In this dreadfully cold weather, the last thing anybody should be eating is fresh tomatoes. They taste bland, juiceless, and mealy, not even a vague recollection of summer. Canned tomatoes are the next best alternative! Canned tomatoes are an indispensable ingredient in our pantry!
In terms of quality, flavour and texture, what brand of canned tomatoes are the best for making that perfect spaghetti sauce? The canned tomatoes you choose will make or break the taste and flavour of your sauce! Before you turn up your nose, keep in mind that a good canned tomato product should taste better, much better, than a “fresh” tomato in winter. We decided to taste a variety of canned tomatoes for ourselves, in an official blind tasting.
Cora Whittington of Golden Pathways Retreat and B&B, Linda Devine and I hosted a fund raising event for a friend. We featured a blind tasting of canned tomatoes and spaghetti dinner with an auction. For the blind tasting we featured six brands of canned tomatoes, including 1 brand of San Marzano DOP. We were all delightfully surprised that the majority of the votes for first place went to Alta Cucina tomatoes from California. These canned tomatoes defeated both San Marzao brands and the other popular brands we buy at supermarkets in Ontario. Alta Cucina tomatoes are, by majority vote, superior in ripeness, firmness, texture and flavour. I personally agree.
In Peterborough, the tomatoes are only available in Peterborough at the Pasta Shop at 165 Sherbrooke Street. This is one of my favourite shops. I adore the owners Paul and Susie Leroux. They also produce outstanding fresh pasta, a variety of tomato sauces made with Alta Cucina tomatoes and prepared frozen foods, olive oils, tapenades, etc. I’m also a huge fan of their homemade chicken stock, sold frozen and made from Mrs. Miller’s chickens. Mrs. Miller runs a chicken farm in Keene, Ontario. She treats her free-range birds with dignity and care. Her facility is impeccable and clean. So, I know my chicken stock comes from local birds that were treated well during their lifetime.
Outside of this city, contact the Stanislaus to find out where they can be purchase Alta Cucina tomatoes closer to your home. They can also be purchased through Amazon.com
At the Pasta Shop the Alta Cucina can (108 ounces) is $6.00 (plus tax), which works out to be less expensive than all of its rivals. And they are less than half the price of the San Marzano DOP tomatoes. Since the can is large, owner Paul suggests you make your tomato-based sauce from the large can and then simply freeze the extra sauce.
For a simple, harmonizing partnership place 1 Alta Cucina tomato and a little sauce on a toasted slice of baguette, press down on the tomato to flatten it. But be careful as the tomato will so be juicy it will squirt onto your shirt. This happened to me twice. Cover the tomato in a layer of goat cheese. Stick it under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese melts slightly. Pair this appetizer with a glass of Chianti.
If you head to the shop, they will show you the results from our canned tomato blind tasting.
If you’re a white wine sipper, choose Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris or Pinot Blanc to pair with any dish or sauce featuring canned tomatoes. The idea is to bridge the acidity in tomatoes with the wine’s natural acidity.
Italy is known for its wines and its adoration for tomatoes! So it is not surprising that this country produces a variety of wines that possess enough acidity to refresh the palate and harmonize with the natural acidity in both fresh and canned tomatoes.
The key to this partnership is let that tomato acidity shine. Just find the right wine with enough acidity to act as a bridging partner. In other words, if you’re making tomato sauce from either fresh or canned tomatoes, avoid adding sugar – that is if you intend to partner your dish with red wine. At the time of year I would also suggest you rely on canned tomatoes rather than fresh.
From Tuscany comes Chianti and Chianti Rufina (including Reserva and Superiore), and Chianti Classico. These are generally dry red wines that range from light to full bodied with various levels of tannin. The flavours resemble tart cherries with floral notes like violets. They all share refreshing acidity that will complement any dish, Italian or otherwise, featuring either fresh or canned tomatoes. If entertaining friends with a dish highlighting canned tomatoes, try 2010 Castello di Querceto Chianti Classico DOCG, Vintages, (CSPC 650754), $29.95. This wine has obtained scores ranging from 87 to 89 out of 100 from several top wine critics (James Suckling, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast).
Bardolino is a municipality in the Province of Verona in the region of Veneto. It’s also the name of the wine, Bardolino D.O.C (guarantee of origin) produced in the hills east of Lake Garda. This is a light red wine with apple and berry flavours, a hint of spice and good acidity.
Lambrusco is also the name of the region (within Emilia Romagna in Northern Italy) and the name of the grape. Six grape varieties are vinified to produce this wine. The highest quality wines are Lambrusco di Grasparossa and Lambrusco di Sorbara. Generally the wines possess strawberries and raspberry flavours with just a hint of bitterness on the finish and again, tomato-worthy acidity. In Peterborough we have an inexpensive version available, Chiarli Castelveltro Lambrusco, (CSPC 604), $9.95. It is the only one available at the moment in Peterborough. It is an easy red to complement inexpensive comfort foods featuring canned tomatoes.
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Category: EVERYTHING FOOD AND WINE