25 Smart Ways to Cook with Canned Tomatoes

25 Smart Ways to Cook with Canned Tomatoes

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Sheela Prakash
Oct 9, 2018

I keep a pretty lean pantry, but I absolutely always have a couple of cans of tomatoes in stock. Their possibilities are pretty much limitless — whether they're whole, diced, or crushed — and they make the many months when peak tomatoes aren't in season a whole lot more tolerable. Here are 25 smart ways to use them.

1. Make chili.

It's one of the most obvious ideas but arguably one of the best. Pretty much all chili recipes call for a can.

2. Stir up a quick pizza sauce.

Forget the jars of pre-made pizza sauce and make your own (tastier) one in seconds.

3. Use them instead of water to cook grains.

Forgo water in place of canned tomatoes when cooking grains like rice, quinoa, and farro to give them extra flavor.

4. Use as a base for shakshuka.

Simmer a can in a skillet with some vegetables and spices then drop a few eggs in to make Middle Eastern shakshuka.

5. Add to soups.

Just about any soup tastes better with a can of tomatoes added, whether it's a simple minestrone or a Mexican-inspired chicken tortilla.

6. Jazz up frozen stuffed shells or manicotti.

Make an easy dinner by pouring a can over frozen stuffed shells or manicotti and toss the whole thing in the oven to cook.

7. Make sloppy Joes.

Pretend like you're a kid again and make a big batch of sloppy Joes for the whole family.

8. Blend into salsa.

Be that person who makes their own salsa by dumping a can in a blender with cilantro, red onion, garlic, jalapeños, and lime juice.

9. Simmer meatballs.

Cook meatballs right in a simmer pot of crushed tomatoes to instantly flavor the sauce and make something perfect for your spaghetti.

10. Use in place of broth when making risotto.

Broth is the usual cooking liquid to use when making risotto, but using canned tomatoes instead is an easy way to change it up.

11. Make tomato soup.

Either go classic or opt for my preferred method: Roast the tomatoes before blending for more depth of flavor.

12. Add to mac and cheese.

Drain a can of diced tomatoes and stir them into boxed or homemade mac and cheese to jazz it up.

13. Make Marcella Hazan's famous sauce year-round.

This incredible four-ingredient tomato sauce can be made with fresh or canned tomatoes, so you can enjoy it 365 days a year.

14. Simmer with beans and cheese for a quick dinner.

Make a pantry dinner by simmering a can of tomatoes with a can of beans and adding some cheese, if you have it. You'll definitely want to eat this with crusty bread.

15. Make your own ketchup.

Homemade ketchup tastes so much better than store-bought and comes together easily in a slow cooker.

16. Use as a base for a casserole.

When in doubt, make a casserole, since a whole lot of recipes call for a can.

17. Make a dipping sauce for grilled cheese.

Simmer a small can of diced tomatoes or tomato sauce with a little fresh or powdered garlic until it reduces a bit and thickens. Then use it as a dip for grilled cheese.

18. Make Bolognese!

A can of tomatoes in the pantry is an extra excuse to make meaty Bolognese sauce, in my opinion.

19. Poach fish.

Dump a can of tomatoes into a skillet, simmer with a few spices, and use it as poaching liquid for fish.

20. Make chicken tikka masala.

Skip ordering from your favorite Indian restaurant and make chicken tikka masala at home.

21. Roast and pile on toast.

Drain a can of whole tomatoes, roast them in the oven until they're nice and hot and caramelized, then pile them on toast for lunch or a light dinner.

22. Simmer with sausage and serve over polenta.

Cook a can of tomatoes with sausage and you have a simple ragu for creamy polenta.

23. Make a one-pot pasta.

Cook pasta together with a can of tomatoes for a flavorful one-pot dinner.

24. Braise some meat.

Add a can of tomatoes the pot when braising meat to add flavor and substance as it cooks.

25. Use it for awesome homemade lasagna.

Spend a weekend afternoon making lasagna from scratch and you definitely won't be mad you did.

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