I love a plump, juicy, summer heirloom tomato as much as the rest of the internet, but the second they're out of season I dramatically pivot to the canned goods aisle. With the exception of a pint of cherry tomatoes, which I find to be consistently good year-round, I truly can't remember the last time I bought a tomato from the produce aisle outside of the summer months.
That's because, let's be real — even in the summer, when we're surrounded at the market by the best of the best — there are really only three good ways to enjoy a fresh tomato: doused in olive oil and flaky salt, piled atop a thick schmear of mayo on toast, or drizzled with a sweet balsamic glaze. And by the time the cold weather creeps in, tomatoes drastically lose their appeal.
It's fine, though: Ever since I discovered canned whole peeled tomatoes that genuinely taste delicious, I've become happily willing to bid fresh tomatoes farewell.
Buy: Cento Certified San Marzano Whole Peeled Plum Tomatoes, $4 for 28 ounces
Cento's San Marzano Whole Peeled Tomatoes blow any other canned tomato products — and out-of-season fresh tomatoes — out of the water. (This isn't just my opinion; they won our taste test against eight other brands.) They're naturally sweet, with a deeply concentrated tomato flavor and just the right amount of acidity, and contain significantly less salt (and preservatives) than their competitors. But the best part is that the whole plum tomatoes are packed in a basil-flecked tomato purée instead of tomato juice, meaning every single drop in the can will add richness and oomph to your cooking.
Fun fact: These tomatoes also made our top 100 list of grocery essentials in our Kitchn 100 program.
My Favorite Ways to Use Cento San Marzano Tomatoes
Tomatoes this good don't need much doctoring. In fact, I like to use them as a one-ingredient pizza sauce — simply tear the whole tomatoes, put them onto fresh pizza dough, and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (save the purée for Bloody Marys). They're also a shortcut to the easiest shakshuka: Sauté onion and garlic, add the full can of tomatoes with the purée, season to your liking, simmer until bubbling, and then crack in the eggs.
These tomatoes are the secret to the best homemade marinara, the easiest restaurant-style salsa (no messy de-seeding required!), and the most flavorful Mexican rice. They take classic tomato soup from average to outstanding and act as the absolute best base for comforting soups and stews.
Keep a can in your pantry and you'll always be halfway to dinner. Remember, you can use them in place of any type of canned tomato, be it diced, crushed, puréed, or sauced.
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