It’s easy enough to ensure you always have some dried pasta around, but if you want to pull off a full dinner without having to shop first, you’ll also have to keep some sauce-making staples in your pantry. For that you’ll need tomato products, including canned tomatoes, passata, tomato paste, and, if you’re feeling fancy, maybe even some Sicilian tomato estratto.
We prefer to keep cans of whole, peeled tomatoes, like Gustarosso San Marzano tomatoes from Gustiamo, on our shelves—they’re the most versatile in that you can use the tomatoes whole, roughly crushed, lightly chunky, or puréed; plus, they don’t have firming agents added to help them keep their shape, unlike many diced canned tomato products. Whole canned tomatoes star in this tomato sauce that’ll go from pot to plate in 40 minutes.
As for tomato paste, there is no better recipe for letting it shine than Daniel’s pasta alla vodka, which calls for a whopping six ounces. For an even richer tomato flavor, make it with estratto (a sun-dried tomato paste from Sicily).
Sasha introduced most of the Serious Eats team to passata last year. While the label just says “tomato purée,” it’s actually quite different than the other canned tomato purées on the shelves, since passata is made in the late summer from fresh, in-season tomatoes. Consider it a perfect sauce-builder—use it in place of canned whole tomatoes in recipes that require milling or blending for a smooth consistency, like bucatini all’amatriciana.