange whole for diced, as long as you chop up the whole tomatoes. I don't use tomato sauce, but I have subbed pureed for crushed (or vice versa)--I still am unsure of the difference between those two!
Usually your recipe will tell you which type to use.
Hope some others chime in!
The tinned tomatoes I use most frequently is the 28 ounce Pastene salt free "Kitchen Ready". That's what I use when making soups, macaroni and in recipes calling for two fourteen ounce cans. Kitchen Ready tomatoes are peeled and ground with a bit of tomato puree added, with no fillers or water. Nice and sweet. Lately I've also been stocking Hunt's organic whole tomatoes and diced tomatoes to use in casseroles, etc.
I see that some people differentiate between tomato sauce, macaroni sauce, and pizza sauce. To me they're all the same and are simply a basic sauce using fresh or tinned tomatoes, chopped garlic, sometimes chopped onion, fresh or dried basil and oregano, salt and pepper and crushed red pepper flakes. Other sauces such as Arabiatta, Bolognese, Norma, etc. are based on the simple tomato sauce with additional ingredients.
Contadina has some pretty good descriptions of each variety on their site:
For each variety start with the basic can first (tomato sauce vs. tomato sauce with Italian herbs) to get an idea of the main formula. The ingredients in each can are on the right hand side of the page.