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I have an American recipe which lists a 'can of tomato sauce' as an ingredient. Does anyone know if this just means chopped tomatoes or is an actual sauce maybe onion, garlic, tomato, seasoning? Do we have an equivalent here in UK?

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I pulled out some cans of tomato sauce to answer your questions. The details are listed below, but it looks like they are generally diluted tomato paste with spices. If you can get tomato paste (canned or in a tube), that should get you the consistency that you want.

The ingredients as listed on the Hunt's brand are:

Tomato puree (water, tomato paste), water, less than 2% of: salt, citric acid, spice, tomato fiber, natural flavor

Shop Rite brand (a supermarket house brand) contains:

Tomato concentrate (water, tomato paste), onion powder, garlic powder, citric acid, natural flavorings, dehydrated bell pepper

And a can of Rokeach brand (a kosher food processor) tomato sauce with mushrooms contains:

Tomato puree (tomato paste & water), mushroom, modified potato starch, peppers, cottonseed oil, sugar, onion, apple cider viengar, garlic, celery, white pepper, bay leaves and citric acid.

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    Yep, that's about it. Diluted, seasoned tomato paste. The less seasoning, the less likely it is to form any unpleasant combinations with other parts of the recipe, but almost everything labeled as a tomato sauce has some seasoning, particularly the trace amounts of citric acid and salt and/or garlic/onion powder. It's meant to be used as, well, a sauce, e.g. for pasta, so it's not just cooked tomato purée. – Aaronut Jun 4 '11 at 17:03
  • OK thanks these are all very helpful - esp the list of possible ingredients - thanks Martha! I thought there had to be some added ingredients otherwise the whole recipe I am looking at looks v bland, but the picture shows the tomato sauce being added to the recipe and it just looks like chopped tinned tomatoes, so wasn't sure. – Vanessa Fuller Jun 4 '11 at 19:28
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Canned tomato sauce in the US does not typically have 'Italian seasoning' or basil, but there is almost always some salt and/or dried spices. Even the most basic tomato sauce is going to be more than just cooked tomatoes; however, it might be a bit more runny than simply pureed tomatoes.

I can approximate the texture of canned tomato sauce by pureeing canned whole tomatoes, which are peeled and in a very runny liquid. If you are going to start with whole tomatoes, you might blanch them first and remove the skins.

Also, canned tomatoes and tomato sauce is pasteurized. Pureed fresh tomatoes would probably not be quite the same, so if your dish is not otherwise cooked, you might try cooking your puree.

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    I would argue it is less runny than pureed tomatoes. Also, it's been cooked quite a while and both the seeds and the skins have been removed first (I have a machine for that process.) Both of these change the taste as well as the consistency. – Kate Gregory Jun 4 '11 at 15:23
  • Aha! So if it has no seeds and skin it is like sugocasa? – Vanessa Fuller Jun 4 '11 at 15:39
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    I won't downvote this because it depends on the sauce; some very cheap brands really are runnier than tomato purée. But the very first sentence is unequivocally wrong; any product labeled "tomato sauce" is always going to be seasoned. The seasoning might not be very interesting, but if you're going to start from whole puréed tomatoes then you'd need to also need to add salt, garlic/onion powder, and possibly a small amount of sugar. If starting from tomato paste instead of purée, you also need to add vinegar. – Aaronut Jun 4 '11 at 17:10
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    For the texture--yes, it does vary pretty widely. As far as seasonings--it may be different in Canada; around here (Pennsylvania) unless it says otherwise (e.g., "with italian seasoning", "with basil and garlic", "with chili peppers", etc.), there's not much in the way of seasoning, at least for the purposes of substitution. The Hunt's (in Martha's answer) is a fairly representative standard brand. – Ray Jun 4 '11 at 22:08
  • Yes exactly - the seasoning usually does not get as fancy as basil and garlic but there is almost always some salt and/or dried spices. Even the most basic tomato sauce is going to be more than just cooked tomatoes. – Aaronut Jun 5 '11 at 15:06
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I do a fair bit of cooking from American recipes, and I have always used passata or sieved tomatoes when 'tomato sauce' is called for. Never had any problems. You can get plain versions or ones flavoured with onion, garlic, basil etc.

They are available at all the major supermarkets, sometimes in the pasta aisle, but usually with the canned tomatoes and tomato puree. It comes in either a glass bottle or a small cardboard carton like orange juice.

  • I use alot of passata so could easily substitute this, just felt it needed some seasoning of some sort. – Vanessa Fuller Jun 4 '11 at 19:30
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I found out that tomato sauce used in an American recipe is passata (typically in a carton)

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

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    Could you explain how you found out, please? That said, welcome to Seasoned Advice! Don’t forget to take the tour and browse our help center to learn more about how the site works. – Stephie Apr 9 '18 at 11:18
  • I’d be interested in how you came to that conclusion as well. In both Kentucky and the US Midatlantic states, I’ve only seen the watered down tomato paste with seasonings sold as ‘tomato sauce’ in a can. In a jar, it might be more complex, but canned is the cheap stuff – Joe Apr 9 '18 at 14:25
  • Tomato sauce is cooked, while tomato passata is not; in both my personal experience and this article, passata is extremely unusual in American recipes. They may easily be interchangeable, however. – Erica Apr 11 '18 at 22:14

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