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Canned and Preserved Tomatoes
In summer, when fresh Italian plum tomatoes are ripe and full of flavor, it is wonderful to use them for
sauces.  But there are plenty of excellent preserved tomato products to choose from year-round.  The
brand of preserved tomatoes that you choose, as well as the consistency (whole, chopped, pureed), is a
matter of taste.  Test a variety of different brands to find the one that you like the best.  Most people
seem to become loyal to a particular brand of tomatoes for their sauce-making once they find a favorite. 
Commercially canned tomatoes usually have a "best by' date marked on the can. Most canned tomatoes
have a shelf life of about 2 years.  Once the can has been opened, do not store any leftover tomatoes in
the can.  Transfer the tomatoes to a glass or plastic container and refrigerate them for no more than 7 to
10 days.
San Marzano Tomatoes
Many people consider San Marzano tomatoes to be the best in the world for making sauce.  They get their name from the small town
in which they are grown in Campania, Italy near Naples, where it is said that the climate and volcanic soil create their unique
qualities.  Only tomatoes grown in this region from seeds dating back to the original cultivar and according to strict standards may
receive the Denominazione d’ Origine Protetta (DOP) label.  But not all brands labeled  ‘San Marzano’ are DOP certified.  San
Marzano tomatoes are grown world-wide from San Marzano seeds.  Compared to Roma or plum tomatoes, San Marzano tomatoes
are thinner and pointier in shape.  They are prized for their tart flavor, firm pulp, red color, low-seed count, and easily removed skin. 
Whole, Chopped or Diced, Crushed Tomatoes, and Tomato Puree
Canned peeled plum tomatoes come whole, chopped or diced, crushed, and pureed.  Deciding which type to
use depends on what you are making and how much tomato texture you want in the dish.  For soups, you may
like to have bits of tomato in the broth, so you would use a diced or chopped tomato.  If you like a chunky sauce
for your pasta, use whole tomatoes that you crush yourself; if you prefer a smoother sauce, choose the tomato
puree.
Whole Tomatoes
Some people prefer to buy whole preserved tomatoes and crush them
themselves; they feel that the whole tomatoes have more flavor, but that is a
matter of personal opinion.  When using whole tomatoes to make a sauce,
place them in a bowl and break them up well with your hands.  Remove any
tough bits from around the core.  Unless the recipe tells you otherwise, use
the entire contents of the can - the tomatoes and the juices or puree
surrounding them.
Crushed and Pureed Tomatoes
Crushed tomatoes are a bit chunkier than pureed; they contain actual tomato pieces and a fair amount of liquid tomato juice.  Crushed tomatoes are real time-savers when it comes to making sauce because they take all the hard work out of peeling, seeding, and chopping the tomatoes. Crushed tomatoes have been mechanically peeled and crushed, and then sieved to remove the seeds.  Tomato puree has a smoother almost sauce-like consistency.  Different brands have different textures, so find a brand that you like. 
Tomato Sauce
Tomato sauce is a very smooth puree of tomatoes, usually with added salt. 
The texture of tomato sauce is similar to a thick tomato juice.  In the US,
tomato sauce is made to be used as an ingredient in a dish; herbs, spices,
meats, cheese, or other seasonings must be cooked with tomato sauce to
develop its flavor.  Tomato sauce alone is not a sauce to be served with pasta. 
In countries such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the United
Kingdom, the term "tomato sauce" is used to describe a condiment similar to
that known in the United States as 'ketchup'
Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Sun-drying tomatoes intensifies the sweet
flavor of tomatoes. Sun-dried tomatoes are
brick red in color and have a chewy
texture.  They are sold in two different
forms - either dried or preserved in oil. 
Dried tomatoes are sold in packages and
have a chewier texture than those packed
in oil.
Dried tomatoes can be chopped and added to long-cooking pasta sauces to
intensify the tomato flavor.  They can also be eaten as a snack.  For cooking,
the dried tomatoes should be softened in hot water before use.

Sun-dried tomatoes in oil are usually sold in jars.  They are soft and juicy and
can be used as is, either sliced or chopped in sauces, soups, or salads.  They
make an excellent antipasto combined with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and
basil or with other preserved or pickled vegetables.  Sun-dried tomatoes in oil go
well with fresh vegetables like, fennel, eggplant, and zucchini, and also add a
special flavor to egg dishes, such as frittata.  Use the oil in which the tomatoes
are preserved for salad dressing or for sweating vegetables for soups or sauces. 
Tomato Paste
Tomato paste or concentrate is a very
thick paste made from tomatoes, salt,
and citric acid.  Tomato paste,
concentrato di pomodoro, comes in
various concentrations and is used to
enhance the flavor of many dishes.  You
can buy it in cans, tubes, or jars.  Only
use tomato paste in small quantities as
the flavor is intense and may make a
dish too acidic. 
It is best used in long-simmering dishes where its strong flavor can soften and
mellow with the other ingredients.  Sun-dried tomatoes are also made into a
paste which usually also includes olive oil.  Although thick in texture, sun-dried
tomato paste is sweet and mild compared to regular tomato paste.  Use it in
small quantities for sauces and soups or combined with a little butter as a
dressing for pasta.  Only in Sicily do they produce Estratto di Pomodoro, which
is 4 to 6 times more concentrated than ordinary tomato paste. The taste is more
sweet than sharp.  Many Sicilians even use it as a spread on a slice of bread. 
Similar sun-dried tomato concentrates are also made in Puglia.
Spaghetti Sauce or Pasta Sauce
American supermarkets commonly carry a variety of prepared tomato sauces
described as "spaghetti sauce" or "pasta sauce." These products are flavored
and may contain herbs and spices, cheese, meat, or chopped vegetables, and
added sugar.  Common variations include sausage or meat sauce, marinara
sauce, and sauces with mushrooms or sweet red peppers.  These are
convenience products that simply need to be heated and served with pasta.  Do
not substitute spaghetti or pasta sauce in a recipe calling for tomato sauce or
tomato puree; they are not the same.
 
 
 
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Some useful food words or terms that you may find in
Italian recipes, while dining at an Italian restaurant, or traveling in Italy.
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