This summer has been such a scorcher. Way back in June, I couldn’t wait to dive head first into Ontario’s summer bounty. For months I’ve been in LOVE with fresh summery salads and grilled everything, but now that September is here, the honeymoon is kinda over.
This Labour Day weekend, we travelled to my BFF’s cottage with a small group of friends. We always meal plan in advance and decide who will take charge of certain meals. We chose Sunday night dinner and when I asked my husband Rory if he had any ideas or cravings, he busted out ‘SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS!’. An odd choice since we usually BBQ everything and keep it super simple to maximize outdoor time, but I have to say I was totally on board!
The comfort food cravings are slowly but surely sneaking in.
In the end we shoved our ‘keep it simple’ rule aside and decided on spaghetti with homemade beef/pork meatballs, eggplant parmesan, homemade garlic bread and a tomato/basil salad with homemade balsamic reduction.
It was a feat and it was just what the doctor ordered for the cool northern summer night.
The one simple thing that absolutely made the meal? The tomato sauce.
I’ve been making this recipe for years. It’s a classic by Marcella Hazan, author of the famous cookbook Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.
Can you even believe the simplicity?! It still blows my mind each and every time I make it. Friends: Do NOT skimp on the butter.
The recipe calls for ‘your favourite canned tomatoes’. I’ve read many blog posts and recipe comments that insist on using canned San Marzano tomatoes, which are grown and packaged in a specific part of Italy and carry a DOP certification (as does Parmigiano Reggiano) ensuring they are grown and packaged locally.
I’ve used a variety of canned tomatoes and I always find the sauce delicious (though sometimes I modify it slightly with herbs/garlic/spices). I’ve always been curious what a side by side comparison of San Marzanos (double the price at least!) and standard Canadian canned tomatoes would reveal. So here it is!
The San Marzanos are canned with a basil leaf and the Canadian’s are not, so I placed one basil leaf in the Canadian batch. The Canadian tomatoes contain citric acid, calcium chloride and almost double the salt in addition to the tomatoes and tomato juice. I added an extra ½ tsp of salt (to taste) to the S.M. tomatoes in the end.
After a blind taste test Rory revealed his clear winner to be the SM tomatoes. He described the sauce as sweeter, less acidic and more well rounded. I couldn’t agree more. The consistency and texture was better too, as the SM tomatoes broke down more easily. I ended up using a potato masher to break down the Canadian tomatoes in the end.
Are the worth more than double the price? Maybe. If you’re planning to make this sauce in advance, I would probably say go ahead and get the SM. If you need a last minute dinner and there’s a can of Canadian tomatoes in the cupboard, do not hesitate, make the sauce anyway! It’s simple and delicious no matter the variety.