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January 15, 2018

15-minute Crushed Garlic Tomato Sauce (Sugo)

by Julieta Lucca

“When it comes to food, I’ll always gravitate towards the pizzas, the pasta and the Aperol Spritz. The truth is, I’ve never identified so much with a culture as I do with Italy’s.”

Argentina (the country where I was born) is filled with Italian and Spanish migrants who fled the First World War in 1914. Granted the capital, Buenos Aires, is brimming with other cultures and nationalities, but the most prominent two are Spanish and Italian, which have in turn enriched Argentina’s culture in incredible ways. 

It also explains why both Argentinians and Italians have very similar mannerisms, ways of talking and are generally culturally alike. When it comes to food, I’m more a pizza/pasta type of woman, I’ve never been a huge fan of the infamous Argentinian Barbeques, despite having eaten a fair amount of them.

Now, let’s take tomatoes. One, if not the quintessential ingredient in the Mediterranean cuisine. I consider it a pretty indispensable staple in the Italian pantry. Not only that, but it’s one of my favourite ingredients to cook with, together with garlic, basil and olive oil. Starting to see a pattern here? Most people will say that making a homemade tomato sauce without using fresh tomatoes is a bit of a cop-out. But one too many dinners have been saved by a simple can of tomatoes during my adulthood.

Today is all about flavour, I’ll be blind tasting seven homemade tomato sauces made with five different brands of canned tomatoes, which will be all made with exactly the same amounts of the same ingredients.

Note: I tasted the tomatoes and tomato juices before turning them into sauces so I could compare notes after doing the blind tasting.

The contestants include:

 

 1. Tarantella Organic Peeled Plum Tomatoes

2. Napolina Peeled Plum Tomatoes

3. Mutti San Marzano Peeled Tomatoes

4. Organico Peeled Tomatoes from Tuscany

5. Mutti Peeled Tomatoes

 

1. Tarantella Organic Peeled Plum Tomatoes

This is a brand I use quite regularly. Before tasting all these different brands of canned tomatoes I used to think that all brands tasted the time, I mean, canned tomatoes are canned tomatoes, right? But the difference is abysmal.

Tarantella canned tomatoes have a subtle and pleasant underlying acidity that lingers in my mouth. As the sauce touches the tongue, there’s not an overwhelmingly sweet or salty taste, it’s just perfectly balanced. The sauce is not overly watery which is something I found not to be common with other brands.

2. Napolina Peeled Plum Tomatoes

The first thing I tasted when I tried the tomato juice in the Napolina canned tomatoes is the salt. Some of the tomatoes in the can are whole while some are turned into mush, I’m not particularly bothered about it since I’ll be using it to make a sauce.

The juice has a high content of water but oddly enough the tomato flavours linger in your mouth. Overall the tomatoes are a lot sweeter than I’d like them to be.

3. Mutti San Marzano Peeled Tomatoes

While researching for this article, it was clear that San Marzano tomatoes are known as the holy grail of tomatoes, which is why I picked up this can. I take two spoonfuls of the juice and the difference is incredible, it’s not just the overarching tomato flavour but the juice tastes completely different to the ones I tasted before. It has an inexplicable depth of flavour and umami written all over it.

I have high hopes for this particular brand and type of tomato. Especially since the tomatoes in this can, were harvested in 2016 – “Raccolta 2016”.

4. Organico Peeled Tomatoes from Tuscany

This can’s water content is astounding, which as you probably can guess, completely waters down the flavour of the tomato juice. As I take spoonfuls of the juice, the flavours disappear almost immediately, which is quite disappointing. The tomatoes in the can are large and the overall flavour is not sweet, not salty, just bland.

5. Mutti Peeled Tomatoes

The Mutti Peeled Tomatoes have a nice level of acidity that pleasantly tingles the tip of your tongue. The can is not overloaded with water. In fact, the sauce is dense and flavoursome, it feels and looks right. The perfectly sized tomatoes retain their shape well. 

 

15-minute Crushed Garlic Tomato Sauce (Sugo)

ingredients

🕑 15 minutes

  • serves 4
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves (crushed)
  • 2 x 400g cans of peeled tomatoes
  • 2 tsp sea salt (more to taste)
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 4 basil leaves

method

1. Place a large saucepan on the hob over a high heat.

2. Add the olive oil and let it heat up for about 30 seconds. Crush the garlic cloves directly into the pan. Mix them around with a wooden spoon so they don’t brown too quickly. Keep stirring them around here and there. Once they have browned and are golden, add the two cans of tomatoes to the pan.

3. Working quickly, crush the plum tomatoes with the spoon and cover the pan immediately with a lid. Let it simmer over a high heat for two minutes. Stir the sauce every now again. Be careful as the sauce will spit up.

4. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook for 2-4 minutes, stirring consistently.

5. When the sauce has a thicker consistency and some of the water has evaporated add the salt and stir well.

6. Cook for another minute or so before adding the basil leaves. I like to tear them into pieces and stir them into the sauce. Turn off the heat and remove the pan from the hob. Let it cool down for a moment before adding to your pasta.

 1. Tarantella Organic Peeled Plum Tomatoes

This sauce has an incredible depth of flavour that hits you right when you eat it. What really stands out is the overall umami (savouriness) that none of the other sauces have. It’s perfectly sweet and salty at the same time as if the two know exactly how to talk with each other. Communication has always been the number one issue between couples but not in this case. Sweet and salty got it down, so much so that the sauce coats the inside of your mouth beautifully, leaving you with a spoon in your hand thinking “fffuuuuuuuck”. (£1.39/can)

2. Napolina Peeled Plum Tomatoes 

This sauce is incredibly sweet, not so much that it feels like you are eating a sorbet but enough that it seems slightly off. The caramelisation of the garlic obviously doesn’t help, as it’s adding even more sweetness. Overall this sauce isn’t exciting and lacks the oomph I would have liked to taste. (£0.95/can)

3. Mutti San Marzano Peeled Tomatoes 

The sauce made with the San Marzano tomatoes (allegedly harvested in 2016) has a perfectly acceptable balance of sweetness and saltiness (more so than sauce number 4) but it’s still extremely mild. There’s no overarching tomato flavours coming through, nothing that makes you say, “THIS IS THE SAUCE!”. Upon discovering this tomato sauce wasn’t a chosen favourite during the blind tasting, I realised how convincing branding is. I’m sure San Marzano tomatoes are the bomb, but sadly these were not. (£1.99/can)

. 4. Organico Peeled Tomatoes from Tuscany

To say that this sauce is bland is an understatement, but what’s more surprising is how none of the other incredibly fragrant flavours like the garlic and basil, come through either. It’s as if the tomatoes decided, “If I’m not tasty enough to stand out, none of you are!” My only guess is that the high water content has a lot to do with this. Unfortunately, these organic peeled tomatoes from Tuscany don’t have what it takes. (£1.65/can)

5. Mutti Peeled Tomatoes

This sauce is extremely similar to the first one but only a tiny bit sweeter. The garlic tastes incredible, the best out of all the sauces. The flavours blend in harmoniously. Am I getting that lovely umami flavour? Not as strongly as with the first sauce but the hint is there and that’s enough for me to love it. (£0.99/can)

OUR VERDICT

All the sauces were cooked in the same exact way, using the same exact ingredients and the same amount of each one.

Tarantella Organic Peeled Plum Tomatoes and Mutti Peeled Tomatoes resulted in the best two tomato sauces.

Why not try blind tasting them yourself?

Want us to blind taste any other products? Let us know!

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