People are constantly surprised at how simple the recipe is for homemade tomato sauce. For something that tastes so good, you’d think it would require some sort of magic in the kitchen! The truth is that the hardest part about making homemade tomatoes is the time commitment (the longer you let it simmer, the better it tastes!) and answering this tough question: what are the best tomatoes for sauce?
Here, we break it down for you. Read on to learn about my list of the best tomatoes for sauce.
What Makes the Best Tomatoes for Sauce?
There are many different tomatoes for sauceâ€”and really the most important part is using tomatoes that taste good!â€”but at the end of the day, the reason the ones below all make the list is because they feature most of the characteristics outlined here:
Low Seed Content
While you obviously get rid of the stem, most traditional tomato sauce recipes call for the use of the entire tomato, including the core and all of its seeds. This is why chefs prefer tomatoes with a low seed content: you wouldn’t want your tomato sauce to be more seed than tomato, right? And imagine having to pick out the seeds before adding the tomatoes to the sauce. Tomato sauces call for pounds and pounds of tomatoesâ€”having to core each tomato to take out the seeds would just be unsustainable. So chefs fix the problem at its core, and just pick tomatoes with a low seed content.
Low Water Content
This might be a surprising factor for some of you, but it’s true. The best tomatoes for sauce are those that aren’t very juicy. That’s because you want to use tomatoes that will cook down to a thick, creamy consistency. Juicy tomatoes, on the other hand, will make your tomato sauce thin and watery, and you don’t want that!
Now that you’ve learned that the best tomatoes for sauce have low water content, the fact that they should also be fleshy might be an obvious thought. Ideally, tomatoes are fleshy and have thick walls that will contribute to a thick sauce. Does that mean the bigger the tomato, the better? As long as the ratio of low water content to lots of flesh remains the same, then the answer is yes, because that means you can use fewer tomatoes to achieve the same weight, which means you’ll be doing less pealing. But the truth is that sometimes, bigger tomatoes have higher water content.
If you grow your own tomatoes, you probably already know the difference between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes, and it doesn’t actually have anything to do with the tomato fruits themselves, but rather with the plants. Determinate tomato plants grow to a predetermined size, and produce all of their tomatoes of the season in a span of one to two weeks. Indeterminate tomato plants, on the other hand, continue to lengthen their vines throughout the entire growing season, and produce fewer tomato fruits more frequently.
If you’re planning to grow tomato plants for culinary reasons, this means that the easiest option is to choose with a determinate tomato variety, so you can to harvest a lot of tomatoes all at once. Does this mean it is impossible to make homemade tomato sauce with indeterminate tomatoes grown in your backyard? The answer is no! You just have to be intentional about staggering your planting and growth so that you’re never left empty-handed.
The Best Tomatoes for Sauce
Now that we’ve learned what in general makes for best tomatoes for sauce, let’s get started with my list!
Best Tomatoes for Sauce Overall
If you have any familiarity with tomato sauce making, then this number one pick shouldn’t come as a surprise. This warm-loving heirloom tomato has been beloved all over the world (especially in Italy!) for its perfect composition for sauce for over one hundred years. Despite it being an indeterminate variety, it is the go-to tomato for most tomato sauce recipes, and for good reason!
Best Tomatoes for Sauce, Determinate
My very close second pick for best tomatoes for sauce is the Roma tomatoes. Are you picking up on a theme here? All the best tomatoes for sauce have Italian names! Roma tomatoes are a classic, and they hit the jackpot in terms of features that make them perfect for sauce making. As far as the plant goes, it’s also a gardening favorite because of its natural resistance to diseases!
Best Tomatoes for Sauce, Paste Tomatoes
Amish Paste Tomatoes
Originally from an Amish community in Wisconsin, Amish Paste Tomatoes have made it onto this list because of their solid reputation for a magnificent performance in tomato pastes, which means they are also perfect in tomato sauces. Known for their giant, acorn-shaped size (eight to 12 ounces!), they are often compared to Roma Tomatoes (another type of paste tomatoes) though they have a sweeter, fresh flavor.
Best Tomatoes for Sauce, Indeterminate
Super Italian Paste
You shouldn’t be surprised that the Super Italian Paste tomatoes made it onto the listâ€”what did I say about Italian vocabulary in tomato names? This heirloom tomato is reddish-orange and grows into perfectly thick, meaty fruit with a low seed content. The taste is amazing, and the only downside is that the plant itself is susceptible to diseases like Blossom End Rot and Late Blight, so gardeners need to keep a watchful eye for these conditions.
Best Tomatoes for Sauce, Heirloom
Viva Italia Tomatoes
Viva Italia Tomatoes are another popular choice for best tomatoes for sauce: not only do they taste great, but they bring along a little extra love for the Italian motherland thanks to their name! A unique feature of this heirloom variety is that its flavor becomes more intense once cooked, so chances are that you’ll like it better in your sauce than fresh off the vine.
