Now, I am not an expert reviewer. I have not done endless research on food and brands to know what is best. All I know is that I usually take the cheap route when it comes to buying brands, and very rarely do I buy the fancier products. Well, since I started making tomato sauce more regularly, I have been buying a lot more tomatoes. And usually the canned kind since I am not always a big fan of the fresh tomatoes we get around here. (Dad–I miss your tomatoes so much! I should have had you bring some this summer.)
Anyway, I recently made a huge batch of sauce which used 4, count ’em 4 cans of 28 ounces (each!) of whole tomatoes. A while back I started buying San Marzano tomatoes. I read that they were really tasty, and after trying them against the store brands I had been buying, I agreed. They are really sweet and fresh tasting. I buy mine from Trader Joe’s because they tend to be the cheapest there. Well, I didn’t want to “waste” 4 cans of them on this sauce if it wasn’t necessary. I decided to try out my usual brand, along with 2 others to see how they compared. This way, I would know if I could go a bit cheaper in the future (because the San Marzano ones are about double the price–eek!).
The brands I compared were the ones you see above…the Cento San Marzano ones, the Hunts tomatoes, and Safeway’s store brand which promised San Marzano-style tomatoes (whatever that means). I’m assuming it’s similar to buying champagne versus sparkling wine, and is based on location. Obviously some champagne is better and some is worse than some sparkling wines.
The taste of the Cento tomatoes was definitely still superior. Next, I was comparing texture. For the recipe (which I will share tomorrow), I needed to hand crush the tomatoes. Well, both the Cento and Safeway ones were pretty easy. The Hunts? Ugh. What a pain. And, to top it off, they are supposed to be peeled tomatoes, but I definitely found peels in mine.
The Cento tomatoes are still my favorite, and I used them at the end of the recipe since they had the strongest fresh taste. The Safeway ones were decent, and I think I would use them again for this sauce (mixed with the Cento ones). The Hunts tomatoes? I’m not buying again, even if their sale price is better than the store brand.
You should try for yourself with store brands near you. I have other stores around here, and I am interested in comparing their tomatoes now, too!