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I am just beginning to realize the difference between the tastes and quality of different tomatoes for different dishes. I need help from a tomato expert. Which tomatoes are best for the following dishes : 1. Lasagna 2. Penne 3. Sauce for polenta 4. Pizza or focaccia Thank you for your help!

  • related : cooking.stackexchange.com/q/66071/67 – Joe Feb 14 '16 at 17:06
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    Digityogi, welcome to Seasoned Advice! Let me point you to our help center, especially to the type of questions to avoid: this is quite subjective, probably too subjective for a definitive answer and at risk of being closed. – Stephie Feb 14 '16 at 18:22
  • Thank you for the welcome! I think I can see why you say that. I just saw this link which shows how subjective it is:.homeguides.sfgate.com/top-10-tomato-plants-sauces-56577.html I was told that San Marzano tomatoes were better than Roma for pizza and it was it was so true! I realized how little I knew about the tomatoes--their sweetness, thickness, etc. But I think @rackandboneman had a very good answer. – Digityogi Feb 15 '16 at 4:10
  • An addon that doesn't fit well anywhere else: San Marzanos are, in some places and at some times, sold green. They can and often will ripen on the counter. – rackandboneman Feb 15 '16 at 10:43
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The general consensus is that for occidental-style, cooked tomato sauces - all of the sauces you mention are - you want to use the more plum-shaped, thicker-skinned types like Roma or San Marzano, NOT globe tomatoes, especially not the greenhouse grown, large, watery varieties. The more ripe, the better.

Also, good quality canned product (whole peeled, or peeled strips) is usually considered superior to fresh, due to them being canned at optimal ripeness which would make transporting them fresh impractical. I found that the cheapest brands often are sloppily peeled and/or not ripe enough and/or too sour, it is usually worth going for the 90 cent can vs the 30 cent can.

Also, do experiment with what part of the tomato you use. You could:

-Use it whole except the stem, and puree or strain the sauce later (does not apply to canned peeled obviously :) )

-Use everything except the peel (will need looooong stewing to deal with the seeds)

-Use the flesh, and also the juice strained from the seeds

-Use only the flesh (lot of tomato needed, and you might lose some of the umami from the juices)

Also, mashing vs pureeing vs straining can make a lot of textural difference.

  • Interesting. There's a lot to learn. Do you know the differences between Roma, San Marzano or others? I can see there would be different texture using the different parts of the tomato, but is the flavor different? Better for certain sauces? – Digityogi Feb 14 '16 at 12:38
  • Haven't tried ALL combinations :) The juice/pulp are usually considered umami-rich, however the seeds (which you would have to leave in to get the maximum of the juices) are considered bitter and hard to digest if they are not thoroughly cooked. Using only the flesh, or using the flesh and juices separately, allows you to saute the flesh (useful method eg in indian curries, which are commonly based on a tomato sauce that gets more sauteed than stewed in the early phases) and reap the benefits of sauteeing... – rackandboneman Feb 15 '16 at 10:37
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rackandboneman's answer is excellent, yes. I would like to add: I feel that there are two ways to use tomatoes: raw, in salads, cooked, in sauces. In sauces you want ripe, sweet tomatoes with thin peels, because you are concentrating the flavour. Using acidic tomatoes would result in a very acidic sauce. I don't think there is a detailed answer to which cultivar for which sauce, although I would love to read the opinion of a tomato-obsessed person on this.

For salads (I know that is not your question, but you need to recognise this type too when choosing) you would use firmer, less sweet variaties with some more complex, maybe acidic flavours. Do not mix up the two. And because it is generally impossible to buy good, ripe, sauce tomatoes,I would say: go with the advice to use good tinned once. Tomatoes are one area where the food industry really destroyed a magical food product into an easy transported and stored food-like substitute where taste did not enter the equation...

  • Most plum tomatoes are rather thicker in peel than your typical salad water balloon... and even though they do have a slightly grainier texture, I still find Roma more pleasant in a salad than these ;) – rackandboneman Feb 15 '16 at 10:41
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    When you refer to another answer, it's best to be specific about it - there's no guarantee about what order future readers might read them in, and plenty more answers might get posted too. – Cascabel Feb 15 '16 at 11:03

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