Best Tomatoes for Sauce, Easy to Peel
Big Mama Tomatoes
What else would you expect from a tomato called Big Mama? These tomatoes are valued for their large size and high produce yield, despite a long growing period of 90 to 110 ten days. The tomato is lemon-shaped and renowned for how easy it is to peel the skin after boiling them. Like other best tomatoes for sauce, Big Mama tomatoes have low seed content and lots of thick flesh. Unfortunately, though, it also has high water content, so it takes a bit longer for the water to evaporate during the cooking process.
Best Tomatoes for Sauce, Rare
Chances are you’ve never heard of Giulietta Tomatoes, but that doesn’t make them any less good for tomato sauces. Giulietta tomatoes are Italian plum tomatoes that grow into large, egg-shaped fruit. The tomato plant performs exceptionally well in cooler conditions, and grows up to six feet tall, meaning it will require support. The great thing about Giulietta tomatoes, besides their great flavor, is its magnificent production yield each season.
Tips for Making Tomato Sauce
Now that I’ve listed the best tomatoes for sauce, let me take a moment to list some important tips for making amazing homemade tomato sauce.
- Steer clear from any recipes that require a complicated ingredient list. Tomato sauce recipes should be simple, and not vary much from tomatoes, carrots, onion, celery, olive oil, salt and pepper, garlic, onions, and a handful of fresh herbs like basil, oregano, and/or thyme. Don’t even think about adding sugar!
- If you’re not a fan of tomato sauce that tends more toward acidic, there are ways of sweetening the sauce without adding sugar (which is a big no-no in the world of professional chefs). Try chopping up a carrot and mixing it into your sauce while it simmers, along with a raw onion. True Italian recipes, in fact, have soffritto as the base for tomato sauce, which is a chopped up and sauteed mix of onion, celery, and carrots.
- If you can choose, opt for fresh herbs, which will always taste better than dried herbs. If you only have dried herbs, you should know that some dried herbs taste better than others (even if they all taste great fresh). Basil and parsley lose most of their taste when dried, whereas oregano holds onto it a little better.
- Let the sauce cool to room temperature before storing it. Tomato sauce can usually keep in the refrigerator for up to a week, but then it should be frozen.
How to Serve Tomato Sauce
There are several authentic Italian ways to serve tomato sauce. The most important and widespread one is as a pasta sauce. In fact, pasta alla pomarola translates to pasta with tomato sauce, and it’s a staple for Italians. In Italy, you’ll also find red sauces in some mussel dishes and, of course, on pizza, though these recipes vary a little bit from pomarola.
In Italian-American cuisine, tomato sauce has been adapted to other uses, too. In America, you’ll find tomato sauce used as a dipping sauce for various carbs (even mozzarella sticks) and poured atop vegetables, along with some protein entrees. Sometimes people even use the tomato sauce to cook eggs or beans.
However you choose to consume your tomato sauce, remember that anecdotally, tomato sauce always tastes better the next day!
Let’s go over some questions that often come up that I haven’t gotten the chance to cover yet:
What is the Difference Between Tomato Sauce and Marinara Sauce?
There is no shame in wondering what the difference is between tomato sauce and marinara sauce, because the truth is that the difference is very subtle! Both tomato sauce and marinara sauce are red sauces that require tomatoes. While tomato sauce is a long affair that takes hours if done right, marinara is a quick sauce that can be whisked up in about an hour. Tomato sauce is usually thicker and creamier, and marinara is lighter and simpler. Though both sauces call for a few simple ingredients, marinara sauce usually has even fewer than tomato sauce.
You can generally substitute tomato sauce for marinara sauce and vice versa in any recipe that calls for either, but remember that the sauces do taste different, and so it will also alter the final outcome of the completed recipe.
How do You Freeze Tomato Sauce?
If you already know that you won’t be able to consume all of your tomato sauce in about a week, your best bet is to freeze it. Store your tomato sauce in a freezer-safe ziplock bag or container, leaving enough room for the sauce to expand once frozen. Remember that pasta sauce might stain plastic containers, so don’t use anything you’re not ok turning red-ish!
How to Consume Frozen Tomato Sauce
If you recognize your tomato sauce craving ahead of time, go ahead and pull out your frozen container the night before, and let it thaw in the fridge overnight. If your craving is a bit more last minute, however, try digging it out of whatever container it froze into, and plopping the solid mass into a pot on medium-low heat. As the sauce begins to melt, stir occasionally.
Now You Know the Best Tomatoes for Sauce!
I hope this post has inspired you to go out and find your best tomatoes for sauce. Remember that, ideally, they will have a low seed and water content, thick fleshy walls, and be of the determinate variety (though that’s more important if you’re growing the plants yourself). My top pick for best tomatoes for sauce remains the San Marzano tomatoâ€”which isn’t surprising, as it’s a winner for most other people, as well! Some of you might prefer to peel your tomatoes before cooking them into a sauce. If that’s you, then you should check out our post on 3 Simple Methods for How to Peel A Tomato!