At this moment, as you’re holed up at home, the best canned tomatoes are the ones you’ll grab from your cabinet to make dinner.

A 28-ounce can of whole, peeled tomatoes is one of the most versatile players in the cupboard. Canned tomatoes deliver velvety, bright pasta sauce in the dead of winter and perk up soups like minestrone. They bring earthiness to ribollita and play supporting player in a tikka masala. And the vibrant red of a canned tomato always pleases, be it the star of shakshuka or baked ziti.

But all canned tomatoes are not created equal, as editors and reporters from NYT Cooking and Wirecutter, a product recommendation site owned by The New York Times Company, discovered at a tasting held last month, weeks before coronavirus brought American life to a standstill.

Michael Sullivan, a kitchen writer at Wirecutter, chose a dozen canned brands to sample, all normally available at big-box stores and groceries around the country, though selection may now be limited. (At the time of publication, many canned tomatoes are sold out online.)

And he devised the testing criteria for the blind taste test: Each brand would be sampled raw from the can, though warmed slightly, and then tasted again in a tomato sauce, Marcella Hazan’s famously simple four-ingredient sauce.

The tomatoes were rated for color, flavor, sweetness, acidity, overall appearance and texture. Many cooks have prized the San Marzano tomato, grown in Italy, as the ideal. Only one certified D.O.P. — “designation of protected origin,” the European Union’s stamp of authenticity — was included in the tasting. Others were San Marzano-style or tomatoes grown in America.

There were variations in salt content, and some contained calcium chloride, an additive that firms the flesh of the tomatoes to help with processing, Mr. Sullivan said.



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